Photo credit: reviewjournal.com
By Joe Hawkes
OAKLAND — Don’t look now, but the Oakland Raiders are knocking on the door for the top spot in the AFC West.
With Kansas City losing to the Tennessee Titans, 35-32, in Nashville on Sunday to drop their record to 6-4, the Raiders (5-4) are just now a half-game back of the Chiefs for first place with six games left in the season for both teams.
The Raiders defeated the visiting Los Angeles Chargers, 26-24, on Nov. 7 in prime-time on FOX’s Thursday Night Football at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum to kickoff Week 10. Oakland’s defense performed tremendously under the lights, registering five sacks, three interceptions and one touchdown.
Kansas City already holds a victory over the Raiders, back in Week 2.
In that game, the Raiders jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter before the Chiefs scored 28 unanswered points behind four touchdowns by quarterback Patrick Mahomes as Kansas City held on for a 28-10 win.
Mahomes would throw for 443 yards on 30-of-44 passing with a 131.2 passer rating for the game
The two teams will meet again on Dec. 1 at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 13.
With the winless Cincinnati Bengals (0-9) coming into Oakland next Sunday for a Week 11 matchup, the Raiders are almost a shoe-in to win that game and apply even more pressure on the Chiefs.
Kansas City hosts the aforementioned Los Angeles Chargers on ESPN’s Monday Night Football on Nov. 18, which won’t be an easy game for them.
Mahomes looked very healthy playing for the first time since dislocating his right kneecap Oct. 17 against the Denver Broncos. His best play came with the pocket collapsing around him when he jumped up to throw over the linemen to wide receiver Mecole Hardman, who ran for a 63-yard TD with 11:54 left and a 29-20 lead.
Oakland, who were picked by many prognosticators to finish near the bottom of the division this year but the infusion of young, rookie talent on both the offensive side (running back Josh Jacobs and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow), and the defensive side (defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell and Max Crosby) has rejuvenated the Raiders.
Jacobs is running away with the AFC’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in my opinion, leading all rookies in rushing yards (811), rushing attempts (168), and touchdowns (7).
With all due respect to tight end Darren Waller, who leads the team in receptions (51), targets (65) and yards (588) and wide receiver Tyrell Williams, who leads the team with five touchdown catches, Renfrow has become quarterback Derek Carr’s security blanket. Carr loves to look for Renfrow with the game on the line.
Renfrow is second on the team in receptions (28) and targets (42) for 299 yards and two touchdowns. His second-career touchdown against the Lions in Week 9 was his first game-winner.
Coupled with the fact that Carr, whose engineered 19 fourth quarter comebacks (which includes two in the span of four days) has played some of his best football in his career, throwing for 2,202 yards with 14 touchdowns to just four interceptions with a career-high 104.4 passer rating, Oakland is a legit playoff contender.