Kansas City’s Alex Smith leads the NFL with a passer rating of 119.2 and has not thrown an interception through the first six games of the season, tying a league record that was set by Randall Cunningham.
Derek Carr made a miraculous return to the Raiders last week after missing only one game due to transverse process fractures in his back, an injury that generally takes up to six weeks to heal. While Carr was unimpressive in Oakland’s loss to the Chargers, his mere presence in the lineup gives Raiders fans hope that the season can still be salvaged.
Smith and the Chiefs came out of the blocks quickly with five straight wins but stumbled last week with a loss to the Steelers. Statistically, Smith had his worst game of the year against Pittsburgh, completing 19 of 34 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 88.6.
Overall, Smith has completed 140 of 192 passes (a stellar 72.9 percent) for 1,637 yards and 12 touchdowns. Teams have had success in getting to Smith, who has already been sacked 20 times through the first six games after having been sacked 28 times through all of 2016. Pittsburgh got to Smith three times last week and hit him at least nine other times.
Kansas City does feature the NFL leader in total yards from scrimmage in rookie running back Kareem Hunt, although the Steeler defense held him in check last week. Hunt has a league-leading 630 yards rushing and 255 yards receiving through his first six games, and he is the first rookie to record at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his team’s first six games.
Hunt managed only 21 yards on the ground against Pittsburgh last week but was the Chiefs’ leading receiver with 89 yards on five catches.
Defensively, Kansas City struggled against the run last week, allowing Steelers’ running back Le’Veon Bell to grind out 179 yards on 32 carries for an average of 5.6 yards per carry. Pittsburgh finished with 194 yards on the ground against a defense that is now ranked 28th in the NFL against the rush.
Kansas City also struggles against the pass and currently sits 24th in the league in that category. Linebacker Justin Houston continues to come up big for the Chiefs and is among the league leaders with a team-leading 5.5 sacks, and defensive end Chris Jones has recorded 3.5 sacks.
The Chiefs continue to be without the services of their emotional leader, safety Eric Berry, who suffered a ruptured Achilles in a win against New England and is expected to miss at least six months. Unless someone steps up for this defense soon, Kansas City will be hard-pressed to sustain its strong start.
Oakland’s fate is tied to the strong right arm of its quarterback, who has struggled to be effective as he attempts to play through his back injury. Carr completed 21 of 30 passes against the Chargers for a mere 171 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He had gotten off to an inconsistent start before the injury occurred in a loss to Denver in the fourth game of the season.
Michael Crabtree recorded the lone touchdown reception in the loss to the Chargers, and he is currently tied for third in the NFL with five touchdown receptions so far this year. Crabtree has recorded six receptions in every game this year, with the exception of the game against Washington, when he caught only one pass, and he has 25 receptions for 304 yards so far.
The Raiders have not gotten a lot of help from its ground game, which features the return of Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch, who has managed just 257 yards rushing in 70 attempts for an average of just 3.7 yards per carry. Lynch has failed to record 50 yards rushing in four games this season, and was held to 20 yards or less in two games.
Oakland features one of the game’s premier edge rushers in Khalil Mack, who picked up a sack and a forced fumble against the Chargers. Mack has recorded four sacks and is among the team leaders with 35 total tackles. Mario Edwards has contributed three sacks, and Bruce Irvin has two. The Raiders have yet to notch an interception.
With Carr struggling, and Smith continuing to excel as a game manager, expect a low-scoring affair Thursday night, with the team that comes out on top of the turnover battle probably emerging victorious.
How to watch Chiefs at Raiders
Date: Thursday, October 19, 2017
Time: 8:25 p.m. ET
Location: Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California
TV Channel: CBS and NFL Network
Radio: 95.7 The Game Online Radio Stream. Westwood One Sports will air the game across the country. Ian Eagle (play-by-play) and Tony Boselli (analyst) will call the action, and Scott Graham will host pregame and halftime shows.
Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Tony Romo (color analyst), Tracy Wolfson and Jay Feely (sideline reporters)
Odds: Chiefs: -3; over/under: 47 (Bovada)