The Oakland Raiders put an end to their three-game losing streak in Tennessee last weekend when they beat the lowly Titans. It didn’t come easy for the Raiders, who needed the assistance of a phantom defensive holding call on fourth down late in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders are hoping to build off of that victory, but doing so will prove to be a tough test. After back-to-back weeks on the road, the Raiders come home to host a Kansas City Chiefs team that has won five games in a row.
Here’s how the Raiders can get it done …
Slow the run game
When Jamaal Charles got hurt and was placed on the injured reserve, most assumed that would be a death blow for the Chiefs offense. Instead, the run game has continued to be one of the best in the league with Charcandrick West leading the way in Charles’ absence, until he injured his hamstring and Spencer Ware picked up where he left off. West is probable for Sunday’s game, and the Chiefs as a team are sixth in the league at 4.6 yards per carry and first in rushing touchdowns with 15.
Stopping Kansas City on the ground will be difficult, but not impossible. Before they got chewed up by the Steelers, the Raiders had a top-three run defense. After the Minnesota Vikings game, they were 23rd in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. Now, after two solid weeks defending the run, the Raiders have started to climb the ranks of run defenses and find themselves at 18th. They’re a measly 26th in yards allowed per carry (4.4), however.
Getting back to how they were playing against the run earlier in the year would greatly increase the Raiders’ chances of coming away with a win.
Cover the bloody tight end
In their Week 12 win over the Titans, the Raiders allowed tight end Delanie Walker to catch six passes for 91 yards. When you include the Titans’ other tight ends, the Raiders allowed nine catches for 133 yards and a touchdown to that position. It looks even worse when you consider the fact that the Titans only passed for a total of 218 yards.
On Sunday, the Raiders will take on a team that almost seems destined to beat them. Quarterback Alex Smith is known for his tendency to use tight ends and running backs more often than his wide receivers, and he’s got himself a real good tight end to lean on. Travis Kelce is sixth in the league for receptions by a tight end, fifth in yards and tied for seventh in touchdowns. If the Raiders want to have any chance of winning, they cannot let Captain Checkdown and his sidekick beat them.
The Raiders’ strength is their passing game. The defense and the rushing attack have been inconsistent at best and definitely below average. If they want to win, they need to throw the ball and throw it deep.
Last week, Derek Carr’s throws of more than ten yards accounted for 223 of his 330 yards. When the Raiders start hitting deep passes, it opens up everything else on their offense. The run game is not good enough to get started without the passing game getting defenses to fear the deep pass. Plus, it opens up the underneath routes where Michael Crabtree eats. The Chiefs have a solid secondary, but the Raiders cannot allow that to dictate how they play.