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Key Matchups: If you're still sleeping on Hunter Renfrow, then wake up


Revenge is a dish best served cold, which is fitting considering it will be a little chilly and windy in the Raiders' rematch with the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday.

The last time these two teams played each other earlier this season, the Silver and Black were soundly defeated. The Chiefs are now on a five-game winning streak after having a rocky start to the season, and are in sole possession for first place of the AFC West. The main factor behind the decisive victory for the Chiefs was Patrick Mahomes, who threw for 406 passing yards and five touchdowns. In comparison, Derek Carr passed for 261 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Here are this week's key matchups to follow as the Raiders try to stay in the AFC playoff chase.

Hunter Renfrow vs. the odds

Just out of curiosity, how many of you would've guessed at the beginning of Training Camp that Hunter Renfrow would be having this type of season?

I'm not ashamed to admit it, I knew Hunter was a baller, but what he's shown this year was above even my expectations. The craziest thing about it is how much the legend of the receiver has grown from late July to now. According to Derek Carr, he saw this coming from the receiver all along.

"To see him emerging as that guy, it doesn't surprise me at all," said Carr. "Maybe if someone looks at a picture of him, it may surprise them, or if he walks in a room, you'd be a little shocked that it's him, but I think that's the beautiful thing about him is he's always felt that way, carried that chip on his shoulder and worked his tail off. Everyone's going to say he's a hard worker and he's super smart, but he doesn't get enough credit for how talented he is. He's also a very good football player from a talent perspective."

Renfrow came into this season as the presumed starting slot receiver after being second in receptions (56) and third in receiving yards (656) in 2020 for the team. Since then, he's dazzled many with his illustrious route running, held his own against Jalen Ramsay and laid out someone on a fake punt. On top of all that, he's leading the Raiders this season in catches, targets, yards from scrimmage, punt return yardage, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Hunter Renfrow is doing the damn thing.

Expect for Renfrow to be a huge thorn for the Chiefs defense this Sunday. In the Raiders last showdown against KC, the wide receiver led the Raiders in catches and scored a touchdown pass. The Chiefs have also allowed the ninth-most passing yards to teams this season.

Quinton Jefferson vs. Creed Humphrey

This offseason, the Raiders rearranged their defensive line and the Chiefs made some changes to their offensive line. So far, they've both seemed to have gotten return on their investments.

One of the very first free agent signings for the Raiders this offseason was Quinton Jefferson, who was previously on the Buffalo Bills. In Jefferson's time in the Silver and Black, he's been having the best statistical season of his career. The defensive tackle has racked up three sacks, two forced fumbles and 11 quarterback hits, while leading all defensive linemen on the Raiders in total tackles (35).

On the line of scrimmage, he will be up against the Chiefs' exceptional rookie center Creed Humphrey. Humphrey was the third center taken in the 2021 NFL Draft, but has made the most immediate impact of any center taken in the draft. The former two-time Big-12 Offensive Lineman of the Year has a 91.5 overall PFF grade on the season – the highest of any rookie.

The battle of Jefferson vs. Humphrey will be a matchup that ultimately means more to the results of this game than people realize. In order for the Raiders defense to succeed, they need to get to Patrick Mahomes. And in order to get to Mahomes, they have to go through Creed Humphrey.

The Las Vegas Raiders vs. another late season collapse

The second half of this 2021 season has begun to look far too repetitive.

In 2019, the Raiders started the season 6-4 before losing five of their last six games. Last season – their first year in Las Vegas – the team went 6-3 before losing five of their last seven games. The Silver and Black are now back in a very similar situation, having lost four of their last five games after starting the season 5-2. Lucky for this team, there's still five games left.

The Raiders have proven to be able to fight through adverse and unpredictable circumstances. Interim Head Coach Rich Bisaccia has rallied the team together from the top while still serving as special teams coordinator. And when Derek Carr is playing at his best, the Raiders are still a top-tier team – as they showed against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Currently in the AFC playoff picture, the Raiders are on the outside looking in with a game separating them from the seventh seed and final playoff berth in the conference. All five of the Raiders' upcoming opponents have better or the same record as them.

What does that mean in layman's terms? Every game is now a must-win game.

A huge win against a divisional rival such as the Kansas City Chiefs on the road would be for momentum. The Raiders should know what to expect in Arrowhead Stadium having already played the Chiefs once this season – and not to forgot what happened the last time the Raiders played in Arrowhead.

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