It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
That’s a good lesson for the Chiefs, whose record is 6-6 after starting 5-0. It’s also important for the Raiders, who are 6-6 as well but they started the season with a 2-4 record. Both teams know a strong finish could mean a playoff berth.
The Raiders will be at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday and the loser of the game, which kicks off at noon on CBS, will be out of first place in the AFC West.
Much has changed for Oakland since it beat the Chiefs 31-30 on Oct. 19. Here are five things to know about the Raiders.
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1. Defensive changes
The Raiders defense has looked drastically better since the team fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton just before Thanksgiving.
Oakland had four sacks in four games before Norton’s firing, but they have eight in the last two games, although those opponents (Broncos and Giants) are not known for their offensive prowess. But those teams have combined to score just 31 points against Oakland. The Raiders had allowed 30 or more points in five of their first 10 games.
The Raiders’ defense began Sunday’s game with three straight three-and-outs, the first time it has done that this season.
After getting just six takeaways in their first 10 games, the Raiders have three in their last two games, including this strip sack by Khalil Mack on Sunday:
2. Beast Mode
Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch had his best game of the season on Sunday. Beast Mode had his highest rushing total and second-highest passing yardage against the Giants.
Lynch had 101 yards in 17 carries (5.9 yards per carry) and caught two passes for 20 yards. The top highlight was this 51-yard touchdown run:
3. The receiving corps
Amari Cooper missed the Raiders’ game Sunday because of a concussion and injured ankle suffered a week earlier against Denver. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that Cooper hopes to play Sunday.
With Cooper and Michael Crabtree (suspension after the Broncos fracas) out on Sunday, Cordarrelle Patterson stepped up and caught four passes for 97 yards. The yardage was the second-most of his career. He had 141 against the Ravens in 2013, his rookie season.
“I’m a playmaker, man. You turn on the film, that’s what I do,” Patterson told the Mercury News. “I’ve been doing it my whole life. It’s nothing that’s going to change. I’m going to go out there and make plays no matter where I’m at on the field.”
4. Derek Carr
After throwing six interceptions in his first seven games, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has just two picks in the last four games. He has completed 64 percent of his passes over those four games for 1,077 yards, five touchdowns and a 93.7 passer rating.
The offensive line has done a great job of protecting Carr, who has been sacked just 14 times in 11 games.
5. Solid special teams
Oakland punter Marquette King is having a fine season. He has put 14 punts inside the 10-yard line and five inside the 5-yard line. Both are tied for the most in the NFL.
King is averaging 49.2 yards per kick, with a 44.1-yard net average, and both are the best of his five-year career.
Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio has made 13 of 16 field-goal attempts and has missed just one of his 29 extra-point attempts.