The 2017 season is officially over for the AFC West after the Kansas City Chiefs’ latest home playoff brain fart.
What a week it has been for the Raider Nation. First, Chucky comes home and then the Chiefs fell apart at home. I know you are aware of the deets but I’m a good guy, I’ll let you enjoy it again. Kansas City flubbed a 21-3 lead and lost at one point to Tennessee at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday. Plus, in a delicious side dish, Gruden’s last act as an ESPN analyst before heading back home was calling the Chiefs’ debacle.
What a time to be a Raiders fan.
However, the cold reality is the Chiefs are still better than the Raiders. They finished four games ahead of Oakland for a reason and the Chiefs shin when these two teams have met head-to-head recently. The Chiefs have beaten Oakland’s six of the past seven meetings between the two teams.
Here is a look at the top ways Oakland coach close the gap:
Coaching: The Raiders have worked on that category of course in a big way. Gruden changes everything. He is probably instantly the best coach in the division. Gruden knows the importance of big games and he will have the Raiders up to face the Chiefs, who are coached by his friend and former staff mate Andy Reid. Gruden will be up for these games.
Derek Carr: Carr, of course, is the key to the whole deal in the Gruden regime. He had an off season in 2017 and Gruden has to fix him. Gruden has to get Carr back on track and Carr has to show up against the Chiefs. Carr is just 2-6 against Kansas City in his career. That is dreadful, especially since many of these meetings were important games. The worst part is Carr is truly dreadful at Arrowhead. He is 0-4 on the road against the Chiefs. He plays terrible there. Gruden has to get Carr mentally able to succeed at Arrowhead.
Stop big plays: Whether the Chiefs are quarterback by Alex Smith or Patrick Mahomes (that’s my bet), the Chiefs’ are going to still have a dynamic offense. Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt is a lot to deal with. And they are a horrible matchup for the Raiders. Oakland has been deficient on defense for years. They’re biggest problem is allowing explosive plays. However, Oakland did get better in that area last season. The Raiders allowed 106 explosive plays. They allowed 120 explosive plays in 2016. The Bengals, who were coached by Paul Guenther who is expected to be Gruden’s defensive coordinator, allowed 107 explosive plays in 2017. Most people around the NFL consider a pass play of 16 yards or more explosive and a run of 12 yards or more explosive. Gruden, by the way, uses a chart of 10 and 20 yards for explosive yards for what it’s worth.
Effective passing game: This goes back to Carr, but the Raiders have to excel in the passing game overall. That means better play from the receivers. Amari Cooper was supposed to be an elite player, but he played more like an average No. 2 starter, Michael Crabtree swooned late in the season and he is a candidate to get cut. The Raiders had 30 dropped passes in 2017, which was the third worst in the NFL. Oakland has to get better weapons at receiver to help Carr. The Chiefs’ secondary is at the lower end of the NFL. So, closing the gap on Kansas City could be helped by improvement by Gruden’s receivers.