Top 5 storylines to watch in Raiders-Chiefs Week 6 matchup
For a few days anyway, the Raiders sit alone atop the AFC West. Separation was created Thursday night, when Denver was upset at San Diego and dropped a second game this season. The Raiders have but one loss, a total vulnerable to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Oakland Coliseum. A victory could gain a game on the competition and continue a hot start and extend their winning streak to four. While the Atlanta Falcons proved tough in Week 2, this might be the biggest test of the season. A victory would establish the Raiders as a legitimate playoff contender, one the NFL would have to respect.
5. Charles back in charge?
Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles is a noted Raider killer. He has 10 touchdowns in 11 games against the Silver and Black, averaging 4 yards per carry and 11 yards per reception. Charles has been eased back into action after his second ACL surgery, with limited snaps in his 2016 debut. Charles is coming off a bye and said the training wheels have come off, meaning he could assume a heavy workload against a defense ranked 27th against the run.
“We’ve watched him over the years, very explosive,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “Any time you put the ball in his hands, he can go all of the way, very fast. He’s certainly a guy that we have to keep our eyes on.”
4. Mack a dormant volcano
Khalil Mack’s stat line isn’t that impressive. Don’t think for a second that implies he’s anything less than the All-Pro talent from a year ago. He's the focal point of opposing protection schemes, but remains a solid run defender and pass rusher. At some point, the sacks and big quarterback hits will come.
While defensive coordinator Ken Norton considers Mack a “complete player” being asked to perform diverse tasks, the Raiders could use more big, splash plays from their defensive destroyer. There’s a breakout game coming from Mack. It could well happen against a middle-of-the-road offensive line that has allowed 12 sacks and 47 other quarterback pressures this season.
3. Division dominance
The Raiders’ primary goal is to win the AFC West. They’re in position to take a game’s advantage in a division the Raiders want to win outright – something possible after San Diego beat Denver Thursday night -- with important AFC West games remaining to prove they belong in pole position. A victory over Kansas City would give them street cred and provide a game’s lead over the competition.
The Raiders have won with a mix of offense, timely defense and quality performance under pressure. They could use all that against a tough Chiefs team ready to assert dominance against an AFC West upstart.
2. Carr’s upward trend
It’s getting harder to group Derek Carr outside the NFL’s top-flight quarterbacks. He’s efficient, protective of the football and poised late in games. Carr has been a steadying presence thus far, generating production in tough spots. Odds are Sunday’s game will come down to the wire against a Chiefs defense featuring ballhawks Marcus Peters and Eric Berry. Carr threw three interceptions last season in a home loss to the Chiefs and is motivated to beat the them this time around. It might take a fourth-quarter surge to do exactly that.
1. Could yards allowed catch up to Raiders defense?
Raiders cornerback Sean Smith wasn’t happy with the Raiders defense, even after improving to 4-1 with a victory over San Diego. His unit is dead last with 2263 yards allowed in five games, a startling sum that breaks down to 7.0 yards per play. That ranks among the worst since the NFL merger. Smith is scared those totals will end up turning into points that beat the Raiders, though they’ve gotten away allowing chunk gains to this point.
The Raiders defense has killed important drives with takeaways, though yards allowed could haunt the Raiders against teams that don’t make mistakes. The Chiefs fit that bill. The Raiders must give up less chunk yardage to stay afloat and make Kansas City earn every point.