The first matchup of 2018 between the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs is nearly upon us. It's weird that the division rivals have gone 12 weeks without facing each other, but this Sunday at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum should be fun, as it always is between the two opponents. For decades, the AFC West foes have battled, and even though the records aren't comparable this year, the Silver and Black will do what's necessary to try and leave the Coliseum with a victory.
Let's take a look at three matchups I've got my eye on this week:
Raiders Pass Rush vs. Patrick Mahomes
At the beginning of 2018 I was skeptical about the Mahomes hype, but I can't deny it any longer. The 23-year-old is performing at a high level, and is considered a favorite to win MVP this season. He leads the league in passing touchdowns with 37, and he's third in passing yards with 3,628. The former Texas Tech Red Raider can certainly make plays with his arm, but an underrated part of his game is his ability to stretch plays out of the pocket with his feet. Putting pressure on the quarterback hasn't been easy for the Silver and Black this year, as the team currently ranks 32nd in sacks with 10, and they'll need to contain Mahomes in order to limit some of his big-play capabilities. Rookie defensive tackle Maurice Hurst is the Raiders' leading player in sacks with four, and I hope I see him add to that total this weekend.
Raiders Safeties vs. Tyreek Hill
The equivalent of playing against explosive wide receiver Tyreek Hill would be a trio of outfielders waiting at the warning track of a baseball field while Barry Bonds approaches the plate. You know he can hit the long ball at a moment's notice, so prepare for the worst, and do everything you can to keep it in the field of play.
Patrick Mahomes has connected on 75-yard bombs to Hill multiple times this season, and making sure that doesn't happen this week will be easier said than done. The Raiders have given up 12 passes of more than 40 yards this season, that's tied for the most in the league with the Los Angeles Rams – oh, it gets better. Hill is currently leading the league with six receptions for 40 yards or more, and he also has the most receptions of 20 yards or more with 22 – yikes.
Heading into the clash between the division rivals this Sunday, the Raiders know this will be one of the toughest tests they face this season, and if they can somehow manage to keep Hill from sneaking behind the final line of defense that will be key.
Doug Martin vs. Chiefs linebackers
Since Marshawn Lynch was placed on the Reserve/Injured list on October 22, Doug Martin has done his best to fill the void, averaging 4.78 yards per carry over his last five games. The Chiefs are currently allowing 117.5 rushing yards per game, and allowing rushers to average five yards a clip. This is a matchup the Raiders, and Martin, will try to exploit at the OACC this Sunday. What's most impressive is the amount of production the former Boise State Bronco has had with limited reps. With just 87 reps, Martin has totaled 384 rushing yards, and he's been a factor in the receiving game too, totaling 100 receiving yards in the last five games.
We'll see how Martin performs against a Chiefs defense that's allowed running backs to run rampant this year.