Raiders versus Broncos: Keys for securing Vegas’ first win

The Raiders found a way to not win once again. It was frustrating watching the Tennessee Titans come out with confidence and swagger. They looked like the sleeping giant the Raiders should have looked like. Tennessee looked more explosive upfront.

Vegas did much better versus the run in the second half. Derrick Henry gashed them in the first half but not as much in the second. The Raiders defense made an interception and sack in the one-score loss. They needed one or two more big plays to help the Raiders secure the road win.

On offense, the running game improved thanks to some added push upfront. Vegas slid Jermaine Eluemunor and rolled with Alex Bars at both guard spots. The added bulk was helpful upfront but both guys were far from perfect. It was disappointing to watch the Raiders get away from the running game because it was clicking.

Raiders fans are also still waiting to see this pass game get rolling on all cylinders. Davante Adams has been consistent but he has not had a signature game as a Raider. He has been getting double-teamed which is an adjustment for Carr.

Carr did find receiver Mack Hollins for a few big strikes. Darren Waller also made a couple of plays but he failed to make a couple of big plays when we needed it the most. Remember that weird third down he didn’t catch? That was bigger than the pass he dropped in the end zone with three defenders around him. The third down he was all alone.

Overall, the Raiders offense still lacks an identity and cohesion. This team hasn’t even played a complete four quarters of good football yet.

Is it McDaniels?

There’s been a lot on social media about whether or not coaching is the issue. Former Broncos players have spoken out against the Raiders current coach based on their experience with him as head coach a long-time ago.

It’s hard because this Raiders team refused to lose last year with Rich Bisaccia. They don’t have the same synergy this year. Whatever the issue is, the team must figure it out. Thus, why the players held an internal meeting and why McDaniels met with Mark Davis.

The Silver and Black know they have a slim chance of making the playoffs after last week’s loss. They know it gets even lower with a division loss to the Denver Broncos. Hopefully, the team responds to that sense of urgency. The whole trust the process thing is not working. Ultimately, it’s on the Raiders players to execute because firing McDaniels won’t solve anything for this year.

Moving onto the Broncos

Denver has been just as under whelming as the Raiders. They invested draft capital and a huge contract in QB Russell Wilson. It has not panned out yet. All three of their games came down to one possession. The offense has not put up more than twenty points this season.

The Broncos are in the middle of the pack with 353 rushing yard this season. They feature a backfield with Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon. That size could give the Raiders problems, especially if Denzel Perryman doesn’t return. The Broncos also feature a good receiver duo with Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. Both players could go off considering the injuries the Raiders defense is facing in the secondary.

On defense, Broncos edge Bradley Chubb went on record saying he hate the Raiders. Depending how many matchups he gets versus the Raiders right tackle, this could be a big game for him. He already registered three sacks this year. The Broncos have nine sacks on the year, which puts them in the top-10 in the league.

Denver is top-3 in pass defense. They are also looking for their second interception on the year. It’s going to be a solid test for the Raiders offense.

Play a complete game on offense

Tactically, the Raiders need to do a lot. They need to establish the run and stick with it. Josh Jacobs looks as good as he ever has. Give him the ball and don’t give the Denver Broncos opportunities to figure out their offensive issues.

Vegas needs to take shots again like last week. This time let’s work in more Davante Adams to compliment Hollins. Adams has made plays but not as many as he is used to. Let’s see Carr lean on Adams, especially in the red zone.

Waller needs to step up when it matters. They need Waller and Adams in the red zone. Those guys are instant mismatches. Waller also needs to block someone. He has regressed in blocking for the run game this year but Foster Moreau will be out. Moreau is a much better blocker but the Raiders need Waller to stay on the field by being more consistent in run blocking.

Speaking of blocking, the Raiders will face an elite edge rusher in Chubb. The past two weeks they’ve taken lumps versus teams that lacked the same power and speed from one player on the edge. Whoever steps in at right tackle must play fundamentally sound.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. They’ve flashed explosiveness on offense in spurts. However, the Raiders do need to execute for four quarters. Vegas is led by an offensive coach but they have yet to click on all cylinders. Hopefully, this is the game they can get things rolling. Let’s see if they can put up 30 points and convert in the end zone.

The Defense must make a play

This Raiders defense is far from elite but they’ve made enough plays to keep their team in the game. They just need one or two more big plays from this group to seal a victory. Please sack or pick Wilson more than just once.

Shoutout to Duron Harmon. I wasn’t expecting much when the Raiders signed him but he’s made big plays in consecutive games, including last week’s interception. Corners Rock Ya-Sin and Nate Hobbs could both miss this game. Tre’von Moehrig could return to safety but Harmon will be needed either way.

Vegas also needs some help from their pass rush. Maxx Crosby can’t be the only guy in the backfield consistently. It’s hard to expect one guy to disrupt the passing game. Chandler Jones and Clelin Ferrell are both solid in terms of doing their assignment. However, the Raiders need a little more explosiveness to help out Crosby. Both Ferrell and Jones represent heavy draft and financial investments, respectfully.

Jayvon Brown made a couple of plays last week. He’s not the thumper that Denzel Perryman is, nor is he the same athlete as Divine Deablo. Adding Perryman to the mix should help that entire second level.

The Raiders also have to worry about keeping contain. Wilson is no Kyler Murray. However, the Broncos QB is a sneaky and strategic scrambler who can keep the chains moving. Denver should look to utilize Wilson’s legs versus a Raiders pass rush that can be both over aggressive and stagnant at the the same time. Their edges get up field but the tackles don’t always do the same.

Please Just Win Baby!

Raiders Nation is already divided on Carr and McDaniels after three losses. Imagine a fourth loss? A loss to a struggle division foe could make this season spiral even further.

Much like last week, this could easily be the win that helps Vegas get back on track. It could also be the game that breaks the team’s confidence even more. It’s tough losing four in a row, especially if this game is close again.

Regardless, this Raiders coaching staff has proven it is not afraid to make changes or adjustments through three losses. A fourth loss could help this team make a move.

Vegas will be playing down key players like Hunter Renfrow and the aforementioned starting corners. Denver is a little healthier minus some injuries on the offensive line. This should be another division classic that comes down to a big special teams play or whatever team can convert more turnovers.

Lessons from the Week 3 Trenches

The Raiders did a much better job in the running game. Both Brandon Bolden and Josh Jacobs averaged over five yards per carry. You can’t ask for much more from your backs. Not their fault the gameplan got away from that.

Pass protection looked better except when it did not. The group gave up a sack and allowed the Titans to apply pressure in some tough spots.

For reasons unknown, John Simpson did not find his way onto the field for the offense in Week 3. Simpson started at left guard the first two games. I was excited to see him build on an improved performance from Week Two.

On defense, Maxx Crosby was again the only player who consistently found his way to disrupt the backfield. Crosby wasn’t perfect, again whiffing on some potential sacks and getting caught up field versus the run. However, he got a sack and made plays in the passing lanes. That’s all you can ask for.

Overall, the group could’ve did more to disrupt Titans QB Ryan Tannehill as he completed over 66 percent of his passes. Some of that is on the secondary though too. They held Derrick Henry to less than 100 yards and only a touchdown. Henry did make some plays but you can’t ask for more than that, even if he averaged over four yards a carry. Adding Denzel Perryman back into the lineup should help the Raiders against the run.

Let’s jump more into the weeds from the All-22.

Interior line improved

Vegas did a better job getting push in the run game and staying on their double-teams. Part of that comes from rolling with Jermaine Eleumunor at guard over Lester Cotton. They also started Alex Bars over John Simpson. Both added some bulk to help contain Jeffrey Simmons.

Dylan Parham also looked better in his second start. His anchor improved and he looked better at the point of attack. However, the group did not do as great of a job getting up to linebacker. They also got caught slipping a few times recognizing stunts in pass pro. All of them need to do better at keeping their heads up and shoulders square to recognize stunts.

Individually, both Eluemunor and Bars both struggled with speed. Eluemunor got caught off balanced and stopping his feet. Bars also got caught leaning and stopping his feet versus strong hands. The inside offensive line is still a mess but it looked better verus the Titans.

Right tackle is still an issue

Rookie Thayer Munford started at right tackle. He didn’t play too bad considering he’s seventh round pick. His feet are good and he has the size and length to play in the league.

Unfortunately, he has not shown the pad level or punch timing necessary versus elite edges. Luckily, the Titans do not feature an elite edge rusher. Munford did get better in this game with more consistent playing time, which is a good sign.

Moving forward, the Raiders still need to figure out a long-term solution at right tackle for this season. Eluemunor looked better at guard because he does not have to worry about speed as much. However, there may be temptation to move him back to right tackle. That’s especially true if center Andre James returns. Then, the Raiders can utilize Parham at guard again, which could push Eluemunor back to tackle. Regardless, Eluemunor and Munford both leave a lot to be desired at the right tackle spot.

The DTs improved

Defensively, the Raiders tackles improved versus the run. Defensive tackles John Hankins and Andrew Billings found ways to push the pocket and eat up double-teams. Hankins got better in the second half when he could key in more on the run. Both could play with a little more leverage and lean to rush the passer. They did find ways to impact the passing lanes too.

Currently, the Raiders find themselves in scenarios where they must prioritize the best pass rushers or run stuffers.

That’s where Bilal Nichols, Malcolm Butler and Bilal Nichols come in. They’re supposed to be the players that provide the balance. None of them have been consistently effective against the run or pass.

Sliding Crosby or Clelin Ferrell inside could help them get more pass rush from the interior, while they rely on the size of Hankins and Billings to stuff the run. However, you can’t always rotate in the perfect package versus every situation. The Raiders still need to find the four player combination that consistently brings pressure and stops the run.

Crosby needs help on the edge

On that note, Maxx Crosby needs help ASAP. Chandler Jones should have dominated this game as the Titans were down their best tackle. Jones dominated Tennessee last season. He had a couple of good reps and still finds himself in the right position.

It could be age or a lingering injury but Jones has not found a way to bring consistent heat off the edge. He is not even seeing the same level of attention in Vegas as he was in Arizona due to Crosby’s play. Jones is getting paid a lot to not get home to the quarterback.

Ferrell looks better getting off the ball and playing with his hands but he still lacks the explosiveness and bend off the edge. He also looks uncomfortable in coverage. Ferrell has not showed much more than Jones when he has had the opportunity to step-in at edge.

Whether it’s Ferrell or Jones, Crosby needs help. Mad Maxx is the Raiders most consistent defensive player but he can’t be the only one if the Raiders are going to dig themselves out of an 0-3 hole.

Raiders vs Titans: Keys for Vegas to avoid 0-3

The Las Vegas Raiders are a few plays away from easily being 2-0. They lost their first two games by less than a score each. Both times they had opportunities to win the game. Unfortunately, they went the other way and the Raiders are still desperately seeking their first win this season.

Derek Carr’s play, especially on last week’s final drive, inspired lots of conversations. The offense was ineffective in the second half, after looking very good in the first half. Vegas could’ve put the Cardinals away with a score multiple times. Carr looked out of sync with Renfrow and Adams on the final drive.

Vegas also could have sealed the game with a kick, instead of throwing the ball to Hunter Renfrow. The Raiders could have also handed the ball off but they looked aggressive for the first time in the first half and the wrong time. That’s on coaching.

The Raiders defense played in mud in the second half. Tackling Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is tough, especially when the offense does you no favors. They used a rotation and found success staying in their passing lanes in the first half, but they looked gassed late in the second half. Some blame falls on the front office for sitting on cap space, trading Yannick Ngakoue, bringing in Chandler Jones, and not drafting an interior player.

Raiders must rebound

The real Raiders will show up this week. They lost a close game to a division rival in Week One and lost an emotional game in the home opener. Derek Carr played bad in one game and decent in another. The defense has had moments of good and bad.

Right now, we look like a team that can’t overcome injuries or their own issues. It looks like the new coaching and regime reconfigured away their edge, an edge that helped them secure a playoff bid last year. The X’s and O’s are better this year but the Raiders got to put it all together and win.

Ultimately, the players must execute but the people behind the scenes hold them accountable and puts them in positions to win. How the Raiders respond from getting a game stolen from them will determine if this team can will itself back into relevancy. They could come out emotionless and flat. Tennessee will look for their own spark at home.

Therefore, the Raiders must come out like they won the last two weeks. They must come out like they believe in each other and this coaching staff. It’s still early in the season but the Raiders must show some resiliency.

Playoff teams aren’t built, they are created. The Raiders must show they know how to win and expect themselves to win with a big outing versus the Titans. They can’t keep settling for less than excellence if they want to prove themselves as a postseason team. Vegas’ response is a statement because the Titans will not go down easy.

Tennessee needs a win too

The Titans got popped by the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw two interceptions and running back Derek Henry was held to less than two yards-per-carry on 13 carries. Former Raiders end Denico Autry landed the team’s only sack in the contest. The Titans forced zero interceptions and the game got out of hand with four Buffalo scores in the third quarter.

In Week One, The Titans gave up a big lead and couldn’t score in the final quarter. They took a one-point loss to the Giants. Henry didn’t surpass 100 yards in that game. Tannehill played a bit better with no interceptions and two touchdown passes. Rookie Kyle Phillips was their leading pass catcher. The biggest difference was Tennessee got five sacks in Week One. Jeffrey Simmons registered two sacks. Edge Rashad Weaver registered a sack and Edge Bud Dupree got to the quarterback once. Tennessee might not have an elite pass rush without Harold Landry but they can beat lesser matchups.

More games, more injuries

The Raiders are favored by two on the road, which tells you how far the Titans have fallen. Both teams are trying to avoid going 0-3, while fighting key injuries.

Josh Jacobs traveled to Tennessee despite missing a couple of practices with illness. Jacobs didn’t do much with many carries last week but that’s more on the Raiders being without Andre James. The Raiders are going to need the run game with Hunter Renfrow out. Vegas relies on Renfrow for intermediate work but they’ll need to stay ahead of the chains with the run game this time.

Jacobs should finally get loose this week or we could finally get Zamir White some touches. James was a limited participant in practice this week after missing all last week with a concussion. The Raiders will need James to help the Silver and Black contain Jeffrey Simmons. Either way, the young interior offensive line should benefit from another week’s experience. They must do better getting a push for the run game.

Getting Tre’von Moehrig back is also big for the Raiders. He brings added size and range to the Raiders pass defense. Safety Duron Harmon made consecutive big plays in over time in Moehrig’s place. The Raiders should roll with more three safety looks as linebacker Denzel Perryman will be out again this week.

Run game must get started

The Raiders’ chances for success increase as the run game gets going. Vegas must get push on the double teams and keep Jeffrey Simmons out of the backfield. Keeping the offense out of 3rd and long is key to maintaining drives and scoring.

Get the ball to Adams

No Hunter Renfrow puts pressure on Derek Carr on those third downs. He’s got to find ways to get the ball the ball out fast and down the field. We know Carr and Davante Adams have chemistry but we did not see that in the Raiders overtime. Adams should get the ball early and often. He can get open on every play but Carr’s got to get him the ball down the field. The Raiders need the deep element of their offense to reach their potential. That starts with Carr getting the ball downfield to Adams on any down.

Rely on tight ends

Beyond that, Carr must use his tight ends. Darren Waller and Foster Moreau can counteract the defense’s focus on Adams. Moreau and Waller are walking mismatches even if the Titans have solid safeties. Both can help the Raiders move the sticks.

Don’t forget Henry

On defense, the Raiders must stop the run. The Titans receiving core is nothing compared to the last few seasons. Tennessee needs a big game from Derek Henry and that will be hard with Taylor Lewan out. Henry still always finds a way to tear up the Raiders. Vegas must play discipline and make tackles. Don’t let Henry take this game over with a big burst.

Take the ball away

Additionally, the Silver and Black must find ways to get off the field. Last week, they got killed on long drives but they had opportunities to end the offense’s momentum with a sack or interception. This week, the Raiders must find ways to come up with a big turnover or two to get off the field. They should also get chances to force Ryan Tannehill into a mistake. Lewan out leaves the Titans without their best run and pass blocker. Tannehill will take a chance here and there. It’s up to the Raiders defense to do something when Tannehill takes a chance.

The Raiders defense has made enough plays to win but they have not made the play that helps them win like Arizona did last week. Vegas must force its way off the field by capitalizing on a couple of turnovers.

Make plays, not excuses

Vegas walked into this season with big expectations and now it’s time for them to deliver a victory. It’s time for Derek Carr to prove he’s not ‘that muthafucker,’ or maybe he needs to prove he is. It’s time for this defense to prove their improved with new leaders and key players. It’s time to prove Adams made his decision for football reasons. It’s time to prove Josh McDaniels and the front office knows what they’re doing.

If the Raiders come out and set the tone with their offense by utilizing their mismatches and their defense is not totally crushed by long drives, there is no reason they can’t beat a Titans team that is also suffering from injuries and identity. A win for the Raiders could help them finally get a bit closer to builder an identity.

Don’t forget, the Aces won a title. The Silver and Black are the only Vegas franchise yet to deliver a title. 0-3 just puts a title that much more out of reach.

Six lessons from the trenches moving to the Titans: Raiders versus Cardinals film breakdown

The Raiders loss to the Cardinals was even harder to relive in film on the all-22. We all know the game told a story of two teams. Vegas dominated the first half before the Cardinals willed their way to a comeback win.

However, there wasn’t too much difference in how the lines played in the first or second half. The defensive line looked out of gas and the offensive line looked even more out of rhythm in the second. Both showed cracks even with the team putting up a big lead in the first quarter.

The defensive line showed up in the box score by holding the Cardinals to 3-of-13 on third down attempts. They contributed with a sack and pressures. The Raiders defense walked away with one interception but should have had more.

That was all negated by the Cardinals converting two different two-point conversions. Arizona was also successful on 3-of-5 fourth downs.

Offensively, Josh Jacobs found seems and lanes to cut back but he did not get much push from the offensive line. Jacobs ran his hardest but still only registered 69 yards on 19 carries.

Quarterback Derek Carr was only sacked once, an improvement over Week One. However, Carr deserves some credit for getting the ball out quicker. It still felt like he forced the ball but at least he helped his line by getting the ball out a quicker, particularly in the first half when the offense was scoring. Here’s what else we learned from the tape.

What’s up with Chandler Jones?

Time to address the $51 million dollar question in the room. Chandler Jones, age 32, played 90% of the Raiders defensive snaps but came up with zero sacks through two weeks. Players like Jerry Hughes, Justin Houston, Khalil Mack, and Von Miller are all over the age of 30 with more than two sacks.

Watching the tape, Jones finds his way to the ball and into the play. Yet, he hasn’t shown the same consistent explosion rushing the passer or setting the edge. Jones is still a solid player. He won some reps but Jones has not shown the same elite abilities many hoped he would bring opposite Maxx Crosby. It’s hard to tell if it’s just rust bouncing back from last year’s injuries or if father time has caught up to him.

Jones was limited in practice this week due to rest. Hopefully, he can get his legs under him and show the consistent disruption the Raiders need. There’s too much pressure on Crosby as the team’s only respectable pass rusher.

Last year, Jones registered five sacks versus the Titans in Week One with the Cardinals. This time, Tennessee is expected to be without three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan. Lewan went down with a knee injury versus the Bills. Let’s see if Jones and company can take advantage of their matchups.

More on Maxx Crosby

It’s hard to fault Maxx Crosby for much because he’s the team’s only consistent pass rusher. Keeping contain was a bigger priority versus Kyler Murray anyways.

Crosby did break into the box score with a sack and he continued to bring the heat via QB hurries and pressures. However, he could’ve walked away with at least a couple more sacks if he got his pads down and played with a little more control. Of course, tackling Murray is easier said than done. Plus, Crosby’s fire might make him whiff a few times but it also keeps him impacting plays.

Crosby found ways to consistently keep the right tackle on his heels with a barrage of power moves and lower techniques. Arizona had no answer for Crosby in pass rush situations. Thus, the great third down performance by this defense.

The Cardinals had no problem running right at Crosby. He also got beat on the option and almost got killed on a couple of read fakes.It’s not all on Crosby and the plays he made makes up for the plays he does not. He needs help.

Yet, for all the fire that Crosby brings, the Raiders need it on the big downs. They also need him to show a little more discipline in the run game, especially with more mobile QBs in the Raiders’ forecast. That’s how Crosby takes the next step as one of the greatest edge players in the league.

Where’s the defensive tackles?

We all saw the TikToks and Reels showing the Raiders tackles outran by Kyler Murray. They say the average play is about eight seconds but that infamous Murray run was twice as long. I don’t fault the group for that play. That was the wrong package for that moment in the game, even if they were prepping to stop an inside run.

The Raiders defensive line as a whole did solid at keeping Murray contained in the first half. They could have had a similar result if their offense converted some long drives or their secondary held onto an interception. Instead, they looked out of gas and got picked apart by Murray.

Arizona got away from the run game due to the big lead. However, the Raiders run defense was nothing to brag about. Upfront, the Raiders created a lot of seems and cutback lanes not playing discipline. They also missed some tackles and looked tired coming off the ball.

Johnathan Hankins and Andrew Billings were stout again but neither brings much as a pass rusher. Billings gets off the ball but his motor and athleticism is limited. It’s hard to keep Billings out there on pass downs but Hankins brings even less as a pass rusher.

Most of the big gains in the run were to the outside or due to missed tackles. Bilal Nichols looked solid in moments again. Him, Kendal Vickers and Clelin Ferrell can look disruptive one play and pedestrian the next. Vegas really needs someone to step up from the interior. They need constant disruption from the interior, other than Billings.

Vegas is not always going to be able to pick the best package versus the run and pass. They need the four best motors on the field in those big games.

James was missed

The Raiders offensive line struggled for the second straight week. They were down starting center Andre James. Unsurprisingly, the group struggled getting up to the second level and in blitz pickup.

The Left Side improved

They did a better job getting a body on body, specifically on the left side. Kolton Miller had a bounce back game, shaking off last week’s poor performance. He looked much more in control, using his feet and punch versus a group of pass rushers that weren’t as talented as the Chargers’ dynamic duo.

John Simpson got off the ball, got down field on screens and did better using his feet in pass pro. Simpson still got caught off balance and high a few times. He stopped his hands and his feet a few times in the run and pass. It was a better game for him but we still need more strength and power from him in the run game, both at the line of scrimmage and second-level.

Another rough outing for the collective

Rookie Dylan Parham struggled starting at center. His lack in size and anchor showed as bigger nose tackles pushed him around. Parham’s athleticism allowed him to get in front of people and he did his best to maneuver penetrating defenders. He did not do great getting push on double-teams. In fairness, he looked better at guard last week. Parham is learning trial by fire. It’s all about his response moving forward.

Tackles Jermaine Eluemunor and Thayer Munford continued to show their limitations. Munford is still really raw, evident by his three penalties. Eluemunor gave up two sacks. He is limited by length, size and strength. If you have two tackles splitting time, it’s cause you lack a good one.

Arizona relied on blitzes for pressure and the Raiders did a better job identifying those even if they didn’t win their individual assignments. This could have been a much worse performance if Arizona’s defensive line was better. The Cardinals lack an elite edge rusher. It could have been much worse.

Help is on the way?

That’s why they traded a sixth round pick for tackle Justin Herron and a seventh round pick. Herron started a few games with Josh McDaniels as the offensive coordinator. There’s hope he will compete for the starting right tackle spot or slide into the slide tackle role. Herron can’t be any worse than what the Raiders had the past few weeks.

Moving forward to the Titans

I wouldn’t rule Eluemunor out at right guard if Herron slides into the ride tackle role. Eluemunor won’t have to worry about as much speed at guard. It can work but he will have to worry about leverage versus more power players. He will bring more size inside to the Raiders offensive line if Parham keeps playing center. Lester Cotton Sr. is solid in pass protection but he does not give them much push in the run game.

If the Raiders get Andre James back, that will be a big boost for the Raiders offensive line. They will need him versus Jeffrey Simmons, one of the best nose tackles in the league. Simmons can also rush the passer.

All three Raiders running backs ran hard and effectively, despite uninspired blocking. Hopefully, the Raiders can establish the run versus the Titans. That starts with keeping Simmons on the other side of the line of scrimmage. The Raiders have struggled getting push and Simmons is fast off the ball and plays with strong hands.

Titans edge Bud Dupree isn’t the same elite player from a few years ago with the Steelers. He might not even play due to a hip injury. However, Dupree can still rush the passer and he has the speed and length to the give the Raiders right tackles problems.

Raiders Versus Cardinals: Keys for a Week Two bounce back

How did we get to 0-1?

A sunny morning consumed by moisture-filled clouds made L.A. feel like Oakland on a Sunday Morning. It set the table for a Raiders homecoming win over their rival Chargers. However, Justin Herbert and the Chargers had other plans.

The last time these teams played in SoFi, the game was delayed and the Bolts came out to a big lead over the Silver and Black. They held on for a home win but it felt like Raiders home loss. Raiders Nation turned out to welcome their team back to the market they once called home. This game was no different as the tailgate lots filled with Silver and Black trucks, flags, popups, grills. and every other tailgate essential.

Vegas got revenge by eliminating the Chargers from postseason play in the final week last year. L.A. remembered that and came out sharp and relentless. Not only were they healthy, but they also featured new offseason acquisition Khalil Mack. Mack was draft by the Raiders in the same class. as Derek Carr. You could argue No. 52 was one of the Raiders best draft picks ever.

Mack had his way with the Raiders, similar to last season when the Bears upset Vegas in Jon Gruden’s final game. The Chargers new pass rusher finished with three sacks, including a game winning one in the fourth quarter.

Herbert continued to show he did not fear battling Carr and the Raiders. Herbert evaded consistent pressure and threw strikes down field. L.A. looked like the better coached team. They also had more urgency than the Raiders under new head coach Josh McDaniels. However, the loss wasn’t that bad.

The Raiders made a few crucial mistakes that cost them the game. Carr took a few bad sacks and failed to convert on a few opportunities. The running game never caught consistent rhythm.

Upfront, the Raiders offensive line struggled versus the Chargers front as a whole. The defensive line found ways to get pressure but never got home. Both groups flashed but neither dominated at any point.

Collectively, the defense did enough to keep them in the game. They made a four-down stand and forced four punts. Although a turnover or sack would have helped their performance.

What was the atmosphere like?

Again, the Raiders dominated attendance in Los Angeles. You saw the fights and the antics, despite SoFi cutting people off at halftime.

We met Raiders fans from all over California. There were folks from L.A., Vegas, Fresno and elsewhere. After the loss, I walked around the stadium trolling Chargers fans.

“Buy my season tickets, please!” I chanted in my Raiders jersey.

It was reminder that I’d be there the next 50 years. It was also a reminder that the team was still having trouble building a fanbase, even with a super competitive roster.

Overall, Chargers fans were fine. The ones next to us teased in good fun. They put up with our drunk shenanigans and my section was relatively peaceful.

Pushing onto the Cardinals

Moving forward, the Raider go back home with a chance to earn their first win in the McDaniels’ era. The Cardinals are off a more than three-score loss to the Chiefs. Kansas City did the Raiders a favor by beating the Chargers in Week Two, a few nights ago. Vegas can win this game and move to 1-1, tied with the Chargers. Kansas City will still be in the driver’s seat of the AFC West but a loss will push the Raiders down further, especially if the Broncos beat the Houston Texans.

Arizona is expected to play without some speed at receiver as Rondale Moore and Andy Isabella will both miss the game. Key defensive players safety Jalen Thompson, end JJ Watt and corner Trayvon Mullen are all listed as questionable. Mullen could miss his return to Vegas, a few weeks after the Silver and Black shipped him out for a late draft pick.

Vegas will miss center Andre James if he misses this game. He had one of his best games as a Raider and held that line together best he could. Safety Tre’von Moehrig and linebacker Denzel Perryman could also miss some time which leaves big vacancies in the secondary. Cardinals TE Zach Ertz could have a big game. The Raiders will also be without one of their bigger corners, Anthony Averett, which could make A.J. Green a big red zone threat.

The McDaniels Era began

Don’t blame last week’s loss on preseason rust. The Raiders did not play a lot of key players in the preseason and there was an extended break between Week One and the final week of the preseason. Still, that’s not an excuse for getting outplayed by the Chargers.

Still, we can’t jump down McDaniels just yet. The real test for any coach is how his team responds after a loss or a bad half. This will be the real test. Can McDaniels steady the ship and keep the Raiders moving forward?

At the very least, the Raiders looked a bit more competitive with their play calling. The defense and offense both mixed things up in ways that past regimes did not. It’s on the players to execute now. This team holds veteran leadership at key positions with Carr, left tackle Kolton Miller and receiver Davante Adams. They must prove they can bounce back from a Week One let down.

How can the Raiders beat the Cardinals?

Arizona got away from the run game because they were down to the Chiefs fast. Expect them to stick with that longer, especially if the Raiders come out slow at home. Vegas ends also got upfield a lot last week, so expect some misdirection with backs and lots of action from Kyle Murray.

The Cardinals offensive line is a mix of veteran players you might recognize from years on other teams. It is up to the Las Vegas’ defensive line to take advantage of winnable matchups versus experienced washouts. They can’t go another week with no sacks.

All eyes should be on Chandler Jones going against the team he played for the last six seasons. Maxx Crosby led the league in pressures and hurries last week but he needs some help from Jones and the rest of the d-line. If the defensive line can make some plays on Murray, the Raiders should walkaway with a nice home win.

Offensively, the Raiders will need to do well in blitz pickup. That’s especially true if James misses this game. The Cardinals will try and mixup their blitzes and packages, not unlike what the Raiders will do with their defense.

Of course, Vegas features one of the best receivers and tight ends in the game. It’s up to Derek Carr to get the ball to Darren Waller and Adams early and often. That should open up plays for Hunter Renfrow in the intermediate and Josh Jacobs on check-downs. The Raider high-powered offense should come out swinging and put up points early like the Chiefs did versus Arizona.

Jacobs also needs to get going in the run game. This offensive line needs confidence. Helping Jacobs gain some yards should help the entire offense control the clock and gain some momentum. Jacobs will be crucial to protecting a lead as well as opening up the play action.

They must establish their identity by running the ball, pushing the ball down field, stopping the run and getting home to the quarterback. If the Raiders execute how they are supposed to, there’s no reason they can’t beat the Cardinals decisively.

What we learned from the trenches in Week One

Under 100 yards rushing and six sacks will not cut it for the Raiders.

The offensive line and defensive line played better than the box score indicated. It doesnt take all-22 to see a lot of the sacks were due to the quarterback holding the ball. The offense was able to convert some big plays.

The d-line was effective enough to force four punts and a failed fourth down. Los Angeles was under 50% on third down conversations. They impacted Chargers QB Justin Herbert more than the zero sacks indicate. Here’s what else we learned from the trenches in Week One.

The offensive line was beat from the jump

Los Angeles came out with much more swagger. Vegas was cheating in their stances before the snap on pass plays. Kahlil Mack’s leverage and strength was a problem from the jump. Joey Bosa’s length and hands also put fear in the Raiders tackles.

Kolton Miller didn’t regress

Miller finished with his worst PFF grade in years. He took a big shot in the back in the first that probably hurt him. His feet looked better than initially thought. Miller did well in blitz pickup. He got thrown to the ground and beat a few times because he stopped his hands or his feet. His poor outing was more of an indication of the entire group.

Guard play was not good

The guards didn’t get push on their double teams and struggled in blitz pickup. That is why this team did not run the ball effectively. Poor guard play also did the tackles no favors in pass pro.

John Simpson got caught leaning. Dylan Parham brought some extra juice when he came in. His speed was as advertised but he also got caught stopping his feet. Cotton Lester wasn’t much better. None were consistent with their pulling efforts. The Chargers tackles seemed unphased most of the day.

Andre James continues growimg

James looked more comfortable in blitz pickup and presnap. He made a few key blocks that helped spring Josh Jacobs. The second-year starter had a noticible spark off the ball. James used his hands and head placement well. A noticeable performance despite the chaos from the rest of his colleagues.

Right tackles are who we thought they were

Jermaine Eluemunor is a solid or adequate tackle but he is honestly better at guard. He doesn’t have the length or strength to really matchup with elite edges every play. Mack and Bosa both gave him problems. Eluemunor took his lumps but he kept fighting. That’s more competitive toughness than some other recent Raiders tackles.

Thayer Munford came in. He showed his youth jumping offsides. Munford got beat but he did show some potential. He has the length and feet to play tackle. It’s still unclear if he can develop fast enough to do it everyday this year. Punch timing was a little off and he gave up a little too much ground. He can fix that with some reps.

D-Line solid but not great

Andrew Billings continued to be a problem. His hands and anchor showed up in the run defense.

Maxx Crosby was also a problem. He did a lot to pressure and hurry Herbert.

Chandler Jones was solid. Both ends missed some tackles. Nobody got home.

They are paying Jones and Crosby a lot of money to sack the quarterback and create turnovers. Both stars failed to return that investment versus the Chargers. That can’t continue much more.

Still, the d-line did enough to keep the team in the game. Unfortunately, they just did not do enough to win the game. The group overall lacked cohession and consistent aggression needed to control the line.

Bilal Nichols made a couple plays. Clelin Ferrell showed a little resurgent energy getting off the rock. Johnathan Hankins was stout. They just needed more versus Justin Herbert’s combination of pocket presence and mobility.

What worries me is their conditioning. They used a deep rotation and guys still looked they were low on gas. Some added pressure from the inside could also help the ends finally get home.

It also worries me seeing the ends get too far upfield. They have Kyler Murray this week and four games versus Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes. Those issues got to get fixed or this d-line is in for some tough outs.

Don’t like Ferrell as a standup end

He looked better with his hand in the ground. The blitzes were effective and disguised well. Ferrell did not look comfortable in coverage either. It would be great to see him in the defensive tackle rotation. Perhaps he can create some pressure to help out Crosby and Jones. Ferrell just has to prove he can handle those double teams in the run.

All up from here

Ultimately, the Raiders showed good and bad upfront in Week One. The good news is they have 17 weeks to get better. The bad news is they have a lot to improve on.

Well these groups appear deeper than years past, they could still use some help. Another week in the yellow or red could mean some changes upfront.

Hence, why you saw guard Kelechi Osemele brought in for a visit and why they added center Billie Price to the practice squad. on defense, they’ve been connected to defensive Ndamukong Suh.

Hopefully, the trench play gets better this week at home versus the Arizona Cardinals. The no-preseason rust and excuses should be gone. Nobody wants to start the season 0-2. We could see some big changes on both sides of the trenches if there is not improvement versus the Cardinals.

Silver and Black Take SoFi Part Two: Preseason lessons and keys for beating the Bolts

The Vegas Raiders enter the 2022 season in a unique position. They made the playoffs for the first time since 2016, despite firing their head coach midseason.

Vegas starts this season with a new head coach Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler. Both are cut from the New England Patriots.

McDaniels’ first stint as a head coach in Denver was filled with mix results. Now, he’s tasked with helping this team not take steps back in the league’s toughest division.

They kept the continuity at quarterback by bringing back Derek Carr. The Silver and Black also acquired the best receiver in the game by trading draft picks for DeVante Adams.

Adams and Carr have a historic connection dating back to their days in Fresno. Ironically, they last played together in the Vegas Bowl before entering the draft.

The Silver and Black also re-tooled some of their defense. Raider Nation felt blessed just having a defense that was in the middle of the pack last year. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is suppossed to help them get to the next level with more disguises and different looks. Right now, the defense appears on track with a mix of improved athletes and veterans who kmowcthe scheme.

Can you believe Week One is here already? Training camp is over and the 53-man rosters are complete. The NFL inserted a weird defacto by week for the first time. They cut the fourth week of the preseason after extending the regular season last year. Here is what we learned from this preseason and keys to beating the Chargers in Week One.

What happened to Alex Leatherwood?

Offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood flamed out about as fast as possible for a first round pick. Leatherwood was seen as a first rounder due to his physicality and winning-pedigree from Alabama. He played across the line. Many thought he would need some time to develop into a great pass blocker.

The biggest issues were his hand timing and placement. We saw much of that in the preseason and last year. While he looks the part due to his feet and athleticism, he lacks solid strength and explosiveness at the point of the attack to dominate at any positon on the o-line.

Still, it seems at least on the outside that Leatherwood had tools you can buid around. Whatever blockers and issues he dealt with, the Raiders deemed them not worth keeping him around.

They also sent a message to the rest of the roster. Raiders fans know too well that nobody is safe, especially after a regime change. The preseason confirmed a lot about Leatherwood’s flaws but it remains to be seen if it was worth giving up on the 2021 first rounder entirely. He was adequate at guard last season.

Moving forward with tackle Jermaine Eluemunor

Jermaine Eluemonor won’t blow you away with his measurables or NFL resume. However, he knows this scheme and can play across the offensive line. Eluemunor flashed the physicality, balance and athleticism to be a solid starting tackle. He has gotten better since he entered the league. The question is can he maintain that for an entire season regardless who he lines up against. Can he anchor the strong side of a playoff-contending team?

Well he isn’t the same kind of athlete as Raiders right tackles from the past, Eluemunor does bring more balance, hustle and toughness than Brandon Parker or Leatherwood. He will get tested early by a dynamic Chargers pass rush. A good showing versus Los Angeles might give him the confidence to play any other dynamic rush duo.

Personally, I’d still like to see the Raiders add a versatile veteran o-line player like Eric Fisher, Ereck Flowers or Daryl Williams. They might be one injury away from having to make that move. Their backup offensive line has less than a handful of starts combined. To be determined if the Raiders make a move to boister their oline but they do lead the league in cap space.

Saying goodbye to Trayvon Mullen

Speaking of Raiders gone, Vegas shipped out starting corner Trayvon Mullen. The move wasn’t surprising given he needed a new contract soon. Mullen was by far the best corner in years but he battled injuries. The new regime already traded for Rock Ya-Sin and signed Anthony Averett. Mullen was a luxury. In Arizona, he is already expected to miss some time.

The biggest issue with Mullen gettjng traded is the value. There were rumors he could have netted a mid-round pick at the draft. Jaelon Raegor was traded for a higher draft pick despite far less NFL success.

Either way, Mullen’s time with the Raiders was one of the few highlights from the Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock era. Wish him the best and hope he gets healthy.

The Preseason taught us…

The biggest consistent lesson this postseason taught us is that the Raiders finally have some depth and swagger to them. Many key players sat out this preseason but other players stepped up on both sides.

There were many times the Raiders were overmatched with backups versus more experienced players this preseason. The young guys did not back down. They got to the football and made plays.

It makes you confident in the leadeeship and direction of the football team. Like they say you are only as good as your weakest links and the Raiders found some young players who helped them make some tough decisions. That said the team roster looks a lot younger than I would have expected for a playoff contender.

Still, SB Nation put out a poll that said something like more than 90 percent of Raiders fans are confident in the team’s direction. Kudos to this new regime because Raiders fans can hardly agree on anything. Yet, it is exciting to see how hard the roster played throughout the preseason. That sets the foundation for more winning when the games count. They also have the draft picks and cap flexibility to sign a key veteran or make a trade to make their roster even stronger.

Another homecoming

Last year, the Raiders’ Los Angeles homecoming was spoiled by a thundery Monday Night. The game was delayed and Vegas’ offense was sluggish. They fought back from a several-score defeceit in the first half but lost in their SoFidebut. SoFi was clearly dominated by Raiders fans, at least from what I can remember.

Now, it’s a regular 1 pm kickoff. The Raiders should be welcomed to LA by the tail end of our heatwave. However, even the hottest days in Los Angeles peril to a normal summer day in Vegas.

The point is, the Silver and Black must do right by winning in L.A. this time. Remind the city what NFL team won a lombardi for them first.

Not the same Chargers

If you read my writing, often times my keys start upfront. This time it is especially true. We know the chaos Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa each bring individually, well. However, can that mesh together?

There’s no reason to believe Mack and Bosa can’t dominate together, especially with the Raiders inexperience upfront. Overall, this is a very talented Chargers team that nearly beat the Raiders for the final playoff spot.

Los Angeles brings their own question marks upfront, particularly on the ride side of the offensive line. Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones make their debut versus an offensive line that features different starts than last year. Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley are the only proven commodities. Vegas’ pass rush is critcal to containing an explosive Chargers offense led by QB Justin Herbert.

This Raiders secondary faces a true test out the gate. The Chargers also have their own Pro Bowl runner Austin Ekeler, who is among the most versatile in the game. We know how dynamic receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen can be. Both have great catch radius. Williams is the physical and contested receiver to complement One of the best route runners, Keenan Allen. TE Gerald Everett is the x-factor given his athleticism. Everyone has got to be discipline if the Raidees hope to keep up with the Chargers.

Justin Herbert fears no one and this team is looking to redeem itself. Vegas eliminated rhe Chargers from a playoff spot in the final regular season game in 2021.

Raiders keys to beating the Chargers

The Raiders must absolutely rush Justin Herbert. It’s a careful balance from keeping him comfortable but not losing contain. He can scramble and improvise not unlike Pat Mahomes with the Chiefs.

This Chargers offense is too talented. Vegas should be expected to bend but the Raiders will need to find ways to balance that by creating turnovers. The Raiders are playing on the road but a turnover could easily drown out any Chargers excitement early.

Vegas must find their own rythm by establishing the run early and often. That helps neutralizes the pass rush. Plus, the Raiders carry all those backs on their roster for a reason.

Of course, Vegas is also going to have to convert some shots. Getting the run game going creates more play action opportunities. Derek Carr has too many weapons this year to not be a serious contender for MVP. We know he loves Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow in crucial scenarios. Now, he adds Devante Adams who blends what both of those guys do well.

If the Raiders can execute on the fundamentals, they can walk away with a signature division win. They can keep that rolling into the home opener versus the Cardinals. Vegas plays another playoff contender in the Tennessee Titans after Arizona.

A win in Week One prevents what could be a tough start to the Josh McDaniels era. It builds needed momentum for a team that plays in a strong division.

That’s why all eyes will be on the Raiders in Week One. How do they build off last year’s success with new leadership? Will this offense get led by the running game or the dynamic pass catchers? What is the 2022 Raiders’ identity.

All this and more on this week’s NFL Week One! Just win baby!

Is everything alright?

The Las Vegas Raiders made headlines as the first team to open camp. And there were no holdouts. Now, it’s zero week in the preseason and the Raiders will look to showcase young talent versus the Jaguars.

Ghosts of seasons past make us feel hesitant go get our hopes up. However, this is the highest expectations the Silver and Black has earned in a minute.

Don’t expect them to win tonight’s game. Josh McDaniels is from the Bill Belichick coaching tree which means he could care less about exhibitions.

Improved Roster

Regardless, this is the first year in recent memory, you can look across the roster and not find a glaring need. At the very least, there appears to be a plan in place for each player slated to make the 53-man roster.

From top to bottom, there is not a player that jumps out as not being ready to contribute in some way. Even on the two playoff teams we have seen in the last decade, there were tragic needs overlooked and underperforming picks on scholarship. This is a credit to the front office overhaul, bringing in Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler from the New England Patriots.

Don’t forget the front office overhaul also includes the appointment of the first ever Black Woman team president in NFL history. Sandra Douglass Morgan is a staple in Vegas Sports and is saying all the right things. I can’t wait to see what the on-field product looks like with front office operations finally moving into this decade.

Some credit also goes to Derek Carr. The Raiders elected for consistency at the quarterback by keeping Carr this offseason. This roster showed their support for the quarterback through offseason workouts and showing up for camp on time and ready to go.

Great Power and Great Responsibility

All the national media is finally noticing the Raiders again. That’s great for Raiders fans finally hearing talk on their favorite national programming.

However, the team has to deliver. They will not get overlooked. Teams will take them seriously.

Still, increased expecations are not surprising since the Raiders got better after coming a few plays short of beating the AFC Championships in the Wild Card game. The Raiders have two elite pass rushers, a solid backfield, plenty of starting experience on both sides of the line of scrimmage and athletic veterans across the skill positions. We have not seen this much hype since the year after Carr’s leg injury or Gruden’s second season. Neither times resulted the way fans hope but this is a different team and regime.

Missing Johnathan Hankins, Denzelle Good and others early in camp hurt. However, that’s more reps for younger players like Malcolm Butler, Johnathan Simpson and rookie guard Dylan Parnham. Cotton Lester has been one surprising team gettkng first team reps. That could be a blessing in disguise, whether or not they get the vets back.

The Big Bad West

Of course, the Raiders’ biggest challenge will come from the AFC West. The Raiders can answer those questions right away with an opening game at the Chargers aka another home game. They will face a familiar for with Khalil Mack now with the Bolts. The last time the Raiders saw Mack he literally beat them and put the Bears on his back.

The Broncos are going through their own renaissance by acquieing Russell Wilson and changing ownership. Kansas City won the division the last seven years. They appear ready for a stepback but you can’t discount them as long as they have QB Patrick Mahomes and HC Andy Reid.

Don’t Outrun the Marathon

If the Raiders can stay healthy and come out the West with a winning record, there is no reason Vegas can’t make a serious run. This does not depend on development or fools gold. Granted, depth and young players competing never hurt a contender.

Yes, the Raiders will still need serious development from John Abrams, Trayvon Mullen, Alex Leatherwood and Clelin Ferrell. However, they will all compete for more limited roles on a much better and well constructed roster.

Carr, Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, Kolton Miller and Hunter Renfrow are proven assests. Sprinkle in the best receiver in the game, Davontae Adams. Plus, all that chemistry reuniting Adams and Carr. It is no secret why this team is again becoming everyone’s favorite dark horse.

On Defense, the Raiders add Chandler Jones, Jayvon Brown and Duron Harmon to better compliment the scheme. They added Rock Ya-Sin and Anthony Averrett to compete with starters like Nate Hobbs and Trayvon Mullen. That’s as close to an A as you can get in the offseason.

Champions Aren’t Made in The Offseason

The Rams proved you can win championships taking risks on trades and free agency acquisitions. Of course, that means getting the right mix of veteran leadership and competing young players across the board.

Vegas made some moves that have many people crowning them the winners of the offseason. Not only did the Raiders attack the offseason ready to build on playoff success, but they executed and made it happen.

Sure, you can nitpick and say the Raiders could afford some help on o-line, d-line or receiver. These are the spots to watch during the preseason.

Either way, there are guys out there who can help at that position. However, that kind of feels like a luxury.

Not to mention, the Raiders have the bulk of their draft picks and cap space to leverage for another Superstar acquisition. This is why you have seen them connected to safety Jessie Bates III. Maybe the Raiders get greedy and add one of those receivers dealing with contract issues. Who knows?

The Future is Limitless

Again, credit the organization for putting together a competitve roster without leveraging the future. Add in the fact the Raiders hired a well qualified Black woman as their new President. When was the last time things felt this well and under control?

Onward and upward from past blunders on and off the field. Vegas must be ready to deliver. Carr has no excuses left with the best receiver in the game. The defense can’t go weeks without sacks with those edges. However, this is a totally different conversation than previous offseasons.

For the first time in a while, the Raiders Nation has real reason for excitement. We are not reaching when talking about the postseason. It’s a new feeling for Raiders fans who watched the team struggle for most of the two decades. All the momentum to that point starts today. Just Win Baby!

Raiders fans waited for this moment for 20 years

Finally, the Raiders made the playoffs. No hurt quarterback asterisk on this playoff berth. No second-half season collapse derailing a winning season.

Vegas finished the season with an OT win over the Los Angeles Chargers. The Raiders’ biggest win in 20 years almost resulted in a tie. That would’ve let the Chargers in the playoffs instead of the Steelers so I am not sure many would have complained. Still, forget your timeout theories. It is just win baby, not just tie maybe.

The biggest difference maker in that win included the Raiders pass rush and run game. Chargers QB Justin Herbert nearly erased all that with his straight up skills. This week the Raiders draw an equally young and poised quarterback in Joe Burrow.

Looking For Revenge

Last time these teams faced, the Bengals clapped the Raiders in Vegas. The Silver and Black will travel to Cincinnati for this round. Honestly, I am not sure the Raiders could have gotten a worse opponent.

Joe Mixon is a big and physical runner who can break one on any play. He carved us up for over 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The Bengals pulled away late thanks to the toll Mixon makes defenses pay.

Burrow completed 20/29 passes in the regular season game. Cincinatti brings size and speed on the outside. This could cause matchup problems as the Raiders secondary been banged up all year.

The Bengals defense is a sleeper. Eli Apple got a pick last time these teams played. They also threw in a couple sacks while a defeceit voided the Raiders run game.

Nonetheless, the Bengals are beatable. They lost to the Chargers and got swept by the Browns. Cincinatti barely beat the Jaguars and lost to the Jets and Bears early too. Their key victories include wins over the Chiefs, Broncos, Steelers and Vikings. They narrowly lost to the 49ers and Packers for what it is worth.

Which Squads Shows Up?

All that doesn’t really matter entering the playoffs. It’s win or go home and the Raiders have had just as many peaks and valleys as the team in stripes. Vegas is going to need a spectacular outing from their entire defensive line. Burrow is among the best versus the blitz so the entire defense must stay discipline. The Raiders registered three sacks along the line in the November game. Let’s double up this time.

One of the reasons the Raiders won 5-of-7 down the stretch is Josh Jacobs’ resurgance. His 132 rushing yards last week versus the Chargers helped them control that game. He also rushed for over 100 versus Denver but the Raiders have found ways to win even when Jacobs is ineffective.

Derek Carr has been mostly up this season. He is top-6 in passing yards and top-12 in passing touchdowns. Carr is also top ten for interceptions. Burrow is right behind him for yards and picks.

Versus Los Angeles, Carr did not have a crazy stat line. However, he didn’t throw any interceptions and scored two touchdowns. That’s exactly the Carr the Raiders need on Saturday. Take calculated risks. Move the chains and score touchdowns. Don’t make mistakes. He threw an interception versus the Bengals but was otherwise efficient.

Hopefully, Darren Waller is available. Waller’s last 100 yard receiving game versus the Bengals. They are a different team when they have Waller stretching the middle of the field. With Foster Moreau, tight end is probably the Raiders’ biggest mismatch over any team left in the bracket. The Raiders got to enable those guys to perform.

Hunter Renfrow must come up big despite everybody keying in on him. Bryan Edwards and Zay Jones must keep up their performances on key downs. We all know the chemistry they have with Derek Carr. That has been on display the past few weeks but it was absent when the Bengals came to town a few weeks ago. Desean Jackson will need to make a big play. He still has one in him.

No drops, fumbles or illegal formations from this entire receiving group. Win those matchups versus Trae Waynes and Eli Apple please. Take shots and try to get calls on them downfield too.

None of that will matter if the offensive line doesn’t step up. Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson both tore up the Raiders tackles last time these teams faced off. The Raiders offensive line is playing better now.

Cincinatti is also beefy on the inside with defensive tackles DJ Reader and Larry Ogunjobi. They are stout against the run across the front four so the Raiders and Jacobs will need to earn every yard.

On the other side, Vegas needs their defensive line to come up big. The starters got to stay fresh even if the Bengals move to a no huddle. Reserves Clelin Ferrell, Solomon Thomas and Carl Nassib will have added responsibilities with Darius Philon sidelined. One of them needs to step up and get a sack. Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue are the primary rushers but they run out of gas. They apply pressure but don’t always get home. Added help from the supporting cast makes their job easier and converts those pressures into lost yards.

Johnathan Hankins and Quinton Jefferson will need to help out versus the run but they also can’t be liabilities in the pass rush on long drives. This will help out all other positions on defense.

Versus the run, Denzel Perryman, Corey Littleton and K.J. Wright must step up. These veterans have playoff experience neither homegrown Raiders or Bengals players can relate to. We can’t afford to have any of them exposed. Divine Deablo saw a lot of time down the stretch due to his athleticism. One of those guys needs to make a play.

Our secondary continues scraping by without key players like Trayvon Mullen and Johnathan Abram. Brandon Facyson and Desmond Trufant were damn near out the league. No mistakes from Dallin Leavitt or Roderic Teamer please. Both played better than expected last week but they are flawed. Nate Hobbs, Trevon Moehrig and Casey Hayward all been bright spot offseason additions for the secondary. One of them needs to make a play this week as I expect them to bend and take lumps versus the speed and size of the Bengals receiving corps. If this group can create a turnover, the Raiders have a chance. The defensive line can help by getting home without relying on help from the blitz.

Complimentary Football

In the end, the Raiders need their entire team to play their best game versus the Bengals. It’s hard to imagine them winning if they don’t come out with the same desperation and sense of urgency we saw them with in the last quarter of the season. Let’s see some Mariota again this week.

Part of me worries they will run out of gas and get merked by a team they don’t matchup well with. Yet, that is why you got veterans like Hayward, Facyson, Perryman, Jackson, Wright and Littleton. Leadership will show versus a Bengals team that is equally inexperienced in the postseason.

Otherwise, the Raiders got to stick to their identity. Run the ball, take smart shots, get after the quarterback and create some turnovers. Derek Carr has been waiting for this moment for 8 seasons. He must earn that Mamba sleeve with a clutch performance in the postseason. His stats are great and probably earned him a year or two more at the helm but it does not matter if he can not help this team get over the hump in big games. This franchise goes as far their quarterback. Winning a championship in the Silver and Black starts by proving you can win a road playoff game.

Same thing with Josh Jacobs. He is banged up and off his most inconsistent season. However, the Raiders need him to control the clock and keep the Bengals off the field. When Jacobs is effective, the play action sets up much better for Carr and company. They also need Jacobs to break a big run off and ware the defense down. This offense is missing that spark from Kenyan Drake. Maybe they can get another big run from Jalen Richard. Either way, Jacobs must show he is elite by pulling away from the defense on the biggest stage. That’s especially true if he gets going early. Jacobs got to show he can wear a team down and finish them late.

The Raiders defense was up and down all year but they got to continue to find ways to make plays and get stops. They offer a good mix of veteran and young players at each level. Somebody got to step up and make a play. It won’t surprise me if it is somebody you least expect.

Great defenses play together and don’t rely on any one player to make every play. That won’t cop Maxx or Yannick out. Big time players make big time plays in big time games, Madden would say. We need big plays from our two best defensive players to drive the defense. Ultimately, we will need a great team effort on defense to handle the Bengals explosiveness on the road. Limit the big plays, penalties and mistakes. Don’t get rattled or fall apart now.

If the Raiders can make enough plays on both sides of the ball, they can win this game. Either way, let’s just hope they come out swinging. That’s what Big Red and Coach Flores would want. Afterall, this is the first playoff game in damn near twenty years.

Before that crushing Super Bowl loss to Gruden, the Raiders were among the league’s most winning franchise. The Raiders got to represent because I know the Nation will. Vegas must remind the league what they’ve been missing without their most prolific team playing in January. Just win baby!

Is it really different this time?

Raiders Vs Chargers, RIP Madden and More

That’s the question Raiders fans ask themselves as they prepare for a division showdown versus the Chargers this week. This particular Chargers-Raiders installment will determine one of the final AFC Wild Card spots.

Technically, both teams can get in with a tie or with help from the Steelers and Colts. That would ruin the NFL’s climatic finish to their first 17-game season and three-team Wild Card playoff format.

Raiders fans watched their team collapse into mediocrity in the second half of the last few seasons. We lied to ourselves with playoff scenarios that required us winning out or getting some help.

This year the Raiders have a chance to win to get in the playoffs in the final week. The last few games have been must wins and they actually found ways to pull it out. That’s on top of all the crazy off-field controversies this team pushed through all season. Will the Just Win mentality continue versus the Chargers?

Either way, this is a game between teams that know each other well. Both teams love to get their respective fan bases’ hopes up before deflating them in an epically tragic way. Well, one team has to win to get in.

Last Time on Chargers VS Raiders

The last time the Raiders and Chargers played, Vegas came out flat. They almost came back but fell short. However, that was a head coach and receiver ago.

Los Angeles rode out of that win on a massive high. They looked like contenders. That tapered off thanks to some losses and injuries.

Yet, L.A. still holds enough talent to be taken serious. Herbert is a serious alpha at QB, despite his calm exterior. This could be his chance to take the reigns of the AFC West’s No. 1 contention spot. Kansas City won another division spot. It really wasn’t that close even with them starting slow and everyone else starting hot.

All the Stakes

For the Raiders, it’s hard to deny Derek Carr or Rich Bissaccia a re-up if they sneak into the playoffs for only the second time in twenty years. Even if the Raiders could make some noise in the playoffs, they still need more playmakers before they’re a perennial contender. A rebuild with a new coach and quaterback might be the inevitible regardless how this season turns out but a playoff berth and win kicks that can down the road a bit. Otherwise, it’s hard to be optimistic about this team if they’re swept by both K.C. and L.A. this year.

Thus, there is a lot at stake on Sunday night. Don’t forget that shit Joey Bosa was talking after the Bolts defeated the Raiders on Monday night. He shared the blue print for beating Las Vegas by saying Carr cracks under pressure.

Regardless, the Raiders are a different team. The past few weeks, the Raiders are finally playing desperate. We are seeing the Mariota package along with Carr’s raport with Zay Jones and Hunter Renfrow. The defense is competent even if they bend a ton and get caught slipping.

Win it for Madden

Not to mention, can we lose the same season John Madden died?

Madden is a true Raiders icon. You know the anecdotes about the chairs. You know his reputation as a broadcaster and player coach. You know the Super Bowl win, Playoff appearances and winning record. There was only one Madden and nobody else in this metaverse could have dealt with all those bad ass personalities and a maverick owner like Al Davis.

Davis took a chance on a young coach. He knew his players needed to maintain a certain edge and lifestyle. He believed in veterans and cast offs. He let his players win. Madden embodied the commitment to excellence and he just won baby! Go look up the stories.

The Bigger Picture

Still, do either of these teams have real hopes to beat the Chiefs in a playoff game? Will they make any noise in the playoffs? More than likely, not. However, it would be a win for both first time head coaches and hungry fan bases.

Speaking of which, I went to the Chargers and Broncos game at SoFi this past weekend. Lots of Bolts fans were saying they were gonna take over Allegiant the same way Raiders fans took over SoFi on Monday Night. Multiple sites have said it will be majority Californians and Raiders fans in attendance.

People forget the Raiders are still the only NFL champs to call L.A. home. Madden also won a ring with the Oakland Raiders. Plus, the ties to West Coast hip hop make the Raiders L.A.’s prodical son that got away.

More than bragging rights, these teams will be lobbying for a lot of the same fair weather fans when they face each other again on National TV. Both teams will want one more shot at the Chiefs deep in the playoffs.

Who will Win?

Ultimately, this game will probably come down to the final possession. Special teams will be important as this matchup often comes down to field goals and field position.

Both teams will need to create turnovers. Each squad should make sacking the quarterback a priority. Therefore, both offensive lines will get tested. The Chargers recently got their center Corey Linsley back which will helps them.

Either team could strike with a big play given how both defenses. Raiders have allowed the tenth least passing yards and the Chargers gaveup the 13th least. Their rankings are similar for passing touchdowns.

L.A. allowed the third most rushing yards while the Raideds are more in the middle of the pack. It is pretty much the same with rushing TDs. Meaning, the running back matchup will be key. Austin Ekeler and Josh Jacobs are both versatile runners and border line Pro Bowlers. It looks like Jacobs is finally healthy and his offensive line is rolling. Ekeler is critical to the Chargers red zone efforts and he is a game breaking pass catcher. We know that,

Vegas is also looking forward to getting Darren Waller back. The league’s premier tight end has been questionable during this winning stretch. They will need his size and speed to run off those safeties and fast linebackers.

If the Raiders come out aggressive and stick to their gameplan this game is theirs to lose. They matchup well versus the Chargers if they can protect Carr enough to stretch the field for Jacobs and the running game. At some point, it is going to come down to which team is more physical, holds the most will and stays healthy the longest. The Raiders should hold the edge given the playoff draught, lofty expectations and the fact they have been playing for their lives for weeks now.

Regardless, I hope the team comes out taking chances like they have the past few weeks. Win lose or tie I want my team to play with pride. Field a gameplan that will make Madden and Davis smile from the heavens.

Worse case scenario, the Raiders come out flat at home and it turns ugly for everyone. Running out of gas wouldn’t be surprising given all that this team has gone through. However, you never want to let the Chargers sweep you or end your season.

Beating the Chargers will come down to Raiders football. Take the deep shots. Run the ball. Control the clock. Make them throw. Bring the quarterback down. Force a turnover. Just win. Playoffs baby!