Earlier this week, we took to social media to find out what was on your mind heading into this week's Raiders vs. Chiefs matchup. You asked, Raiders.com Senior Editor Jerry Knaak answered.
From Mike K: Is Amerson moving to the starting lineup the biggest/best adjustment we've made defensively all season?
JK: That's an interesting way to put it. I thought linebacker Neiron Ball earning more playing time was just as significant. Ball made an impact when the Raiders were having trouble defending the tight end. Since he's been out, that issue has cropped back up intermittently. Amerson is definitely coming on, and I'd like to see him play like he did against Tennessee week in and week out. Six passes defensed was impressive, and his closing speed certainly jumped off the tape. He'll have a challenge with the Chiefs receivers this week.
From Ryan C: Is Khalil Mack heating up now in the absence in Aldon Smith? How many sacks could he end up with on the season now that he's rushing more?
JK: Mack may feel a little more pressure to produce now that Aldon Smith has been lost for the remainder, but I think you're just seeing the results of his determination and hard work. This kid just keeps coming despite getting held, double-teamed and chipped. Offensive lines have to contend with Mario Edwards Jr as well, and Denico Autry has flashed of late. Other players stepping up could be freeing Mack up a little bit. With five games left, Mack certainly could get into double-digits.
From Marisa M: So far the Raiders have beaten mainly bottom-feeders and have lost to most of the teams in the playoff hunt – what are some reasons to believe that can change down the stretch?
JK: How close the Raiders played the Steelers, Bears and Broncos, and even the Lions. Aside from the Chiefs, prior to Thursday night's Hail Mary loss to the Packers, the Lions were one of the hottest teams in the league and they caught the Raiders in the middle of that little run. The Raiders also played the Vikings pretty tight for most of the game. The Raiders are right there.
From Paul P: Has Jamize Olawale taken the number two running back spot or the top fullback spot?
JK: Olawale has certainly earned more touches. With the injury to running back Taiwan Jones, and the multiple uses for Marcel Reece, Olawale and his hard-charging running style have been a nice complement to Latavius Murray in the last few ballgames.
From Chelsea B**: Could we see Carr throw for 50 attempts in any games this year? We should own our passing identity completely.
JK: Anything is possible. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said this week that he believes balance is the key to the team's offensive success. I don't think you're going to see the Raiders abandon the running game. There is too much talent in the backfield for that.
From Brandon L: What is the secret to slowing down Jeremy Maclin?
JK: First of all, game-planning. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., and his staff are going to need an understanding of what the Chiefs like to do in the passing game and how they utilize Maclin. The secondary is going to have to make a concerted effort to keep Maclin from getting behind them. I also think the Raiders need to let Maclin know he's in a football game. They need to be physical, press him at the line of scrimmage, disrupt his timing, knock him off his routes, be aggressive, and swarm to him to prevent yards after the catch.
From Josh S: It's getting crazy how many people Carr is throwing touchdowns to. Who do you think is going to be the hot hand this week?
JK: Derek Carr does like to spread the ball around. I'd like to see wide receiver Andre Holmes get a little more involved. His size is a distinct advantage in the red zone.
From Shauna C: Of all the games left on the schedule in terms of importance, where does this one rank? JK: How can I state this as plainly as possible – critical, crucial, must-win…I can throw out some more sports vernacular here. This is an AFC West game, Kansas City is ahead of the Raiders in the division and in the Wild Card standings, and it's in Oakland. Losing this game isn't the end of the world, but it sure isn't going to help matters. At 5-6 with five games to go in the thick of the AFC Wild Card race, this one is as important as they come.