AFC West stock watch: Chiefs rising, Derek Carr falling
The Oakland Raiders need Derek Carr to play well in cold weather if they want to upset the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend.
With the biggest week of the season in the AFC West looming, Week 12 was a dud in the division.
With the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers on their bye week, the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos both went out and hit a thud in New York with the Raiders’ loss at the Jets being particularly untimely and concerning.
Now, though, we move on to Week 13 as the Raiders visit the Chiefs in a game that will go a long way into determining the division title.
Let’s look at the risers and fallers in the AFC West headed into Week 13
Interest in the division: The AFC West isn’t as top-heavy as it was last season when both the Chiefs and the Chargers won 12 games (the Chiefs won the division on a tiebreaker). But there is still late-season intrigue in the division. The Raiders-Chiefs game at Arrowhead Stadium was flexed from an early game to the afternoon slot. There will be a lot of national eyes on this battle for first place.
Chiefs’ opportunity: If the Chiefs don’t win the AFC West for the fourth straight season, this week’s game will be the turning point. With Oakland losing to the Jets, the Chiefs are in good shape. They are 7-4 and remain a game ahead of Oakland in the division. If the Chiefs, who won 28-10 in Oakland in Week 2, win this week, they will be two games up in the division with four games to go.
They will also own the tiebreaker over the Raiders based on the season sweep. Thus, it would basically be a three-game lead. However, if the Raiders win, the two teams will be tied with the Oakland having an easier remaining schedule. The Chiefs play at New England in Week 14.
Chiefs’ passing game: The Chiefs will probably get Tyreek Hill back after he hurt his hamstring against the Chargers. Patrick Mahomes and Hill can slice Oakland up. The Raiders have allowed a league-high 55 pass plays of 20 yards or more this season. An opportunity awaits the Chiefs’ explosive offense.
Josh Jacobs: The Raiders’ star rookie running back had his least productive game as a pro against the Jets, who have the No. 1 run defense in the NFL. Jacobs had 34 yards on 10 carries. He now has 957 yards rushing this season and remains a favorite to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Jacobs has a chance to rebound against a leaky Kansas City run defense.
The Raiders have won games this season by controlling the game on the ground and keeping the opposing offense off the field. That will be their plan in this game. The first offensive play of the last six Raiders’ games have been a Jacobs run. I bet we see it extended to seven games this week.
Branden Allen: The injury replacement for Joe Flacco may be in his last days as Denver’s starting quarterback. There have been reports that rookie Drew Lock may get his chance to play very soon, perhaps even this week against the Chargers. Thus, the Broncos’ brass will see if perhaps Lock is the future or if they have to try to answer the position yet again in the rocky post-Peyton Manning era.
Derek Carr in poor weather: The Raiders didn’t lose to the Jets by 31 points because of Carr. He didn’t play well, but no one did for the Raiders. Yet, it continued the narrative that Carr doesn’t play well in poor weather as the Raiders struggled in the rain. Now, comes a game in Kansas City where the temps are supposed to be in the 30s with wind and possible snow. Carr is 0-4 games played under 40 degrees. He also struggles mightily at Arrowhead Stadium. He must change those trends or the Raiders could kiss their divisional chances goodbye.