- WHERE: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Mo.)
- WHEN: 8:15 p.m. ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes, NFL+
Two familiar foes enter Monday night in familiar territory.
For all the seemingly seismic, franchise-shifting moves in the AFC West over summer -- namely the Raiders trading for an All-Pro wide receiver and the Chiefs shipping theirs away -- little has changed come fall.
Kansas City sits alone atop a division it has won for the last six years, ranked second in points scored and fourth in total yards thanks to a restructured plan of attack absent now-Dolphin Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs made a statement in the first quarter of the season that the West remains theirs, and they’re in position to build on it by running Andy Reid’s record to 16-3 against the Silver and Black since his arrival in 2013.
The Raiders travel to Arrowhead in last place, having lost three contests by a total of 13 points and staring at the possibility of falling three games behind Kansas City before an early Week 6 bye.
This is a near must-win for Las Vegas to stay afloat in the division after stumbling out of the gate.
Here are four things to watch for when the Chiefs host the Raiders on Monday Night Football:
- The Patrick Mahomes Show. The former MVP has sliced and diced Raiders defenses since entering the league, and there’s been scant evidence this season to suggest Las Vegas can stop it from happening again. In eight career games, Mahomes has 318.3 yards per game, 2.8 passing touchdowns per game and a 112.4 passer rating against the Raiders, all of which rank first by any opponent in Raiders history, per NFL Research (minimum six games played). The Chiefs have failed to put up 30 points only once against Las Vegas during Mahomes’ tenure as starter and have averaged 37.4 points per game since 2018. Exactly how Mahomes puts points on the board this time around could look slightly different. Rather than relying on gargantuan plays as in previous years, Mahomes has adapted a more deliberate aerial attack this season, dotting tight end Travis Kelce and his running backs for short pickups and on red-zone possessions. Nine of Mahomes’ 11 TD passes have gone to non-wide receivers, and his seven touchdown passes under 10 air yards lead the NFL though four weeks. It might be more methodical, but the scoring will show up again regardless.
- Derek versus Goliath. This isn’t to pile on, but if the bits about Andy Reid and Mahomes’ head-to-head accomplishments don’t make it clear, Derek Carr has not enjoyed a ton of success in this rivalry. Carr, who signed a three-year extension in April, has struggled in the early going this season. He currently has his lowest completion percentage (61.0), pass yards per attempt (6.7) and passer rating (83.2) since his rookie campaign, and he’s throwing interceptions at a higher clip (2.6%) than ever before. That’s not to say he can't upend the Chiefs on Monday night. Carr's leadership style seems to flourish under adversity, such as when Las Vegas broke a five-year playoff drought last year despite the midseason firing of its head coach. But if he does pull off the upset, it will only come on the heels of a total team effort. Kansas City is sure to key on removing Davante Adams, whose 47 targets have contributed to tight end Darren Waller only having 175 yards and one score through four weeks. Carr must spread it around effectively, especially if Las Vegas wants to open things up for Josh Jacobs, who had a career-high 144 rushing yards against Denver last week.
- Red-zone matchups could decide it. There are two different equations in play. First, Kansas City’s offense within the 20-yard line versus Las Vegas’ defense in the same space appears to be of the unstoppable force meets moveable object variety. The Chiefs ranks fourth in the NFL with a 73.7 red-zone touchdown percentage. The Raiders rank 29th with a 76.9 touchdown percentage allowed in the red zone. That could get ugly if Las Vegas can't stall Mahomes and Co. between the 20s or display massive improvement once the field shortens. The matchup between the Raiders’ red-zone offense and Chiefs’ red-zone defense could prove much more unpredictable. The Raiders have currently converted red-zone trips into TDs on only 44.4% of chances (tied for 28th), but the Chiefs are allowing a touchdown 80% of the time an opponent reaches the red zone (tied for 30th) -- whichever one of those units outperforms its bottom-five ranking would likely be the difference if the game stays close.
- Raiders D has to be more than Maxx Crosby. Las Vegas’ star defensive end has played out of his mind the last two seasons. He is first in the league with 96 quarterback pressures since 2021, and he currently leads the Raiders with four sacks, seven QB hits and eight tackles for loss in 2022. Unfortunately, the rest of the defense has one sack between them -- and a cornerback, Nate Hobbs, contributed it. That spells trouble for a group that led the NFL in pressures (215) and pressure percentage (33.6) last season. The D has also managed only three takeaways, a byproduct of a pass rush gone missing. Las Vegas has dialed up blitzes on 27.1% of dropbacks with nothing major to show for it, and free-agent prize Chandler Jones has done little in way of disruption. It is imperative that Jones and the rest of the defense start finding avenues to supplement Crosby's one-man show. Allowing Mahomes all day to peruse the menu is no way to save your season.