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Chiefs-Raiders rivalry looks like mismatch time

By
The Sports Xchange
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

The Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs had one of the hottest rivalries in football for a long time, first in the American Football League and later in the NFL.

But on Sunday in Oakland the Chiefs come in with a 9-2 record and one of the most explosive offenses in recent history. Meanwhile, the Raiders have slipped to 2-9 and are coming off a 34-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

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"I know what we're in for," Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. "I know what (Chiefs head coach Andy Reid's) record is. I know what the Chiefs are right now. I know what they're capable of doing. I know what the point spread is. I know a lot about what I see on tape."

The Chiefs have a number of game-breaking players, including wideout Tyreek Hill (1,106 receiving yards), tight end Travis Kelce (914 receiving yards) and running back Kareem Hunt (824 rushing yards).

"And oh, by the way, the quarterback might be the most dynamic player to enter the NFL in history," Gruden said.

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The Chiefs might be without wideout Sammy Watkins, but the key to the offense, which ranks third in the league in total offense and second in scoring (36.7 points per game), is second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Mahomes and the Chiefs have not played since the wild, 54-51 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 19. Mahomes threw for 478 yards and six touchdowns in that game but also threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles for a five-turnover game.

"You have to be secure with the ball," Mahomes said. "You can't lose the ball, fumble the ball. I haven't been strip-sacked a lot, but at the same time I am going to try and improve on just keeping two hands on the ball even when I do try to break the pocket."

Reid is not concerned about Mahome's uneven performance against the Rams.

"One thing about Pat, he doesn't make the same mistake twice," Reid said. "I'm not worried about that. I want him to keep firing. Learn from your mistakes but keep firing."

Mahomes is third in the league in passing yardage, second in passer rating and first in touchdown passes with 37.

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"They're not shrinking the offense for some first-year starter," Gruden said. "He's put everything you can imagine on this kid's plate. He has unleashed him. That's the sign of a coach that has great confidence in his quarterback."

Facing a Raiders defense that has only 10 sacks, the fewest in the league, should make Mahomes' job easier on Sunday.

That won't be the case for Raiders quarterback David Carr, who has been sacked 35 times behind a makeshift offensive line. That should be inviting for Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones, who has had at least one sack in seven consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

When Carr has had time he has been efficient. He has thrown eight interceptions for the season but has gone six straight games without a pick. It is the longest streak without an interception of his career.

"I just think he's a really good decision-maker," Gruden said. "He's never been one to throw a lot of picks. I think he realizes right now that winning the turnover battle gives this team right now the best chance to win. He's done a great job of taking care of the ball."

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However, during that same six-game span, Carr has averaged just 6.48 yards per passing attempt.

The Raiders hope to take some pressure off Carr with their running game.

The Chiefs' defense has allowed opponents to rush for 5.0 yards per attempt, and only three teams in the league are worse than that. But the Raiders managed to rush for just 67 yards against the Ravens, with Doug Martin being their top rusher with 51 yards.

This will be the 116th regular-season meeting between these two teams, and the Chiefs have won 19 of their last 20 games against AFC West opponents. The lone setback came last year at Oakland.

Gruden and Reid worked together 26 years ago as low-level assistants under Green Bay's Mike Holmgren.

"We were both young and we were able to learn a ton from a great head coach," Reid said. "Jon and I spent a lot of time together, along with Steve Mariucci, we were the youngest guys on the staff. We all kind of bonded and did our thing. We did a lot of the gofer work, which we loved. Great learning experience and great foundation to build on."

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