Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders
Kansas City Star

The AFC West was supposed to be different this year. It was supposed to be more competitive, more balanced. Instead, it's so far shaping up pretty much the same as it has over the last few seasons: the Chiefs look like the best team, and everyone else is jockeying for second, third, and fourth. 

The Raiders have a chance to change that dynamic on Monday night as they travel to Kansas City to take on their division rivals. Derek Carr, Davante Adams and Co. finally picked up their first win of the 2022 campaign last week when they took down the Broncos, and they're surely looking to make it two in a row this evening.

So, will the Chiefs solidify their hold on the AFC West lead, or will the Raiders keep the good times rolling and make the picture much more muddled? We'll find out soon enough. Before we break down the matchup, here's a look at how you can watch the game.

How to watch

Date: Monday, Oct. 10 | Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri)
TV: ESPN | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)  
Follow: CBS Sports App 
Odds: Chiefs -7, O/U 51.5 (courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook) 

When the Raiders have the ball

The Raiders are coming off their best offensive performance of the season, which also happened to be the best game of Josh Jacobs' career. Opponents have often attempted to run the ball at the Chiefs defense in order to control the clock, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Josh McDaniels try that here. But that only works as long as you can match the Chiefs score for score while Patrick Mahomes is slinging the ball around the field, and it seems unlikely that the Raiders can do so on the strength of a run game that has only been intermittently successful. 

The Las Vegas offensive line will have its work cut out for it against Chris Jones up the middle, as well as Frank Clark and George Karlaftis off the edge. The group up front has held up surprisingly well so far, with Derek Carr seeing pressure on only 29% of his dropbacks, according to TruMedia. (The league average is 31.7%.) It surely helps that Carr is getting the ball out in an average of just 2.6 seconds, the ninth-fastest mark among 32 qualified quarterbacks. He's one of just eight throwing at least half of his passes within 2.5 seconds of the snap, which helps neutralize pass rush that generally takes around that long to hit home. 

Carr hasn't topped 6.9 yards per attempt since Week 1, though, and the short, quick passing game being the center of the offense undoubtedly contributes to that.

If Carr has enough time to throw, the Raiders might have some advantages on the perimeter. The Chiefs don't have any cornerbacks with the combination of size and physicality to handle Davante Adams. (Allowing Charvarius Ward to sign with the 49ers this offseason works against them here, especially with Trent McDuffie still out with an injury.) The Raiders will move him all over the formation to generate the matchup they want, and Carr will target him with impunity until opponents figure out a way to stop it. 

Darren Waller working against linebackers Nick Bolton and Darius Harris, as well as safeties Juan Thornhill and Justin Reid, is a matchup that provides some intrigue. So is Hunter Renfrow (in his return from a concussion) against L'Jarius Sneed in the slot. The Raiders have to be on high alert for Sneed coming on blitzes, as Steve Spagnuolo is liable to send him into the backfield to try to wreck things for the opposing offense on occasion.

When the Chiefs have the ball

Despite no longer employing Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs have kept right on rolling offensively thanks largely to the play of Patrick Mahomes. He entered Week 5 ranked first in the league in EPA per dropback (0.30), according to TruMedia, and after Sunday's games is second to only Josh Allen (0.31). He's 97 of 146 for 1,106 yards, 11 touchdowns, and two interceptions. 

Kansas City is doing things a bit differently in the pass game, with Mahomes far more content than ever to throw underneath and let his receivers do work after the catch -- at least, when they flash open quickly. He's hitting Travis Kelce with regularity, executing all different kinds of screens, and spreading the ball around to several wide receivers who are rotating heavily in the lineup. Remember the issues with soft zone coverages the Chiefs had midway through last season? Those are mostly gone (so far), with Mahomes completing 14 of 25 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown against Cover-2 and Cover-4, while adding 32 additional yards with his legs. 

When nobody is open quickly after the snap, Mahomes is making the magic happen with his usual flair. He's Pro Football Focus' second-highest graded passer on throws at least 2.5 seconds after the snap, and their league leader in big-time throws on those plays (eight, nobody else has more than six). He's taken a sack on only 3.3% of dropbacks, and has the NFL's second-lowest rate of sacks per pressure. As of this writing, Allen and Mahomes are the only quarterbacks in the league with a positive EPA per dropback mark when under pressure, and Mahomes has a league-high five touchdown passes on those plays despite the Chiefs having played one fewer game than 30 of the 31 other teams. 

The Raiders have split their coverages fairly evenly between single-high (48.3% Cover-1 and Cover-3) and two-high (38.3% Cover-2, Cover-4, Cover-6) looks, which is quite a change from how they used to operate under former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Mahomes routinely lit the Raiders defensive backfield aflame in those matchups, and while the personnel is similar, the strategy on the back end figures to be at least a little bit different than it was in the past. 

Still, Kansas City should have multiple advantages in the passing game, especially with Travis Kelce matched up on Vegas' linebackers and safeties. If the Raiders try to play man coverage with any of them on him -- especially when he lines up on the back side of trips formations, as he often does -- he is going to absolutely fry it. If they stick to more zone-based stuff, Kelce is of course fully capable of finding the soft spots, JuJu Smith-Schuster has been a strong underneath option as well, but it's worth noting that he popped up on the injury report late in the week. Mecole Hardman has been bothered by a heel injury, so the Chiefs could rotate their receivers a bit more often and give more of a like to guys like Justin Watson and/or Skyy Moore

The Chiefs have also involved Clyde Edwards-Helaire as a receiver out of the backfield more often this year than in the past, and he has responded nicely with career-high averages in receptions per game, yards per game, catch rate, and yards per target (by far). CEH started splitting more work with Isiah Pacheco in the run game last week, and it seemed to keep both of them fresh and running hard behind a very good offensive line. CEH is far more likely than Pacheco to contribute as a receiver, though, and the Chiefs have taken advantage of his skills. 

The big way for the Raiders to cause problems on this side of the ball is probably by having Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby dominate on the edge. Crosby has been terrific to start the season, but Jones is off to a very slow start. Orlando Brown has been up-and-down for the Chiefs in pass protection and Andrew Wylie is likely the weakest link along the offensive front, but Mahomes is obviously more than capable of neutralizing even the best pass rush so long as it doesn't get him to the ground before he even has a chance to hit the top of his drop. 


Score: Chiefs 30, Raiders 17