In a league that is now dominated by high-powered offenses that can pass the ball with ease, the Kansas City Chiefs are winning in a different way. As they prepare to face the Oakland Raiders on “Thursday Night Football,” the team has become a Super Bowl contender with a dominant running game and an elite defense.
Kansas City finds itself tied for first place atop the AFC West with the Denver Broncos. All of the top five scoring teams have at least a share of first place in their respective divisions, and two of the four teams tied for the No.6 scoring offense are also tied for first place.
The Chiefs have had their share of big scoring efforts, putting up 75 total points in Weeks 3 and 4, but they are no offensive juggernaut. Eleven teams average more than their 24.1 points per game, and they are near the bottom of the league in passing yards. As the league continues to make it easier for quarterbacks to pass, only the New York Jets average more than Kansas City’s 186.8 yards through the air per game.
In Sunday’s win over the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, Alex Smith completed just 11 passes for 108 yards and no touchdowns. Kansas City’s victory was keyed by 190 rushing yards on just 30 carries.
Led by Jamaal Charles and his 5.2 yards per carry, the Chiefs rank fourth in rushing yards per game with 141.2. Backup Knile Davis has 421 yards on the ground, giving Kansas City, possibly, the best one-two punch in the league.
As good as their running game is, Kansas City’s defense has been even better. The Chiefs rank second in the NFL, allowing just 17.1 points per game. They have the No.1 pass defense, surrendering less than 202 yards through the air per game.
Considering Kansas City’s defense and Oakland’s offense, it will be very difficult for the Raiders to find their way into the end zone. The Chiefs allowed 26 points and 24 points, respectively, in their first two games, but they’ve been the league’s hottest team since starting the season with two defeats. Since Week 3, no team has scored more than 22 points against Kansas City.
The Raiders are still searching for their first win, largely because of their offensive struggles. Oakland hasn’t scored more than 28 points in a game, and they’ve been held to 14 points or fewer in seven of 10 contests. Their league-worst average of 15.2 points per game is less than half of what the top three offensive teams put on the board each game.
Rookie quarterback Derek Carr has more passing yards and touchdowns than Alex Smith, but he’s been far less productive this season. Smith has limited his mistakes, completing 66.3 percent of his passes and only throwing four interceptions. Carr ranks 28th with a 76.8 passer rating, and he hasn’t had a game with a passer rating higher than 68.8 since Week 8.
Stopping the Raiders shouldn’t be a problem for the Chiefs, even in Oakland. They are seven-point road favorites, having beaten both the Dolphins and Bills away from Kansas City in 2014. The over/under is 43 points.
PREDICTION: Kansas City over Oakland, 24-10