By: Kevin Le
Every season, the Las Vegas Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs play twice a year, but this Sunday will hold more weight than most meetings. The Raiders head into Sunday night on a three-game winning streak facing an Andy Reid-coached team fresh off a bye. Raiders got a win at Arrowhead in Week 5, but in Week 11, they face a motivated Chiefs team playing towards avenging their only loss of the season. At 6-3, the Raiders will be on primetime with an opportunity to sweep the 8-1 Chiefs and prove they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Winning Cures All
The Raiders are on a three-game winning streak, mostly because of their surging defense. The past three victories were against the Browns, Chargers, and Broncos, all games in which the offense performed superbly and the defense made plays. Led by Derek Carr, the offense is one of the best third-down conversion attacks in the NFL. The Raiders have scored thirty points or more in five games this season. Having Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, and Nelson Agholor helped Derek Carr have his best start to a season so far. First-round pick Henry Ruggs III makes a significant difference, even if the stats do not show it. His presence makes the lives of running backs Josh Jacobs and Devonte Booker easier because defenses must consider Ruggs’ speed. This advantage often results in secondary-deep schemes, which leaves open holes and opportunities for the shifty Ruggs to break for long touchdowns.
Starting from the beginning of this winning streak, the defense has improved with each week. The Browns matchup was the first time the defense played a game with minimal error. The Chargers game came down to the last plays of the match. Thankfully, Isaiah Johnson became a hero as he deflected back-to-back passes. Last Sunday against the Broncos was by far the best performance of Paul Gunther’s defense. The Raider’s defense forced a season-high five turnovers. Jeff Heath set the tone by picking off Drew Lock twice in the first half. In the fourth quarter alone, the defense would force three of the five takeaways. Three free agency acquisitions found a way to force a turnover, which showed the smarts of general manager Mike Mayock. The Raiders ended the game forcing five turnovers, two sacks, and seven hits to the quarterback.
Both the offense and defense will need to play perfectly to pull off a season sweep of the Chiefs. Confidence is the most significant advantage a team can have, and the Raiders’ momentum makes them especially dangerous in this divisional matchup. Derek Carr will be on primetime, giving him a prime opportunity to silence many critics. This team may be young, but they play like the Raiders of the past by running the ball and hitting hard every play. Standing opposite of this Raiders defense is MVP front-runner Patrick Mahomes. The defense will have to hit Mahomes plenty and force third and longs all game. If they can play well on both sides of the ball, expect the Raiders to continue their winning ways.
Will COVID-19 play a factor in this game?
In Week seven, COVID-19 played a significant factor in the Raiders game versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They lost out on the opportunity to play Sunday Night Football after a player tested positive due to close contact tracing. The same fears and feelings arrive this week on Tuesday as defensive end Clelin Ferrell went on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Las Vegas added seven more players to the list, all on the defense, and all are vital contributors. The NFL placed Johnathan Abram, Maliek Collins, Johnathan Hankins, Kendal Vickers, Arden Key, Isaiah Johnson, and David Irving as close contact risks. As we near Sunday, these players are still eligible to play as long as they continue to test negative.
Sunday’s game is still set to kick off at 5:20 PM Pacific on NBC, but the last time this happened, the NFL flexed them out of that slot. This would be the Raiders’ second primetime game of the season, and fans don’t want a repeat of week seven. Because Trent Brown tested positive for COVID-19 that week, the league did not know what to do with their game and moved the game to an earlier time. As Sunday nears, no changes have been made so far. Raider Nation has waited long for a Raiders Chiefs matchup to hold this much weight with the implications of this game. The Raiders players are looking forward to playing on primetime and showing what they can do on a big stage.