To say that Monday night’s showdown between the Las Vegas Raiders (1-3) and the Kansas City Chiefs (3-1) is important is an understatement. Under any circumstances, these two teams do not like each other. The Los Angeles Chargers had their annual preseason coronation and the Broncos have had snippets of relevance, but ask any fan of either team and they’ll tell you that Chiefs/Raiders is the lifeblood of the AFC West. For the Raiders, it’s as close to a “must-win” as you can get in October. The difference between 2-3 and 1-4 is bigger than you might think, especially in a division like this one.
However, the Raiders have a shot. They have the weapons on both sides of the ball to compete with Kansas City. They may not be favored, but they are capable of coming out of week 5 with a win. There’s just one thing they need to do, and believe it or not, it’s a little more complicated than “score more points.“
The One Thing the Las Vegas Raiders Must Do To Beat Kansas City
Believe it or not, the Raiders have a fringe-top ten offense. They’re tenth in total points (96), eighth in first downs (87), 11th in passing touchdowns (six), and shockingly, number one in the league in percentage of drives that end in points (50%). That last stat might surprise you. Scoring of 50% of your drives is no lame feat, and something to be proud of. As a testament, their opponent this week? The dreaded Kansas City Chiefs? They also score on 50% of their drives.
The difference? The Raiders have scored 96 points. The Chiefs have scored 129. The devil isn’t in the details, it’s inside the 20 yard line. Because while the Chiefs have turned 14 of their 19 redzone attempts into touchdowns, the Raiders have only found the endzone eight times in 18 visits. The Raiders are absolutely abysmal inside of the redzone, and that’s why this team is 1-3.
In order to beat Kansas City, the Raiders don’t need to emphasize two-deep safeties, though that certainly has a strong history against Mahomes, or run the ball, though it was the driving force behind their week four win over Denver. In order to beat the Chiefs, the Raiders need to score touchdowns, not field goals.
For all their positive stats, the Raiders are 28th in the NFL in redzone touchowns. Through four games, Daniel Carlson has a staggering 23 field goal attempts inside of the 40 yard line. That means inside of 40 yards, Carlson has scored nearly three times as many times as the offense, which is a devastating point differential of 60 points. Considering the team has lost by five, six, and two respectively, it’s not a huge leap to say their redzone failures are a big part of why they’re not undefeated.
Pro Football Reference is a fantastic tool, but do you know what it doesn’t have? Redzone stats. It tells you how often teams score, but not how they score or what kind of plays they run. So I went back to all four games the Raiders have played this year and dissected their redzone plays, and here’s what I’ve found. Inside the 20, the Raiders have thrown the ball 34 times and ran the ball 16 times. On those 16 carries, they average 3 yards per rush, but they have scored twice. Of those 34 attempts, they’ve completed an abysmal 41%, or 14 completions, for 84 yards (2.4 yards per attempt), six touchdowns, and a pick.
I understand their inclination to throw the ball, especially with elite route runners like Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow, physical mismatches like Mack Hollins and Darren Waller, and running backs with soft hands like Zamir White and Ameer Abdullah. But the sheer inefficiency of a 41% completion rate should be enough for Josh McDaniels and company to reevaluate their strategy. Everyone knows it’s harder to score inside the 20, but unless Carr’s newfound affinity for taking off on the ground is going to stick, they might want to consider handing it off to Josh Jacobs a little bit more.
The Bottom Line
Here’s the deal. The Kansas City Chiefs average 32 points per game. The Las Vegas Raiders give up 25 points per game. Don’t be surprised if Kansas City takes the over on that, and the Raiders are going to have to keep up. That means pulling out all the stops to slow down Chris Jones up the middle, it means feeding Josh Jacobs, it means getting the ball to the big playmakers like Davante Adams and Darren Waller, but most importantly? It means when the Raiders get down to the 20 yard line, and the Chiefs fans are loud, they’ve gotta find the endzone. If they don’t, then you can kiss the division title goodbye before kids pick out their Halloween costumes.