Inside the AFC West: Oakland Raiders offense awakens

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 19: Marcus Peters
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 19: Marcus Peters /
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OAKLAND, CA – OCTOBER 19: Marcus Peters
OAKLAND, CA – OCTOBER 19: Marcus Peters /

The Kansas City Chiefs Maintain AFC West lead but the division continues to get tighter

The AFC West standings continue to get tighter. What was beginning to look like a two horse race between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos has now turned into a mess. The Chiefs lost against the Oakland Raiders, and the Broncos lost against the Los Angles Chargers. This puts the Raiders and Chargers back into contention for the division. The Chiefs still lead the division with a record of 5-2. The Broncos are at 3-3, while the Raiders and Chargers are both at 3-4.

With all four teams still having a shot to win the division, it is important to keep an eye on the competition. With that, here are the rest of the AFC West takeaways for week 7.

Oakland Raiders 31, Kansas City Chiefs 30

Raiders offense finally awakens

The Oakland Raiders defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in a shootout on Thursday Night Football. Their offense finally looked like the unit many people were expecting to see coming into the season. Quarterback Derek Carr, who was playing with a back injury, completed 29 of 52 passes for 417 yards and 3 touchdowns. Carr was helped by his offensive line which played very well. The offensive line did not allow a sack, and Carr was rarely under pressure. The Chiefs routinely dropped 7 or 8 defenders in coverage, but Carr was given enough time to find open receivers.

Welcome to the 2017 NFL Season, Amari Cooper. Cooper caught 11 passes for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns. He had been struggling this season up to this point, only having 146 receiving yards through the first 6 games. Despite this, Cooper was the focal point of the Oakland offense and was targeted a staggering 19 times. His night would have been even better if he could have hung onto a couple of deep passes that he dropped. Cooper could have easily pushed 300 yards this game.

The Raiders were able to get production from other players as well. Tight end Jared Cook had a big game with 6 catches for 107 yards. Cook had two huge catches on the Raiders’ final drive. He converted a 4th and 13 with a leaping catch over the middle and also caught a deep pass in double coverage down to the one yard line. That last catch set up a game-winning Michael Crabtree touchdown. Crabtree was held quiet for most of the night, but showed his red zone prowess with the game winner.

The run game for the Raiders wasn’t anything spectacular. Marshawn Lynch was ejected early in the game for contacting an official during a scrum early in the game. This opened up opportunities for DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard who each carried the ball 9 times for 33 and 31 yards respectively. Neither could eclipse 4 yards per carry.

Overall, the offensive performance by the Raiders was a breath of fresh air. The Raiders had gained less than 300 total yards of offense for four consecutive games coming into this game. The 505 yards gained is much improved. The Chiefs defense displayed what not to do against this Raiders offense. Teams will have to generate pressure on Derek Carr in order to have success. The receivers are too talented for defenders to cover them for extended periods of time, and Carr is talented enough to find them.  The Raiders will hope to keep the offensive success rolling next week when they face the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are currently the 4th best defense in the NFL in terms of points allowed per game.

Raiders defense struggles but delivers when it counts

The Raiders defense struggled against the Chiefs throughout most of the game. The Chiefs gained 425 yards on just 60 plays, an average of 7.1 yards. That per play average was actually better than the Raiders. The secondary allowed another MVP level performance from Alex Smith, who threw for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, the Raiders were able to get back to back stops on the Chiefs’ final 2 possessions. This allowed them to give their offense a chance to win the game, something that the defense failed to do last week.

Quick Notes

The Raiders signed veteran linebacker NaVorro Bowman earlier in the week. Bowman had just a couple of days to prepare for the game against the Chiefs. He ended up with 11 tackles which lead the team. Bowman was a four-time All-Pro while playing for the San Francisco 49ers.