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Versus: Raiders look to contain the 'pure athleticism' Travis Kelce brings to the field

The atmosphere in the building always becomes a bit more intense when the Kansas City Chiefs come to town.

A rivalry spanning over six decades continues this Sunday in Allegiant Stadium, as the Raiders will try to get back to .500 heading into their bye week. The Silver and Black should expect to get the reigning champs' best punch in this heavyweight fight, with the 7-3 Chiefs coming off a tough Monday Night Football loss.

"They know us like the back of their hand. And the same here," said Interim Head Coach Antonio Pierce. "Obviously, a lot of respect for what Andy [Reid] has done there, [Steve] Spagnuolo, Patrick Mahomes, [Travis] Kelce, Chris Jones. ... It's a challenge. The rivalry, this has been a team that's obviously won Super Bowls and they're a championship caliber team. They've dominated the division since Patrick Mahomes has taken over."

Let's dive into three key matchups heading into Chiefs Week.

Nate Hobbs vs. Travis Kelce

Travis Kelce is the type of tight end you need a cornerback or safety to cover; a linebacker in man coverage just won't cut it.

There aren't too many tight ends in NFL history that can claim they have better short area quickness and route running abilities than Kelce. He currently ranks fourth in NFL history in receiving yards and receptions among tight ends. Since 2020, the Chiefs' leading pass catcher has averaged 74 receiving yards and nearly seven catches a game versus the Raiders, with six receiving touchdowns in those games.

"A lot of times when he gets the ball and the pocket breaks down, he's just feeling the defense," Nate Hobbs said of Kelce. "He's feeling the gaps. He runs to where he feels Patrick Mahomes can get him the ball the best at. He has a great feel for what the defensive look is. I think he's a smart player, too. Combine all that [with] pure athleticism and a super competitive mindset, you're going to get a guy like that."

Kelce is coming off a showing where he produced seven receptions, 44 yards and a touchdown – however, his one fumble played a pivotal role in the Chiefs' loss. Meanwhile, Nate Hobbs is fresh off a forced fumble against the Dolphins.

The third-year cornerback from Illinois has two takeaways and a team-high six pass deflections this season. Despite missing four games, NFL Next Gen Stats rated him as the third-best slot cornerback in the league as of Week 11. Expect Hobbs to be lined up on Kelce a handful of times in Allegiant Stadium.

Andy Reid vs. Patrick Graham

Both of these play-callers will probably have a few tricks up their sleeves this Sunday.

Andy Reid is one of the most creative offensive minds you'll find in this game. A mind that's led the Chiefs to two Super Bowl titles. He's once again getting top production from reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes, as the QB ranks top 10 in total yards, passing yards and first downs.

However, what if I told you there was a bit of trouble in paradise?

The Chiefs, coming off a tough loss to the Eagles on a short week, haven't scored a point in the second half of their past three games. Meanwhile, Patrick Graham and the Raiders defense haven't allowed a touchdown in the second half in four games this season.

The Raiders defense has been firing on all cylinders lately, flying to the ball and creating turnovers. They're allowing the least amount of yards and points per game over the last 20 years in the franchise, and have 14 takeaways through 11 games.

"[W]hat you're seeing now is 11 guys just hungry, flying to the ball, everybody being very eager to make a play, to contribute, to do their job," Pierce said of the Raiders defense. "Nobody's going out of the box, we're doing everything in our wheelhouse. I think PG [Patrick Graham] is calling a great game, allowing our guys to be comfortable to start a game. And then, as we get kind of a flow of the game, then we bring out our bag of tricks."

Josh Jacobs vs. Chiefs rushing defense

It's easier said than done, but the Raiders offense will need to control the tempo. Arguably no one is better for the job than Josh Jacobs.

Despite rushing for under 40 yards against the Dolphins, the All-Pro running back has been turning in some big time performances. In the Raiders' last two victories he's accumulated 214 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 53 carries.

Jacobs will be up against a Kansas City defense that ranks top three in the league in fewest points and yards allowed. The operation is spearheaded up front by All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones with linebackers Leo Chenal and Drue Tranquill behind him. The trio has totaled 19 tackles for loss.

It's worth noting the Silver and Black are 5-0 this season when Jacobs has at least 19 carries. While it seems obvious that the offensive game plan will be feeding No. 8 the rock, they'll have to win a tough battle at the line of scrimmage to make that happen.

Head inside Intermountain Health Performance Center as the Silver and Black prepare for their Week 12 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs.

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