Surveying the KC Chiefs checklist to take care of the Las Vegas Raiders

Heading into the Week 12 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders, what must the KC Chiefs do in order to bounce back and improve to 8-3?

Nov 12, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams (17) signals a
Nov 12, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams (17) signals a / Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports
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After falling to Philadelphia on Monday Night Football, the Kansas City Chiefs are looking to bounce back in the same city in which they hope to finish their season: Las Vegas. The Chiefs have beaten the Raiders five straight times and aim to make six consecutive victories in Week 12.

Since firing head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler, the Raiders have been surprisingly feisty under interim coach Antonio Pierce, going 2-1 and giving the Dolphins a run for their money last week.

If the Chiefs are going to get back into the win column against Las Vegas, here are the five things they need to do:

1. Stop giving the ball to the other team

Turnovers have been a significant problem for this team over the last two seasons. At the time of writing, the Chiefs rank third in giveaways per game, trailing only the Raiders and Browns. The only turnover-free game they've had this season was Week 5 at Minnesota. For a Super Bowl team, that's completely unacceptable. If Kansas City didn't have an elite defense, who knows how poor their record might be?

The Chiefs need to learn that when they're on offense, it's their ball and not the opponent's. Patrick Mahomes needs to stop throwing the ball to the other team (he's thrown zero interceptions in only three of ten games so far this year) and the rest of the offense needs to stop fumbling the ball. That seems to be a novel idea to the Kansas City Chiefs, unfortunately.

It is 100% fair to say that turnovers and de facto turnovers (surrendering successful fake punts, penalties on third/fourth down stops, etc.) have cost them in each of their three defeats, or two at the very least. If the Chiefs play a clean game on offense and special teams, they'll win this game.

2. Catch the football

At this point, there's no questioning that the Chiefs' offense is struggling. It's looking less like a phase and more of who they really are.

There are a number of issues, but the most prevalent this past Monday night was the amount of dropped passes. Depending on the source, the Chiefs dropped at least four catches against the Eagles, with Justin Watson and especially Marquez Valdes-Scantling serving as the main culprits.

So far this season, the only players (with at least 20 targets) to not have a drop are Isiah Pacheco and Noah Gray. That obviously cannot continue if this team wants to win it all.

Not much else really needs to be said. If you're a pass-catcher, catch the pass. It's that simple.

3. Don't allow Davante Adams to run wild

By far the best player on the Las Vegas Raiders offense is future Hall of Fame wide receiver Davante Adams. Although he's having the least productive (non-injury-riddled) season since 2017, a lot of that can be chalked up to his poor quarterback play.

The Chiefs have been excellent against top-tier wide receivers, holding Justin Jefferson to 28 yards, Tyreek Hill to 62 yards, and A.J. Brown to just one catch and 8 yards.

The Raiders are not the Dolphins or Eagles, if Davante Adams isn't producing, they'll struggle to move the ball. Josh Jacobs is having a poor season and no one else on Las Vegas' offense should scare the Chiefs.

4. Make Aidan O'Connell beat you

After a very strong preseason, Aidan O'Connell has played as well as one would expect a fourth-round rookie to perform: 3 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, a 70.6 passer rating, and a 20.6 QBR is awful no matter the context.

One thing that Steve Spagnuolo needs to do in this game is force O'Connell to make quick throws. According to Pro Football Focus ($), he's (by far) the lowest-graded quarterback (out of 36) on plays in the pocket less than 2.5 seconds after the snap. He grades out at 37.7, while the next lowest quarterback is at 55.9. He's also dead last in passer rating on such plays (74.8) and has three interceptions to just one touchdown pass.

I'm generally not a fan of blitz-heavy approaches but I believe that's the right plan of attack in this matchup. We saw how exotic blitzes and coverages confused Jalen Hurts and forced him to take five sacks. If they can do the same with Aidan O'Connell, they can very easily force multiple turnovers.

5. Utilize the short/quick passing game on offense

With the exception of Rashee Rice and occasionally Justin Watson, depending on the wide receivers is a lost cause. Other than Rice, the unit is filled with underachievers and/or career journeymen. Although the unit is an anchor on the offense, other than running the ball, one thing they can do more is provide more quick passes, screens, etc. for Patrick Mahomes.

At the time of writing, Mahomes has the highest passer rating in the NFL on throws within nine yards of the line of scrimmage. As we've seen countless times this season, when Andy Reid asks Mahomes to sit in the pocket and wait for receivers to get open, it goes very poorly. On throws at least 2.5 seconds after the snap, Mahomes is 24th out of 36 qualified quarterbacks in passer rating, per PFF ($). He has eight touchdown passes, eight interceptions, and an 80.8 passer rating in those situations.

Some good news for Kansas City is that star pass rusher Maxx Crosby is not expected to play in this game as he was listed as 'Doubtful' with a knee injury on Friday's injury report. Crosby is one of the best edge rushers in the entire NFL and is also one of the very few defensive linemen who's dominant against the run and as a pass rusher. His potential absence is gigantic for Las Vegas and makes it far less likely for them to generate consistent pressure on Mahomes. Crosby not playing would allow Kansas City to be more flexible with their play-calling and experiment to find plays that work with this current wide receiver group.

Quick throws are a great way to take less pressure off Patrick Mahomes in addition to manufacturing touches for players who thrive with the ball in their hands, such as Rashee Rice. Though it may be a little more difficult without Jerick McKinnon, Kadarius Toney, and Mecole Hardman, quick and easy passes will help a struggling offense get back on its feet.

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