By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
Before the season began, everyone and I mean everyone, had the Kansas City Chiefs running away with the AFC West, and possibly the Super Bowl. Six games in, things have changed and the door to the top spot in the division seems to have opened.
Injuries happen, and there is no question that the Chiefs are suffering from them. Superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes injured his ankle early in the season and has reaggravated it, in some way, in almost every game since.
There has been a noticable difference in his play, mostly in his ability to leave the pocket to escape pressure brought by the defense. His signature move, those long, beautiful passes, has also been more difficult to complete since he can’t always plant his foot. What this equals to is the once unstoppable offense has become, well…easier to stop.
There is also some dissapointment in the defense. This offseason, the Chiefs added a lot of strong pieces to their defense, including defensive end Frank Clark, and safety Tyrann Mathieu. Unfortunately for Kansas City, the defense hasn’t gelled the way they had hoped. They are still struggling against the run (ranking 30th in the league) and getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Last season, Mahomes was able to overcome any shortcomings the defense had, but with his injuries, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
The Chiefs seemed to have lost the tight grip on the division we all thought they would have. But who could make the most of that open door?
Enter in the Oakland Raiders. After all the preseason drama, after all the suspensions, after all the injuries, the Raiders are primed to take full opportunity of the dip in the Chiefs play. They headed into their week 6 bye with a 3-2 record, coming off a big win in London against the Chicago Bears. A game not many gave them a chance to win. They’ve also beaten the Indianapolis Colts, a Colts team who beat the Chiefs in week 4.
While they had a miserable loss to the Minnesota Vikings in week 3, the Raiders have continued to impress. The next three weeks will be “make it or break it” for the team. They face Green Bay, Houston, and the Lions, all teams who are playing great football and who will be serious competition. If they can win even 2 of those games, there then can be little question that the Raiders will be in the hunt for the AFC West title.
So what does that mean for the Kansas City Chiefs? In the next 3 weeks they face the Denver Broncos for a Thursday Night game, then Green Bay and Minnesota. What they could use is an earlier bye week to give Mahomes’s ankle time to heal, but that doesn’t come until late November.
While the Broncos and the Los Angeles Chargers are struggling, both with just two wins, the Chiefs will need to keep an eye on the Raiders and hope they can keep them at bay.