Oakland Raiders (6-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-6)
Entering the season, the Chiefs were near the top of my overrated list. They finished the 2016 season 12-4, but that was largely because of a +16 turnover margin (and a subsequent +7 return touchdown margin) and a 6-3 record in games decided by 8 or fewer points, two things that tend to be inconsistent on a year-to-year basis. They ranked just 24th in first down rate differential and looked poised for a disappointing 2017. That assessment looked incorrect to start the season when the Chiefs won their first 5 games, but they were never as good as that record suggested.
Many of those wins were close and their offense was highly unlikely to continue its incredibly low turnover rate (1 turnover in the first 5 games) and its high yards per carry average (5.70 YPC in those 5 games). Those rates have dropped significantly in the 7 games since, as they have 7 turnovers and a 4.01 YPC average in those 7 games. On the defensive side, they’ve continued to struggle mightily without All-Pro safety Eric Berry, who tore his achilles in the opener in New England. They rank dead last in first down rate allowed at 38.40% and have struggled mightily to get off the field when they aren’t forcing turnovers.
As a result, they’ve lost 6 of 7 games, with their one win coming at home against Denver, who is on an 8-game losing streak and who still outgained the Chiefs by over 100 yards in that game. In their last 3 weeks, they’ve lost to the Giants, the Bills, and the Jets. They rank 22nd in first down rate differential and 15th in my roster rankings, so they are a middling team at best. Once running away with the AFC West, the Chiefs are now locked into a 3-way tie for the division lead with the Chargers and Raiders at 6-6, with those two teams coming to town in the next two weeks.
Making matters worse, they will be without top cornerback Marcus Cooper for this one, as the team suspended him for throwing a flag into the stands and leaving without being ejected, late in last week’s loss to the Jets. Already without Berry in the secondary, the Chiefs now have arguably the worst secondary in the league, a big problem with the Raiders getting Michael Crabtree and possibly Amari Cooper back this week, after both missed last week’s win over the Giants.
The Raiders also will likely get top cornerback David Amerson back this week and have been playing better defense in recent weeks anyway, especially against the run, thanks to the emergence of mid-season acquisition NaVorro Bowman, a talented middle linebacker who was released by the 49ers earlier this season. They’re better than their 6-6 record, as they rank 12th in first down rate differential and 8th in my roster rankings. Getting more than a field goal with the better team is usually a no brainer.
I have this line calculated at even and the Raiders could easily win straight up. Even if they don’t, about 30% of games are decided by 4 points or less, so we have a good cushion. I don’t see the Chiefs winning this game by more than a field goal without returning a touchdown, so Oakland +4 should be a relatively safe bet, even if we were getting way better line value with +6.5 a week ago on the early line. The money line at +170 makes a lot of sense too because this game is at least a toss up. This is a high confidence pick as long as the line is higher than 3.
Oakland Raiders 28 Kansas City Chiefs 27 Upset Pick +170
Pick against the spread: Oakland +4