Could the Raiders' window in the AFC West race close before opening?
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes reportedly was expected to miss four to six weeks after dislocating his kneecap Thursday night against the Denver Broncos. However, ESPN's Adam Schefter and NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that Mahomes could return sooner than that.
Hard as it was to imagine Thursday night, Patrick Mahomes now could return to the Chiefs in less than three weeks, per sources.https://t.co/zH3k56zBQN— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 20, 2019
From @NFLGameDay: #Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is out 3-5 weeks, either back in Week 11 or after the bye in Week 13. Two key points: He avoided major injury by not moving on the field and surgery wasn't discussed at all during the week. pic.twitter.com/tbW7zAXDvc— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 20, 2019
A return before -- or just after -- the Chiefs' bye in Week 12 would put the reigning NFL MVP in position to start against the Raiders in Week 13 at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Raiders entered Sunday one game back of the Chiefs in the AFC West standings. Though Oakland will play the Houston Texans, Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Chargers in the next three weeks following Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers. If Mahomes misses each of the next three weeks, the Chiefs will play the Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans with Matt Moore under center.
The Chiefs definitely have a more favorable schedule, but the Raiders nonetheless would view Mahomes' absence, no matter how long it is, as an opportunity to stay in the hunt for a surprise division title. The shorter the dynamic QB is out, though, the smaller Oakland's margin for error becomes.
The Raiders will need to, at the very least, keep pace with the Chiefs while Mahomes is out if they still aspire to win the AFC West. Such an aspiration seemed like an impossibility before the season, but the Raiders' surprise start and Mahomes' injury has it within the realm of possibility. How long it is so will depend on when Mahomes comes back.