Bring on the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Oakland Raiders are looking for a signature win in 2018, and I have a feeling that taking down Andy Reid and his high-flying offense would certainly check that box for the Silver and Black.
The last time Patrick Mahomes and friends hit the field they put up 51 points in a losing effort – crazy right? But, with nearly two weeks to get healthy, Head Coach Jon Gruden's team will likely get the best version of the Chiefs Sunday afternoon at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 PM; here are six things to watch once the game gets underway.
1. Try to limit Mahomes
We briefly mentioned the Chiefs last outing – a 54-51 loss to the Los Angeles Rams – so let's look back at young Mr. Mahomes line from that game, shall we?
In a losing effort – which is still crazy to think about – the second-year signal-caller completed 33 of 46 passes for an absurd 478 yards and an even more absurd six touchdowns. Yes, Mahomes did throw three interceptions, but the fact remains, the Chiefs starting quarterback is putting up absurd numbers and is a legitimate MVP candidate.
Mahomes has thrown for at least 300 yards in nine of his last ten games, so Paul Guenther's group is in store for one heck of a challenge.
Whether it's getting pressure on him, or taking away one of his favorite targets, or a mixture of the two, if the Raiders want to surprise the NFL world Sunday afternoon, they're going to have to find a way to keep Mahomes at bay.
2. Take advantage of the mistakes
Mahomes likes to air the ball out, and Andy Reid has given him the opportunity to do just that. However, when you throw the ball as much as the former Texas Tech Red Raider does, you're going to give the opposing defense chance to make plays.
Albeit in a losing effort, the Raiders secondary is coming off one of their best outings of the year – they rendered Lamar Jackson mostly ineffective with his arm and picked him off twice – and they'd be well served to replicate that kind of outing Sunday at the OACC.
Now, I know that Mahomes and Jackson are two very different dudes – no disrespect, Lamar – but if the Raiders defensive backs can take advantage of the plays Mahomes will allow them a chance at, it could go a long way in securing the team's third win of 2018.
I know that's a lot easier said than done, but if the Raiders want to pull the upset, they're going to need some big plays from their defense.
3. Speaking of big plays…
The Raiders will have to find a way to limit the Chiefs explosive plays.
It's been the bugaboo of the team's defense all of 2018, but if they let that nasty habit surface against the Chiefs, Mahomes and Co., will no doubt take advantage.
And the Raiders have to be cognizant of the Chiefs on not only offense, but special teams as well.
Tyreek Hill – who already has over 1,100 receiving yards this year – is about as dynamic of a punt returner as there is the NFL, and he's the type of guy who can take over a game on his own.
It sounds simple, but it'll be imperative for the Raiders to limit the chunk plays the Chiefs have become synonymous with in 2018.
4. Find the end zone
As our resident special teams advocate, it hurts me to even utter the following statement, but here we are – field goals just won't cut it Sunday against the Chiefs.
Kansas City's offense puts up points at an unreal rate – 36.7 per game to be exact – and when you're going up against a team that can put up points at that type of clip, you have to score touchdowns; you just have to.
We've seen – in spurts – that Derek Carr and the Raiders offense has the ability to put up points en masse as well, they did score 45 points in their Week four win over the Cleveland Browns, and they'll have to channel that type of output again come Sunday.
Any points are cool, but against Mahomes and his buddies, touchdowns – not field goals – are going to be at a premium.
Here's to hoping that Daniel Carlson stays busy kicking extra points.
5. Keep an eye on the time of possession
Last week in Baltimore we saw firsthand how important the time of possession battle really is.
After playing the Ravens tough in the first half, the Raiders just couldn't get enough chances to put points on the board in the second half, and a big reason for that was that Baltimore absolutely dominated time of possession after halftime.
The Raiders are now in for quite the test with the Chiefs coming to town, so what's the best way of making sure they don't run rampant? Keep them off the field and control the clock.
In the games where the Raiders have found success, it's been because the Silver and Black have established a tone at the line of scrimmage, and enjoyed the benefits of a healthy run game.
Doug Martin has run hard as of late, and against a Chiefs defense that allows 117.5 rushing yards per game, I'm excited to see if the Raiders can take advantage of that aspect of Kansas City's game.
6. Will Big Jelly return?
Justin Ellis was a full participant in practice all week, but it remains to be seen if No. 78 gets back on the field Sunday afternoon against the Chiefs.
The Silver and Black have been without the services of the athletic defensive tackle for nearly the entirety of 2018, and they've certainly felt his absence.
Regardless of who is lined up in the backfield, the Chiefs are adept at moving the ball on the ground, and the return of Ellis would be a net positive for the Oakland defense as a whole.
Photos of past matchups between the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders' last meeting with Kansas City was in Week 13 of last season.