The Chiefs started the season 5-0 and appeared to be the favorite to win the Super Bowl. The Raiders began the year 2-4 and were a long shot to make the postseason with a historically bad secondary.
Funny how quickly things change. On Sunday, the Chiefs, who have lost four straight games, will host the Raiders, who have won three out of their last four games. Oh, and both teams are 6-6, tied for first in the AFC West.
The Raiders handed the Chiefs one of their six losses. Derek Carr’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree with time expired gave the Raiders a 31-30 victory over the Chiefs on Oct. 19. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for the Raiders.
The Raiders and Kansas City are also tied for the division lead with the 6-6 Los Angeles Chargers, who host the Redskins on Sunday. Here are five things you need to know about the Chiefs:
1. The Raiders probably would have faced a third straight backup quarterback if Alex Smith didn’t have a solid outing against the Jets last week. Oakland played against the Broncos’ Paxton Lynch and the Giants’ Geno Smith the past two weeks. The screams to have rookie Patrick Mahomes start over Smith died down when Smith passed for 366 yards and four touchdowns. Smith was an early candidate for MVP, but poor performances against the Bills and Giants nearly cost him his job.
2. The blame for the Chiefs’ free fall shouldn’t solely fall on Smith. The running game has been absent for nearly two months. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt, who got off to a hot start, hasn’t rushed for 100 yards since Oct. 8. Hunt hasn’t found the end zone since Week 3. But like Smith, Hunt doesn’t deserve the entire blame. The Chiefs’ offensive line is one of the worst in the league in run blocking. Kansas City has a handful of problems.
3. Hunt hasn’t escaped his funk, but Tyreek Hill finally did last week when he went off for 185 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Hill had a combined 211 receiving yards the previous four games. Tight end Travis Kelce also had a big day versus the Jets with 94 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kelce and Hill need to continue to play at that level if the Chiefs want to get into the postseason. They have an easy matchup against the Raiders secondary, which hasn’t been tested since John Pagano took over as defensive coordinator.
4. The Raiders won’t have to worry about Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters, who was suspended by the team for throwing an official’s flag into the stands and walking off the field without being ejected. The Chiefs need all the help they can get in the secondary, which has struggled most of the season. The Raiders get Crabtree back from a one-game suspension.
5. Carr will have time to pick apart the Chiefs’ secondary like he did during the first meeting. Kansas City’s biggest weakness might be the lack of a pass rush. Justin Houston and the rest of the defensive line failed to sack Josh McCown, who carved them up for 38 points. It also doesn’t help that Tamba Hali is dealing with a knee injury. Might be another high-scoring affair.