The Oakland Raiders will meet division rivals on the gridiron in back-to-back weeks, squaring off against the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday in their Week 17 finale. The team is coming off of a quality win over the Denver Broncos at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, and they'll try to finish the season strong against Andy Reid and the Chiefs.
Here are three matchups to keep an eye on:
Raiders secondary vs. Patrick Mahomes
If you can stop Mahomes, you can stop the Chiefs offense, but that's no easy task.
The first-year starter is the frontrunner for MVP this season, and is the leader in practically every statistical category among quarterbacks. Mahomes has thrown 48 touchdowns – 12 more than Andrew Luck who is second in touchdown passes – is second in passing yards with 4,816, and has the second best rating with 114.
Against the Denver Broncos, the Raiders secondary – specifically the safeties – enjoyed a strong performance against quarterback Case Keenum on Monday Night Football. Marcus Gilchrist and Erik Harris both hauled in interceptions in the fourth quarter, and iced the game for the Silver and Black. Keenum and Mahomes are very different quarterbacks, but the recent level of production from the Raiders secondary has been a pleasant surprise.
The last time the Raiders and Chiefs squared off, Mahomes missed a good amount of throws, but was still able to total 295 yards, and four touchdowns. It's going to be a cold one in Kansas City this weekend, and the Chiefs might try to get their running game going, but Mahomes can hurt defenses at will. Hopefully the Silver and Black can hold the MVP-favorite at bay.
Raiders defensive line vs. Damien Williams
Since releasing Kareem Hunt a few weeks ago, the Chiefs running game has noticeably taken a hit, and the offense has lost its duality. The last two weeks, the team has decided to start veteran running back Damien Williams, and he's answered the call. The former Oklahoma Sooner has totaled over 100 scrimmage yards in back-to-back weeks, and against two of the best defenses in the league no less.
Christmas Eve against the Broncos featured dominant performances in all three phases for the Silver and Black, and the Raiders defensive line did an excellent job preventing Pro Bowl running back Philip Lindsay from breaking loose. The former University of Colorado Buffalo carried the ball 10 times for 46 yards, and the Raiders defensive line were able to beat their assignments and clog the running lanes all night long.
If the defensive front is able to create similar problems for the Chiefs, that should go a long way, especially in the cold when pounding the rock will be a priority.
Raiders offensive line vs. Chiefs pass rush
Thank goodness Pro Bowl guard Kelechi Osemele was able to return against the Broncos; his services were missed by his teammates and coaching staff. Prior to his return in Week 16, the Raiders started Chaz Green and Denzelle Good in place of Osemele and Gabe Jackson, who was placed on the Reserve/Injured list following Week 15. The Raiders were able to fend off Bradley Chubb and Von Miller Monday night, allowing only one sack on the evening to Adam Gotsis.
The Silver and Black will face another tough test this Sunday in Kansas City, going toe-to-toe with Dee Ford and Justin Houston. The tandem has combined for 19.5 sacks and has been a constant problem for offensive lines, and if the Raiders O-line can protect Derek Carr the offense might be able to keep pace with the Chiefs.
We'll see what unfolds in the Raiders season finale.