Las Vegas Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Matchups, prediction for divisional showdown at Arrowhead

The Las Vegas Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs has many playoff implications surrounding it. But these teams are headed in different directions.

Early on Sunday, the Las Vegas Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs game is massive for each team. For Las Vegas, a win would be a big step toward remaining in playoff contention. Their schedule is brutal down the stretch, and stealing a divisional win could be huge. For the Chiefs, it keeps them in contention for the top seed in the AFC. Nobody wants to face the Patriots playing one fewer game in Foxborough in the AFC Championship.

Las Vegas Raiders offense vs. Kansas City Chiefs defense

The Raiders’ offense, understandably, has not been the same since Darren Waller has been in and out of the lineup with an injury and the release of Henry Ruggs. They’ve become far less efficient offensively. Their offensive line was always going to struggle, and now they don’t have the playmakers to make up for it. Running the ball was already nearly out of the question to start the season.

Meanwhile, we’ve seen the inverse from the Chiefs’ defense. They started off looking historically bad, ranking 31st in EPA/play through the first seven weeks of the season. Since then, they have ranked third in that category. Eventually, we’ll have an answer for that turnaround (foreshadowing). For now, we’ll say their communication issues have almost ceased, Chris Jones has turned it on, Melvin Ingram has emerged as a stout run defender, and their linebackers are playing better.

It’s more complex than that, but we’ll delve into that at a different time.

However, they also were fortunate in circumstances against some good teams. There was no Aaron Rodgers against Green Bay, and the Cowboys were missing Amari Cooper and then CeeDee Lamb for the entire second half. So, the Chargers and Bengals games might be a better test for them.

Derek Carr vs. Chiefs defense

We watched this matchup play out less than one month ago. Carr played decently against the Chiefs, but he had a healthy Waller. Now, Waller missed last week and didn’t practice on Wednesday as he nurses multiple injuries.

With the Chiefs’ defense seeming to click better recently, it isn’t easy to give Carr the advantage in this matchup. However, he has the talent to take over a game, especially if it’s close late.

Advantage: Push

Raiders skill-position players vs. Chiefs secondary

Earlier this season, this matchup would have been laughable. The Raiders had a stable of weapons, and the Chiefs’ secondary was letting players run free downfield with consistency. Now, the Raiders no longer have their two most dangerous weapons, putting more pressure on the pieces they do have to succeed.

Hunter Renfrow might be the most underrated slot receiver in the NFL. Bryan Edwards and Foster Moreau are nothing to scoff at, but they don’t hold near the advantage in the passing attack as their former unit. Zay Jones has stepped up intermittently throughout the season, but he’s nothing defenses will worry about. DeSean Jackson’s speed is a weapon, and on third-and-long situations, expect Carr to show off his ridiculous arm by chucking a pass 50+ yards downfield to try and force a defensive pass interference.

The Chiefs slashed Daniel Sorensen’s snaps in favor of Juan Thornhill earlier this season, which was a big plus on the back end. L’Jarius Sneed and Charvarius Ward are physical and athletic. They’ve done a great job of crowding receivers and making things difficult. Also, playing Rashad Fenton instead of Mike Hughes has helped turn the Chiefs’ fortunes. The secondary can play a little bit, and I haven’t even brought up The Honey Badger yet. Tyrann Mathieu is one of the best safeties in the NFL.

Still, the Raiders have enough pure talent to believe they can compete with the Chiefs’ secondary.

Advantage: Push

Raiders offensive line vs. Chiefs defensive front

The Raiders’ offensive line is terrible. There’s no sugarcoating that. Just a few weeks ago, we watched Chris Jones alone destroy the Dallas Cowboys’ offense, and that was against the likes of Zack Martin.

There’s no Martin on the Raiders’ offensive line. If you pray, you should do so for Carr. If not, send him some positive vibes because things are about to get ugly. Frank Clark is playing better football now, and as I’ve already stated, the addition of Ingram was a big success.

But it’s the improved linebacker play they’ve received since Willie Gay Jr. returned in Week 6 that really impresses. He’s made some big plays in coverage that weren’t there when Anthony Hitchens was starting in his place.

Advantage: Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs offense vs. Las Vegas Raiders defense

The Chiefs’ offense has been down in recent weeks, but they’re still technically the most successful unit in the NFL throughout the season if we look at their series success rate. In layman’s terms, they pick up a first down or a touchdown more often than anybody else in the NFL.

Patrick Mahomes vs. Raiders defense

Patrick Mahomes hasn’t been the same Mahomes in 2021 as we’ve seen in the past. Last week was possibly the worst I’ve seen him play. He’s had bigger turnover games in 2021, but he was scattershot on Sunday Night Football against the Broncos. In fact, he completed 17% fewer passes than expected against Denver while only throwing 5.6 yards downfield on average.

Still, it’s PATRICK MAHOMES. He has to turn it around at some point, and his ability to make plays is unbelievable. He’s still the most talented passer in the league.

Meanwhile, the Raiders’ defense has replaced the Chiefs as the 31st-best in the NFL since Week 8. A few weeks ago, Mahomes threw for 5 TDs against the Raiders.

Advantage: Chiefs

Chiefs skill-position players vs. Raiders secondary

Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are healthy, and that’s all that matters. They’re two of the best in the NFL at their respective positions. Both are mismatches in their own ways, but both require much attention.

Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson, and Josh Gordon don’t do much to stress defenses, so it mostly comes down to those two elite talents. Still, that’s enough to put the Raiders’ pass defense in a spiral. Casey Hayward Jr. has been solid as a Raider, but Brandon Facyson is a replacement-level player. Nate Hobbs and Trevon Moehrig are both fantastic rookie pieces, but they’re no match for Kelce and Hill.

In fact, Hobbs’ worst game as a pro came against the Chiefs just a few weeks back. Covering Hill from the slot is impossible, even in a Cover 3-heavy coverage scheme.

Advantage: Chiefs

Chiefs offensive line vs. Raiders defensive front

The Chiefs have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL aside from their right tackle spot, which has been a bother all season in some way. Orlando Brown hasn’t earned the massive contract he wants, which will be an exciting offseason story, but he has been good enough.

Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, and Trey Smith have been arguably the best interior in the NFL. Even if they aren’t dominating in the run game from a big-play perspective, they are third overall in rushing success rate. They also rarely allow quick pressure up the middle, a quarterback’s best friend.

The Raiders boast a fantastic pass-rushing duo in Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby. The Chiefs will have to send help in many creative ways to survive on the right side of the offensive line because Crosby is a killer.

Betting odds and game prediction

  • Spread: Chiefs -9.5 (Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
  • Moneyline: Chiefs -435, Raiders +330
  • Total: 48

The Kansas City Chiefs vs. Las Vegas Raiders game feels easy given the direction both teams have trended. The Chiefs have struggled offensively, but don’t be surprised when they once again curb stomp the Raiders. Las Vegas plays a lot of single-high, something the Chiefs have no issues against. Their issues have come against two-high quarters looks because they struggle to bring safeties down with run success, and their quick game hasn’t been great.

Raiders vs. Chiefs Prediction: Chiefs 37, Raiders 20

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