The Raiders have a Patrick Mahomes problem to solve

The Las Vegas Raiders have traditionally been torched by Patrick Mahomes. Until they slow him down, they’ll never surpass the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Kansas City Chiefs have won the AFC West six straight years.

If anybody wants to stop the streak, they’ll need to curtail Patrick Mahomes. This is especially true for the Las Vegas Raiders, who he has tormented more than any other team.

While the Denver Broncos are 0-9 against Mahomes, Denver has enjoyed success on a micro level of slowing Mahomes’ individual greatness. The Raiders, however, haven’t had any such luck.

In eight games against Mahomes, the Raiders are 1-7. Digging into the numbers, it’s somehow worse than the win-loss record.

Game 1: 23-of-38, 295 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs
Game 2: 14-of-24, 281 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Game 3: 30-of-44, 443 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs
Game 4: 15-of-29, 175 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs
Game 5: 22-of-43, 340 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT (only loss)
Game 6: 34-of-45, 348 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Game 7: 35-of-50, 406 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs
Game 8: 20-of-24, 258 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs

Across those contests, the Chiefs have scored an average of 37.4 points per game, including four instances where they exceeded 40. The lowest point total was 28 points back in Week 2 of Kansas City’s championship 2019 season. In that game, all four touchdowns came in the second quarter alone.

Outside of one game — in which Kansas City won 40-9 — the Raiders haven’t held Mahomes below 250 passing yards. In fact, he’s more likely to eclipse 300 passing yards than not, averaging 318 yards per game against Las Vegas.

While limiting Mahomes might be the NFL’s toughest ask, it’s a necessary one for any AFC West opponent. The Broncos have largely done it through pass rush and good red zone defense, while the Los Angeles Chargers have also gotten home to pressure and harass without blitzing.

Mahomes has only been sacked nine times by the Raiders, with three coming in Las Vegas’ lone victory against him. This week, the duo of Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones will be paramount to any Raider hopes of a win at Arrowhead. However, Crosby only has one sack of Mahomes in six tilts, while Jones has zero sacks this season after signing a three-year deal this offseason with Las Vegas.

If the Raiders intend on closing the gap to a single game in the AFC West race, they’ll need to rush Mahomes, yes, but also create their own explosive plays. In their only win over Mahomes, they scored 40 points with Derek Carr connecting on passes of 46, 59, 72, 23, and 42 yards, while Las Vegas also had a 43-yard run from Devontae Booker. The outburst led to then-head coach Jon Gruden ordering the team bus driver to take a victory lap around Arrowhead Stadium.

Still, while Carr needs to find big plays, the Raiders are likely to lose again if they can’t curtail Mahomes’ nuclear abilities.

The good news for Las Vegas? Former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and his reliance on single-high safety looks is gone — although Bradley actually beat Mahomes and the Chiefs this year with the Indianapolis Colts — and Tyreek Hill is no longer around to terrorize the secondary.

In for Bradley is Brandon Graham, who worked in the same capacity with the New York Giants last season. And, ironically, Graham’s Giants played at Arrowhead on Monday Night Football in October.

That evening, Graham saw his defense perform well against Mahomes, albeit at the height of Kansas City’s offensive malaise. The four-time Pro Bowler only threw for 275 yards on 5.7 YPA, with one touchdown and an interception, posting a 24.5 QBR. Kansas City won 20-17, but with Las Vegas’ offense, holding Mahomes to such a stat line could well mean victory.

The bad news for the Raiders? Travis Kelce still remains.

In the eight Mahomes starts against the Raiders, he’s averaging eight catches for 101 yards, and has only been held under 50 receiving yards once while notching five 100-yard efforts. Looking at Las Vegas’ defensive personnel this year, it’ll take bracketing and some creative coverage from Graham to keep Kelce from once again going off.

Come Monday night, the Chiefs will be looking to extend their division lead to three games over the Raiders, all but burying them.

If Las Vegas wants to stay alive, Graham and his defense need to be special against Mahomes.

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