ALAMEDA – The Kansas City Chiefs can score in bunches. Reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes is calling the shots, assisted by a diverse, dynamic group of skill players.
The core group was around last year, when the Chiefs were the NFL's best offense, scoring an astronomical 35.3 points per game.
The Chiefs will face an improved Raiders defense Sunday at Oakland Coliseum, but KC can score against anybody. They put a 40-burger on Jacksonville last week, and were nine yards short of 500. They could go big again, even without Tyreek Hill available.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has seen the numbers, but won't let it change his outlook or weaken his discipline. He can't walk into that game thinking he'll have to win a shootout.
That's something Carr used to do. Experience has taught him to resist the urge.
"Three years ago I'd be out there trying to throw haymakers every play," Carr said. "Now I've played so many football games and they come down to the wire so many times. There are no 20-point plays. There's no nine-point first-down throws. You have to play your game because at the end of the day you have to turn the film on and grade it and say, ‘Did I play winning football?'"
Being smart with the football, winning the time of possession battle with sometimes plodding efforts that keep chains moving can be effective if the game remains tight.
The Raiders might need some explosive plays against a Chiefs offense that can bring it.
"They have tremendous speed and they make you defend every inch of grass," Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. "Laterally with the jet sweeps, you got to defend them sideline to sideline. They can outrun you, outflank you and vertically they can run right by you over the top. And Mahomes can make any throw, he's proven right- or left-handed, looking or not looking, so you understand the problem that everybody has dealing with them. And Andy Reid is pulling the strings and he's a hard guy to deal with also."
The Raiders must score efficiently and without major offensive blunders, though game progress can dictate strategy changes, with a greater acceptance of risk in tight spots.
"There are times at the end of games where depending on play calls, you have to take a risk and things like that," Carr said. "When you play a team this talented … Let's not get it twisted, they were in the AFC Championship Game. They're a play away, a penalty away from going to the Super Bowl. This team is one of the best in the league. They're going to come in here with most of their firepower, great defense, all the talent in the world. We have our work cut out for us."