Oakland Raiders (10-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)
Back in week 6, the Chiefs clobbered the Raiders in Oakland, 26-10, easily the Chiefs’ most impressive game of the season. The Chiefs won the first down battle 22 to 16 and won the first down rate battle by a margin of +5.80%. That was easily the best game the Chiefs have played this season though and there’s no guarantee they can play that well again. Despite a 9-3 record, the Chiefs enter this game 27th in first down rate differential and have allowed 34 more first downs than they’ve gained and 4 more offensive touchdowns than they’ve scored.
They’ve won 9 games because of five wins by a touchdown or less (including 2 in overtime), a +6 margin in return touchdowns, and a + 14 turnover margin. Unfortunately for them, there’s zero week-to-week consistency or correlation in turnover margins (and, as a result, in return touchdown margins). For this reason, I love betting against teams that have strong turnover margins, as they tend to be overrated by traditional metrics. In the past two weeks alone, the Chiefs have scored 25 points on a special teams safety, a safety return touchdown, a pick six, a pick two, and a fake punt touchdown in two games they won by a combined 4 points. A win is a win, but at some point, they’re going to have to start consistently moving the ball better than their opponents to win games.
Fortunately for them, they’re as healthy right now as they’ve been in a while. They’ve gotten their top pass rusher Justin Houston back from off-season surgery and this week will get their top wide receiver Jeremy Maclin back from a 4-game absence with a groin injury. Aside from starting defensive end Jaye Howard, they aren’t missing any key players right now, so they’re healthier than most teams in the league right now. Also fortunately for them, the Raiders are also not as good as their record, as just 3 of their 10 wins have come by more than a touchdown and their turnover margin is +12, 3rd best in the NFL. Despite a 10-2 record, they have just 8 more first downs and 3 more offensive touchdowns than their opponents and rank 17th in first down rate differential. I have them ranked slightly higher than the Chiefs and I’m taking them for a low confidence pick as 3 point road underdogs, but there’s not enough for me to put money on them because both teams enter this game overrated.
Kansas City Chiefs 17 Oakland Raiders 16
Pick against the spread: Oakland +3