Thursday Night Football: Raiders at Chiefs -3The 2016 NFL regular season is about to embark on its last few chapters, and the stakes couldn’t get much higher on Thursday night. In Thursday night’s week 14 battle, the fans will get to watch the wild wild west on full display as the Raiders visit Arrowhead to take on the Chiefs. The Raiders will be coming in with a head of steam as they carry a six-game winning streak while the Chiefs have hung on to second place by winning seven out of their last eight games. The Raiders are on the top of the division with the Chiefs just one game behind them and also standing as the last team to beat the Raiders back in week 6. The Chiefs currently sit as the home team favorites with a three-point spread along with an over under of forty-six and a half.
With the exception of all things pertaining to the Dallas Cowboys, there may be no bigger storyline than the Raiders sitting at 10-2 and being in first place in December. The silver and black hasn’t been in this position for over a decade and can attribute a large part of their success to their quarterback Derek Carr. Last week’s win marked their first double-digit win season since 2002 and it came against a tough Buffalo Bills squad. That game wasn’t Derek Carr’s flashiest performance this year as he posted his lowest completion percentage of the season but was still able to get just over 260 yards and two scores. Carr has had four 300 yard passing performances this season and has done it with one of the best wide receiver duos this season. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree represent just one of two wide receiver duos that each has 100 targets or more. While Cooper has led the team in receiving yards (981), it has been Crabtree leading the way in receiving touchdowns with seven which is a number he has reached for just the third time in his career. Seth Roberts has also played well in three-receiver sets despite being limited in targets as he sits with five touchdowns on the season. Just last week, Crabtree saw 11 of the team’s targets while Cooper saw four. Those targets should sway a bit this week as Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters is expected to line up against Crabtree. The potential sway carries some merit considering that in the Raiders week six loss to the Chiefs it was Cooper leading the way with 13 targets and Crabtree getting just 4. Both members of the silver and black duo found their way into the end zone last week along with a late-blooming Raider.
Latavius Murray was able to put together two second-half scores last week against the Bills and has been coming on strong as of late. In Murray’s first six games, he dealt with some injuries and averaged 46.5 rushing yards per game and had five touchdowns. His last games four games have treated him better as he has averaged 68.5 rushing yards a game and has added six more touchdowns to his season total. Those 11 rushing touchdowns have him sitting as one of just five players who have ten rushing touchdowns or more. Murray had missed the first meeting against the Chiefs as he dealt with injuries. In his place, DeAndre Washington had just 49 yards on ten carries. The Chiefs have allowed the seventh most rushing yards this season but are also just one of eight teams to allow five rushing scores or less to running backs this season. The defense and the opposing back make for an interesting matchup as Murray has his 11 rushing touchdowns but ranks 21st among running backs in yards rushing (553). The Raiders have kept their 10-2 record intact despite their defense which has allowed the third-most yards in the league. 3,178 of the 4,676 yards they have allowed have been via the passing game. Interestingly enough, it was the rushing game that did in the Raiders defense in their first meeting against the Chiefs as they allowed three rushing touchdowns.The Raiders will enter Arrowhead Stadium this Thursday night which has been one of the more notoriously difficult venues for a visiting team to play in. The Chiefs have just one loss this season at home and before that hadn’t had a home loss since week 5 of the 2015 season. The Chiefs have had their successes in 2016 by really being one of the most balanced teams that the league has to offer. The well-roundedness and steady play is ever apparent in their signal caller Alex Smith. The former Utah quarterback, as usual, isn’t overpowering yet serviceable. He has 11 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season. Last week, Smith completed 84% of his passes as he threw for 270 yards and a touchdown in a win against the Falcons. Some of the main highlights from that exciting 29-28 win were the play of running back Spencer Ware and defensive back Eric Berry. Ware had a promising first half as he put together a rushing and receiving touchdown. For Eric Berry, it was an emotional return to where Berry grew up as he was responsible for eight of the Chiefs twenty-nine points. That has been the mantra of the Chiefs for a few years now, productive running backs and a tight defense. It is the passing game that is usually the less desirable dynamic of their attack but the pass catchers for a second week in a row will find themselves in a favorable matchup.
One of the biggest surprises in the Chiefs passing game has also been one of the team’s biggest disappointments. Jeremy Maclin has been dealing with a groin injury for the last few weeks and had just thirty receptions for two touchdowns this season. As of this writing, Maclin is expected to make his return against the Raiders, but it is tough to assume what sort of impact he will have. With Maclin struggling, it has been players like tight end Travis Kelce and upstart wideout Tyreek Hill who have led the way. Kelce has been the third most targeted tight end in football and has led the Chiefs in receptions and receiving yards. Over his last three games, Kelce has had 100 yards or more in each of his games. While Kelce has been racking up the yards, it has been Hill who leads the team in receiving touchdowns with five. The fantasy football darling has also had eight games this season in which he has caught 80% or more of his targets. Maclin’s potential involvement should limit contributions from players like Chris Conley and Albert Wilson, but the Chiefs will most definitely be able to produce against a Raiders defense that as previously mentioned, has struggled against the pass. I do feel that the Raiders will put up more points than the ten that they had put up in their week six meeting but the Chiefs but I do feel as if the winning streak will come to an end. The Raiders haven’t been able to get by with their lackluster defense by putting up points but the end of the season and playoffs is where teams like this tend to get exposed for their flaws. I think the Chiefs will win a close battle and make things a whole lot more interesting in the AFC West.
My Prediction: Chiefs 25 Raiders 20
Fantasy Thoughts and Tips
Some of you are at the beginning or the midst of your playoff runs. If you’re fortunate enough to be one of those folks, then I congratulate you. This matchup does have some players involved that could potentially help you flourish. If you’re in one QB league, I would be hesitant to start Alex Smith. His stats just don’t stand out to me as being playoff type numbers and you obviously need wins now more than ever. Derek Carr has 13 more touchdown passes than Smith and I still think he’ll produce admirably despite me picking the Chiefs to win. The Chiefs are allowing the eighth most points to opposing quarterbacks this season so there is some promise there. In standard formats, the Raiders are allowing the fifth most points to opposing running backs, and I do think that Spencer Ware will be one of the bigger contributors of the night. Last week the Chiefs played against the Falcons and Ware was also able to capitalize on a defense that is allowed the third most points to the position. It’s a good time to be a Spencer Ware owner. I think you need to play Latavius Murray considering what he has done over the last few weeks, but I’m a tad skeptical as to what kind of production he will give you. The Chiefs have allowed just five rushing touchdowns all season and tend to play tough at home. Again, I think we start Murray based on what he gave you over the four games, but I’m just forewarning you. All of the usual suspects should be started in regards to pass catchers on both teams. Those pass catchers are Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill. No team has allowed more receiving yards to wideouts than the Chiefs (2,443). Both defenses are in the top half of points allowed to wide receivers. The Raiders have allowed the 13th most points to tight ends but Kelce is a must-start in fantasy without question. Jeremy Maclin is expected to make his return, but I would stay as far away from him as humanly possible. If he does play, it hasn’t been said how much he’ll be able to contribute, and that’s just too dicey for playoff time. Good luck folks and enjoy a Thursday night game that means something!
Mike is a hardcore fantasy football fan. He has been doing serious writing for a couple of years now and loves finding the next big sleeper that no one is talking about. He also isn’t afraid to go against the grain and predict the next big bust. The fantasy community is as strong as ever and Mike is ready to help you win a title!