Heading into the Oakland Raiders Week 6 clash with the Kansas City Chiefs, you had questions, and now, we have answers.
Here is this week's Raiders.com Mailbag, presented by BART.
From Gilbert A: Do you want the home crowd to be loud or quiet while our offense has the ball?
EP:Let's call it an excited quiet, shall we? I don't think anybody would want the Coliseum to be silent when the offense has the football – that would just be kind of weird. That being said, one of the big advantages of playing at home is not having to deal with a raucous crowd, and struggling to get the play calls, and audibles at the line of scrimmage to the offense. Here's a good rule to follow; cheer, be excited and engaged in the game, but when Derek Carr motions with his hands for the crowd to simmer down, just take it down a notch so the offense can get to work. When the Chiefs have the ball though, be as loud, as you want, and show why Raider Nation provides one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL.
From Nathan R: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Chiefs this year – what do we have to look out for?
EP:Let's start with what the Chiefs do well. First, they're a well-coached, disciplined bunch, that won't give the ball away easily. Through four games, Alex Smith has thrown just two interceptions, and although the "game manager" title has followed him from San Francisco to Kansas City, he routinely puts the Chiefs offense in positions to be successful. Don't sleep on tight end Travis Kelce either. He's been a thorn in the side of the Silver and Black in recent years, and he's once again off to a good start in 2016. As far as where the team struggles, the first area I notice is Kansas City's struggles in stopping the run. Andy Reid's group is currently ranked No. 29 in rush defense, allowing just south of 130 rushing yards per game, and I'm sure with the Raiders tandem of rookie running backs getting rolling, that will be an area that offense coordinator Bill Musgrave looks to exploit.
From Darkus P: The Chiefs are coming off of a bye after a big loss and Andy Reid is really good with an extra week to prepare -- what are the biggest challenges of facing a team after a bye?
EP:Andy Reid's 15-2 career record coming off a bye is quite impressive, I don't think you could find anyone that would say otherwise. So what are the biggest challenges of facing a team coming off a bye? Number one, rest. The Chiefs haven't hit the football field since Oct. 2, and are likely as healthy as they can be for mid-October. Number two, extra preparation. While the coaches might not have started implementing their game plan with the players until this week, they no doubt started their preparation for Carr, Crabtree and the high-flying Raiders offense in short order following their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. There won't be much that the Silver and Black will show the Chiefs that they haven't seen on film already, and that's in large part due to the extra prep time, as well as the extra game the Raiders have played.
**From Eduardo T: At what point do we say the defense should be gelling? Obviously new pieces take time to fit, but we are a third of the way through the season now.
EP:Eduardo, I wish I could give you a circled date, and a more concrete answer, but it just takes time. At the end of last season it was evident that the Raiders secondary needed to be rebuilt, and that's exactly what General Manager Reggie McKenzie did, signing Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson, and then drafting Karl Joseph to boot. However, with those new pieces, it takes time to not only learn to play with each other, but to trust each other as well. In fairness, the defense has been improving over the past couple weeks; they forced four turnovers against the Chargers, and made Melvin Gordon a nonfactor on the ground. Now, is the unit where it wants to be? Absolutely not, but the group is growing together each week, and that's really all you can ask for at this juncture in the season.
From Titus P: Is the team's confidence level too high right now?
EP:That's one thing I don't think you have to worry about. As it stands now, the Raiders currently sit atop the AFC West, but even beginning last week, Carr and the rest of the team have been vocal, saying that they haven't done anything quite yet. Yes, the team is 4-1, and off to its best start in over a decade, but the Denver Broncos are the reigning champs in the division, and as Carr said, everything goes through Denver. Now, that's not to say at all that the 2016 Raiders aren't a confident bunch. This group knows that they have the talent and ability to go toe-to-toe with any team in the NFL, and I don't foresee many moments or opponents that will be too big for the Silver and Black. Confidence is good, but over confidence can be dangerous, and I think the Raiders are in the perfect spot as far as that is concerned.
From Alex F: Should we be worried about Latavius Murray's injury becoming a lingering concern?
EP: **While it's concerning that the Pro Bowl running back will miss his second-consecutive game this Sunday against the Chiefs, I wouldn't be too worried about him missing an extended period of time. Head Coach Del Rio doesn't like discussing injuries, but when asked about Murray, he hasn't seem too concerned that No. 28's injury will be an extended one. In the meantime though, Murray is leaving the Raiders rushing attack in the capable hands of Jalen Richard and DeAndré Washington, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the rookie tandem does this Sunday against the Chiefs.
From Harry M: Who are the early candidates from the Raiders to make the Pro Bowl?
EP:On the offensive side of the football, I think you're looking at Carr, Crabtree, Cooper, and maybe even a few members of the offensive line. Plain and simple, the Raiders offense has been one of the best in the league thus far in the regular season, with Carr looking even better than anticipated, and Crabtree putting together a career year too. Also, keep an eye on Jamize Olawale as a possible Pro Bowl sleeper. There aren't that many true fullbacks left in the NFL, and with his bevvy of skills, he could find himself in Orlando as well. Defensively, I think the two big ones are the Slash Brothers, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. While Mack is statistically off to a slower start than 2015, the dynamic defensive end has impacted the game in a variety of ways, and has been his usual stout self in the running game. Another player who you should be paying close attention to as far as the Pro Bowl is concerned? Marquette King. The punter has been outstanding this year, and if he keeps it up, I think it would be hard to say that that he doesn't deserve a Pro Bowl nod at season's end.
From Marty M: Do you think the weather could be an issue this Sunday?
EP:If you believe the weather reports, it sure looks like it. Sunday's weather report calls for rain, and if that is indeed the case, it will have an impact on what's happening on the field. First of all, when things are wet and slippery between the hash marks, ball security becomes all the more important. Secondly, getting an offense rolling when the footing isn't great, and the elements come in to play can be challenging as well. If it does rain Sunday though, the Raiders will be ready. The team held its Friday practice in what can only be described as a downpour, and following the day's work, Head Coach Del Rio said that getting some work in while the weather was bad provided a great learning experience for the team. Things can get ugly when the rain comes, but the Raiders will make the necessary adjustments if that is the case. Kickoff against the Chiefs is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PST.