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Pick Six: The rising Raiders defense set for another challenge against Patrick Mahomes

1. How do you stop Mahomes?

A question as old as 2018: How do you stop the Chiefs quarterback?

Since becoming the starting QB, Mahomes has earned his way into the upper echelon of the league. His highlight reel creativity and accuracy in Andy Reid's offense has led him to two MVP awards and two Super Bowl rings.

Additionally, he's put together a dominant showing against the AFC West throughout his career, with a 29-4 record against the division. Mahomes has thrown 27 career touchdowns against the Raiders. Week 5 of the 2020 season was the last time Mahomes was defeated by the Silver and Black.

Back to the question at hand: how do you stop Mahomes? The short answer, it's a group effort.

"I think the most dangerous thing you see with him is when he steps up in the pocket and then he veers either right or left and now he's going parallel to the line of scrimmage so you're kind of in no man's land if you're in coverage," Antonio Pierce said. "You can't come away from the nearest receiver, got to plaster, then you can't pull up on the quarterback.

"The coverage has to match up with the rush, the rush has to match up with the coverage, and guys have got to do their job."

2. Madd Maxx in doubt

When you're playing the league's reigning MVP, it's helpful to have your defensive anchor on the field. However, that might not be the case for the Silver and Black.

Maxx Crosby didn't participant in practice this week due to a knee injury, and has been ruled as doubtful heading into Sunday. Needless to say, Crosby has played a huge role in the team's success this season. He currently leads the team in sacks (10.5), tackles for loss (14) and quarterback hits (17) – all while playing 98 percent of defensive snaps.

If Crosby isn't good to go, it would be the first time that he's been inactive in his NFL career.

3. Swift action

It may be, most likely, a super random coincidence. Nevertheless, Raider Nation should be happy that Taylor Swift is performing in Brazil this Sunday.

To catch those of you who've avoided any media coverage for the past few months up to speed, pop star Taylor Swift is in a budding relationship with Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce. During the early portion of the season, she became a bit of a mainstay for the Chiefs in support of Kelce and seemed to bring a bit of good luck with her. Kansas City is 4-0 in games she's attended – averaging 28.5 points in that span.

When she's not in attendance, they're 3-3 – including losing their Week 11 Monday Night Football game to the Philadelphia Eagles.

To reiterate, it's a super weird coincidence, but still an interesting stat. Plus, Kelce has averaged 108 receiving yards a game in those four wins. In the six games she hasn't attended, Kelce averaged 41.8 receiving yards a game.

4. Chiefs offense vs. Raiders defense

The Raiders defensive unit has been trending up.

Since Week 9, the Raiders have allowed just 12.7 points per game, which is the third-best mark in the NFL during that stretch. The squad also has recorded six takeaways and 11 sacks – all ranking in the top five in the league in that same span.

"We've just got to get better each and every day, each game," Pierce said Friday. "Good challenge last week against the Dolphins with the speed. Obviously you're dealing with the ultimate chess master here in Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, so we've got to be on our P's and Q's. We don't want to crown ourselves too soon."

This is the perfect time for the Raiders defense to be in sync, facing a Chiefs offense that's had its struggles as of late. Despite All-Pro's Mahomes and Kelce leading way, the Chiefs offense has averaged 5.3 points per game in the second half, which is last in the NFL. Notably, they've been shutout in the second half of their last three contests.

5. AOC's first start against the Chiefs

Rookie quarterback Aidan O'Connell will need to make sure he's careful with the ball against a stingy Chiefs defense.

While O'Connell has shown progression in each of his four starts, he's also thrown at least one interception in three out of four of those starts. The Chiefs defense has allowed an average 16.4 points per game, third-best in the NFL.

"I think you've just got to take the defense gives you and sometimes there's opportunities down the field and sometimes there's not," Aidan O'Connell said of limiting turnovers. "That's really my job, to assess quickly if the opportunity downfield presents itself and if it's a good option. If not, find something underneath. So, that something that's not unique to me as a quarterback, that's what the quarterback's job is. That's what I'm trying to do on a week-to-week basis."

6. Contagious energy at Allegiant Stadium

The vibe in Allegiant Stadium has been dynamic.

The Raiders are 4-1 at home this season, ranking in the top five of home win percentage in the league. They've averaged 20.4 points, nearly 320 total yards of offense and allowed just 14. 2 points per game inside Allegiant Stadium in 2023. The Silver and Black locker room hasn't taken playing in front of Raider Nation for granted.

"I feel like like being 4-1 at home, that's amazing for real," said Nate Hobbs. "So hopefully we can just keep that rolling. ... I just want to give a big 'ole shoutout to Raider Nation. The last two-three games at home, [they've] really been pulling through. We're feeding off your energy and I know they're feeding off ours. So this is a big shoutout to Raider Nation. They've got a big part in that. The energy is contagious."

The Raiders need every bit of their fanbase this Sunday against the Chiefs, as their divisional opponent is a perfect 3-0 inside Allegiant Stadium.

View the best photos from Friday's practice at Intermountain Health Performance Center as the Raiders prepare for their Week 12 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs.

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