With another loss (!!!!) last weekend, the Chiefs dropped their sixth in the last seven games and fell into a 3-way tie at 6-6 in the AFC West, continuing their torrid pace to finish as 2017’s most disappointing team. Fortunately (or disgracefully, as I believe) the AFC West is terrible this season, and despite all their failures they still have a chance at the division.
The Chargers, who were left for dead at 0-4, and have found a winning formula, the Raiders (also 6-6), and the Chiefs are all stumbling over one another in a chase that seems like everyone is trying to lose. The Chiefs have both at home in the next two weeks, and can take a major step toward reclaiming the division as theirs and setting themselves up for a home playoff game. It starts today as the hated Raiders visit Arrowhead Stadium in a rematch of the entertaining 31-30 Thursday Night game in Week 7. For the Chiefs to exact revenge on Oakland, especially without Marcus Peters (suspended for an argument with a coach, and leaving the field against the Jets), will require a few guys to stand tall. In this piece, I outline their role and how it pertains to a Chiefs victory.
1. Terrance Mitchell
Maybe the NFL’s worst cornerback, Mitchell did not earn any respect from Chiefs fans or analysts early in the season while Steven Nelson was out. Once he got back, he was promptly demoted for Kenneth Acker. Since, both he and Acker, along with Phillip Gaines and the recently added Darrelle Revis have all taken turns surrendering chunk plays on the outside opposite the aforementioned Peters. While Amari Cooper (concussion, knee) will likely be a game-time decision, Michael Crabtree will be available and ready to go off against a struggling secondary. If the Chiefs are going to avoid another loss, Mitchell must play better than ever before.
2 and 3. Frank Zombo/Tamba Hali
In the off-season, Tamba Hali went to Twitter to protest his defensive usage by the Chiefs. Since being activated from the PUP list, he’s managed zero sacks and one tackle.
Guess the Chiefs knew what they were doing.
Anyhow, if the Chiefs are going to win, they’ve got to rush the passer. The secondary has been terrible, but very few people are talking about how bad the pass rush has been. Sans Justin Houston, there is no pass rush. Derek Carr had plenty of time in the first meeting and it cost Kansas City dearly. With Dee Ford on IR for the remainder of the year, Zombo and/or Hali must find way to push the pocket and make Carr uncomfortable.
4. Demarcus Robinson
In the first meeting, Robinson caught five passes for 69 yards. And that was with Albert Wilson active. The Raiders will try (and probably fail) to contain Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, but with Alex Smith not handling coverages very well recently, the Chiefs need as many options in the passing game as possible. It may be the ancillary pieces of this offense that help push Kansas City to victory.
5. Akeem Hunt/De’Anthony Thomas/etc
Seriously, where has the Chiefs special teams gone? Other than rookie sensation Harrison Butker, who had his franchise-record consecutive made field goals (23) end last week, they’ve offered nothing in terms of big plays. The Chiefs offense returned to their big-play ways last Sunday, but even if they don’t take a step back this weekend, their efforts could use an extra cushion. The defense could also use some great individual plays to force Oakland on long drives.
Prediction: The Chiefs can save the season over the next two weeks, win the division, and host a home playoff game. But, without an semblance of leadership, the complete tailspin continues and they fall again at home to a hated rival. Raiders 38-35.
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