Hey, fam: apologies for getting this game up late! We posted it on Thursday, but apparently it didn’t take. All set now.
RAIDERS // CHIEFS OVERVIEW
Like every other game in the last time slot, Raiders at Chiefs is important for the playoffs — as the Chiefs need to win this game in order to maintain their grasp on home field advantage throughout the playoffs (assuming the Patriots win their home game against the Jets earlier in the day). But even with the Raiders playing well lately and the Chiefs looking less-than-invincible without Kareem Hunt and Sammy Watkins, it seems unlikely that this game in Arrowhead will remain competitive or compelling for long. The 11-4 Chiefs have lost two straight, while the 4-11 Raiders have won two of their last three — but the Chiefs have an average scoring margin at home this year of +11.9 (the third best home mark in the NFL), while the Raiders have an average scoring margin on the road this year of -13.6 (the third worst road mark in the NFL). It comes as no surprise that the Chiefs have been installed as 13.5 point favorites, with this game carrying an Over/Under of 52.5.
RAIDERS PASS OFFENSE
I drew some laughs early in the year when I talked about how solid this Raiders offense looked through the first few weeks of the season (passing yardage totals for Derek Carr to kick off the year of 303 // 288 // 345 // 437 // 268), with Jon Gruden — for all his potential flaws as a roster-builder — constantly finding ways to scheme pass catchers into open spaces that allowed for easy throws and yards after the catch. After a mid-season plunge in effectiveness, Oakland is back to looking sharp across the last month, with Carr notching yardage totals of 285 // 322 // 263 // 167, with a solid nine touchdown passes and zero interceptions across his last six games. The last time Carr threw an interception was all the way back in Week 5 — and while there is a weapon-deficiency issue for this squad at the moment, there are bright moments ahead if this unit is able to build the right way. It should be evident to us that Gruden never planned to win this year, as he opted for old/slow veterans (i.e., “locker room builders”) over young, Upside players — but he has this team playing hard for him at the right time of the year, and there is a non-awful chance this week that we see the Raiders play well in this spot. The one big drawback is this game’s tough road environment, as the Raiders — in their last four games — have lost to the Chiefs by seven, defeated the Steelers by three, and defeated the Broncos by 13 (all at home), while losing to the bottom-barrel Bengals by 14 (on the road). No one in this attack carries a safe floor, but with the Chiefs allowing the second deepest aDOT in football, allowing the sixth most passing touchdowns in the league, and giving up the most passing yards in football, there is some low-owned ceiling to chase — even in a challenging road environment.
The primary weapon for Carr across the last four weeks has been Jordy Nelson, who has recent target counts of 11 // 7 // 8 // 10, with 75 or more yards in three of his last four games. When these teams last met, Jordy was schemed looks from all areas of the formation, to all areas of the field — with two targets that came 20 yards downfield, two that came 15 yards downfield, a few others between five and 10 yards, and even a couple targets that came from out of the backfield.
The other wide receivers on the Raiders have remained low-upside afterthoughts since Jordy’s reemergence, with Seth Roberts cracking 30 yards only once in the Raiders’ last month, and with Marcell Ateman topping 20 yards only once.
The highest-upside bet is Jared Cook, who pasted the Chiefs for a 7-100-1 line the last time these teams met, but who has incredibly gone for under 35 yards in eight games this year — in addition to his four games of 100+. He remains what he has been all year: a boom/bust play regardless of matchup (though the matchup is certainly beneficial).
RAIDERS RUN OFFENSE
The matchup is not a major concern for Doug Martin and the up-and-down Raiders rushing attack, as the Chiefs have allowed the third most yards per carry in the NFL while giving up the fifth most rushing yards to the running back position. Combining rushing and receiving yards, only the Cardinals and Bengals have allowed more yards to the position. Combining rushing and receiving scores, only the Bucs and Bengals have allowed more touchdowns to the position. The concern, then, is simply whether or not the Raiders can keep this game close enough for Martin to be productive on the ground. When these teams met a few weeks back in Oakland, the Raiders played the game surprisingly close, losing 40-33 and allowing Martin to pick up 18 carries (61 yards // one touchdown). It will be much tougher for Oakland to keep this game close in Arrowhead, while Martin has still topped 72 yards only once this season. His 107-yard rushing game last week was his first such effort in his last 40 starts.
Joining Martin in the backfield has been Jalen Richard, who has recent target counts of 4 // 6 // 4 // 4 // 4 // 1 // 6 // 5, with four to eight carries added in each of his last four games. Richard’s locked-in pass game role and the likely game flow in this spot will give him a shot for another productive point-per-dollar game on PPR sites DraftKings and FantasyDraft. Richard’s ceiling has been capped all season, however, with “best games” of 16.9 // 15.1 // 14.6. He’s a play-for-floor, hope-for-unlikely-ceiling option.
CHIEFS PASS OFFENSE
The Raiders have a reputation as an imminently attackable pass defense, but Paul Guenther’s unit has continued to improve throughout the season as they learn their assignments and communication responsibilities in this zone-heavy scheme — a scheme that invites opponents to attack on the ground and does a good job taking away wide receivers — with this team now allowing the second lowest catch rate in the NFL, while (more importantly) facing the fewest pass attempts in the NFL. Rather quietly, the Raiders have allowed the second fewest wide receiver catches in the entire NFL — behind only the Jaguars, and ahead of reputation-strong units in the Chargers, Colts, Vikings, Ravens, and Bills. Only six teams have allowed fewer receiving yards to wideouts, with the one major bonus against this team coming in the touchdown department, where only the 49ers have given up more scores to the wide receiver position. On the season, only the Bears, Ravens, Patriots, and Browns have allowed a lower passer rating to wide receivers on downfield throws than the Raiders have allowed — with this team allowing only four touchdown passes all season on downfield throws to wideouts. Speaking to the improvements this defense has made throughout the year in adjusting to Paul Guenther’s scheme: Oakland has allowed only seven downfield completions to wide receivers since the start of Week 9 (the fewest in the NFL), with only one touchdown allowed, and with six interceptions. Since that midway point in the season, only the Bills have allowed fewer total yards to wideouts than the Raiders have allowed.
The story has been very different against tight ends for the Raiders, with this team allowing a league-worst nine touchdowns to the position while picking off only one pass on throws to the position. Oakland has allowed a 74% completion rate on passes to tight ends, and their 998 yards allowed to the position on the year is the fifth worst mark in the league.
With this offense centered around Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce right now, all of these data points are worth keeping in mind. While Hill can obviously beat any matchup, everything in this spot tilts toward Kelce — which is something that most of our competition will not realize, as people see “Raiders defense” and blindly think, “Attack!” The likeliest scenario here is another disappointing game from Hill and another strong game from Kelce (when these teams met in Oakland, Hill went 1-13-0 on six targets, while Kelce went 12-168-2; that is obviously an extreme example of how this spot could play out, but it certainly sets up better for the Chiefs’ tight end).
Sammy Watkins appears unlikely to practice this week, which should once again give us Demarcus Robinson (recent target counts of 1 // 7 // 3 // 3) and Chris Conley (recent target counts of 7 // 3 // 3 // 5) filling in behind the Chiefs’ two stars. Either of these guys would need a broken play or a multi-touchdown game to matter.
CHIEFS RUN OFFENSE
The Raiders have been one of the most attackable defenses on the ground this year, ranking 23rd in yards allowed per carry and giving up the second most rushing yards to running backs. Only the Dolphins and Cardinals have faced more running back rush attempts than Oakland this year, at an average of 25.1 per game.
While the matchup is not a concern for the Chiefs, the nature of this backfield is a bit of an issue, as Spencer Ware will return this week to join Damien Williams, who has looked strong in Ware’s absence — likely forcing a workload split. On DraftKings, each back is priced for a full-starter’s workload, making each nothing more than a hope-for-big-plays option. On FanDuel, pricing is slightly more palatable, but each guy is ultimately overpriced for the role he is expected to play. View this as a “solid matchup, with no guarantee of the matchup paying off” spot.
The (overwhelming) likeliest scenario for the Raiders is a disappointing game on offense — which has nothing to do with the matchup itself, and instead has everything to do with the venue in which this game is being played. On the year, the Raiders average 25.1 points per game at home and a stunning-low 13.9 points per game on the road, while the Chiefs’ defense has allowed a whopping 34.6 points per game on the road, but they have allowed only 20.6 points per game at home. This makes the Raiders’ offense unattractive from a “scoring expectation” perspective, and I likely won’t go here myself on Main Builds (outside of possibly taking a shot on Jordy and his recent locked-in target share); but even with the high risk on this offense, there is upside to hunt for from Carr // Jordy // Cook, while even Martin and Richard can be considered this week.
On the Chiefs’ side, I’ll likely ignore the backfield, as I would rather roster full workloads than hope for a split-workload back to hit, and I may pull a full fade on Hill as well — even in large-field tourneys — recognizing that if we played out this slate a hundred times, he would disappoint more often than the field realizes (i.e., the 12% to 15% of the field that typically rosters Hill at his high price tag would almost certainly lose money on this play over time). With that said: Hill obviously has enough explosive upside to win in any matchup, and it is by no means a “bad play” to go here and hope that he hits in the small sample size of a single week.
The jewels in this game, of course, are Mahomes and Kelce. Mahomes is always in play, while Kelce is one of the top tight end options on the slate (and is, in fact, one of the top raw-projected options at any position this week).
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