Good, Bad and Other Takeaways Before Steal City.

Good news, the Raiders won their opening matchup versus the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night. It was an official blessing to the Silver and Black’s new home in Vegas.

Bad news, Vegas almost didn’t win. Even worse, Denzelle Good went down with a season ending injury.

Good suffered the injury in the first game of a new deal and role. He really stabilized the unit with his versatility the last couple seasons. The offensive line was also already a shallow group.

That means John Simpson should start again even if Richie Incognito returns. I still don’t know why Brandon Parker hasn’t gotten an opportunity to kick inside. 

Either way, the guards will be tested versus Pittsburgh veterans that include Cameron Heyward. Reviews about new starters Andre James and Alex Leatherwood were mixed. They made plays but also some curcial penalties and mistakes.

Josh Jacobs and Yannick Ngakoue both sustained long-term injuries too. Jacobs will miss this game but Ngakoue is expected to play hobbled in Week Two.

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Week One Flashbacks

Baltimore nearly sealed the game after the Raiders thought they won off a play that was stopped at the one. Carr threw a pick off a receiver a few plays later. There was a lost kicker too. 

Nonetheless, the Raiders won off a Zay Jones wide open catch. I told you these games against Baltimore usually come down to one play or the finish. 

Familiar rivals like Justin Houston and Sammy Watkins made big plays for Baltimore. Raiders fans will remember them from their days terrorizing us with the Chiefs. Latavius Murray also found the end zone after signing with the team just days before Monday Night.

All week since, Maxx Crosby and Carl Nassib earned praise after the win. Crosby registered enough sacks and TFLs to earn AFC player of the week. He was a constant force against the run and pass. Nassib helped get the ball back with a strip sack towards the game’s conclusion. Finally some turnovers! 

I’ve been critical of Nassib for a while now. He flashes on a play or two but hadn’t developed the consistency. Same for Maxx who struggled last year with more teams scheming for him. Both showed out when we needed them most. Don’t take away from Nassib making big plays in what was first regular season game since coming out. Nassib got his number called and delivered on the field while making history off the field.

More bad news came from the running game with Josh Jacobs getting hurt. He is ruled out versus the Steelers. That is a huge loss as the Raiders need to control the pass rush and clock with the run game.

Either way, Kenyan Drake earned a big contract for this exact reason. It wasn’t just to be an explosive, change-of-pace and gadget player. We knew a time would come where Jacobs needed rest and getting Drake was great insurance. It’s not like the Silver and Black haven’t employed multiple great rushers at the same time.

I don’t think any of us expected to need Drake this early but it is better than not having him. Hopefully, Jacobs doesn’t turn on too much McFadden PTSD with these lingering injuries. 

It wasn’t a particularly good game for either rusher. The best run play of the night came with Marcus Mariota earning 30 yards from his sub-package. The good news was Jacobs found the end zone a couple of times. 

On the other side of the ball, Yannick Ngakoue also sustained an injury. Many thought it would limit him this week and further. However, he practiced this week and he is expected to play versus the Steelers. 

If Ngakoue can’t go, the Raiders will need Clelin Ferrell. Ferrell was a healthy scratch versus the Ravens. 

The Raiders will need him and Solomon Thomas to prove those top-10 draft grades. Gerald McCoy also went down with injury last week. The vet was just gaining momentum and a role in the rotation. Ferrell and Thomas will be needed both inside and out moving forward.

Old School Rivalry

Every one reading this knows the ball hit the ground. However, many of these players in this week’s Steelers and Raiders showdown won’t remember the Immaculate Deception. In fact, there aren’t many familiar faces since the two franchise faced off in 2018. The most prominent returns are the two quarterbacks.

Derek Carr played well enough last week. He had one part where he had seven in completions. He almost sparked a riot on Raiders twitter after that INT. Carr redeemed himself with the winning TD. Otherwise, it was rewarding to see him take and convert shots down the field. I still don’t think the Raiders will win a Super Bowl if he is forced to through the ball 50 times.

That’s why the loss of Jacobs is pretty huge. The Steelers want to run the ball too. They didn’t complete many big shots versus the Bills last week, despite their slew of explosive receivers. Their offensive line is reloading. Big Ben Roethlisberger played well enough last week. At this point in his career, is Big Ben a game manager?

We will see versus the Raiders. Baltimore isn’t exactly loaded at any skill positions, yet they found success through the air and running the ball. Look for Pittsburgh to try and get their offense in rhythm with the run game and some more deep shots.

If the Steelers can contain the Raiders’ rush, that could spell some confidence for the Pittsburgh passing game. However, they’ll only go as far as the offensive line and run game goes. This should be an old school game with both teams trying to establish the run and dominate the trenches.

Versus the Steelers, the Raiders defensive line faces a cast of new faces. Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Andrew Villanueva once held down this offensive line. All those names are gone from Pittsburgh’s roster. 

Insert Trai Turner, Joe Haeg and JC Hassanauer. All experienced players written off by their former team. The Steelers swung last year’s starting right tackle to the left side. Point is, the Raiders should make Roethlisberger uncomfortable. He was sacked by the Bills twice last week. 

Najee Harris caught the attention of many fantasy owners before the season. However, he underwhelmed in his first game. Harris averaged less than three yards a carry. Pittsburgh should look to get him touches early and often. The Raiders surrendered rushing yards last week.

Pittsburgh rush defense wasn’t much better. They surrendered 65 yards to Devin Singletary. Again, Drake is going to be huge this week. Whatever team can establish the run will win this game.

The Steelers did sack QB Josh Allen three times. Pittsburgh also kept Stefon Diggs and the Bills receivers from scoring or completing a deep pass. This means the Raiders could have trouble completing the deep passes they converted on Monday Night.

The Vegas offense completed several passes over 20 yards to a variety of receivers. Can they do that with TJ Watt rushing on every play? 

The Major Key Versus Pittsburgh

Both teams should make big plays as both defenses can bend. The real test will be which defense lasts the longest and doesn’t break. Double critical that both defenses find a way to create turnovers and get stops in the red zone.

Ultimately, the deciding factor will be the run defense. Both teams have a slew of receivers they want to feature. However, the pass rush from both teams should neutralize that. Both secondaries seemed improved although it is early.

Regardless, the team that can get the run going will get the opposing defense on their heals. That also controls the clock and forces these offenses to take big shots. Well both teams want to convert big plays, I’m not sure either will be comfortable if they find themselves in a situation where they must force big shots if either one is down big.

Instead, I suspect both teams will setup their shots strategically of the run game. Both teams will benefit from protecting a lead and allowing their pass rushers to just get up field and create havoc.

Vegas is on the road though. They’re also down their best back. That means they will rely on big play passing game a bit more.

In the end, we’ll take beating the Steelers no matter what. Let’s protect that 16-13 all-time record. Plus, this game could have potential AFC Wild Card implications given the strength of both divisions and the added game this season.

Whatever quarterback can make a play without costing their team usually wins this game. Big Ben and Derek Carr have both had their shares of comebacks and big plays. They’ve also come up short or turned the ball over in big spots. None of that got anything to do with Sunday so whatever quarterback can balance the game managing with occasional gun slinging will win.

Whichever quarterback can use their run game to control the clock and pass rush will find themselves more easily converting downfield plays too. Coincidentally, an opposing offense playing catch up usually makes it easy on the leading team’s defense.

Bottom line, the Raiders need a win here to make everybody feel a little bit better about barely beating the Ravens. The world was watching and Vegas barely squeezed one out. This time a decisive win over an old rival could get all the haters to see the new commitment to excellence.

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The Exclamation on 2020

Last week was the first week I missed publishing a column this season. It was part I forgot about the Saturday kickoff and part my disgust with the team. It’s one thing to miss the playoffs but it is another to miss it off an overtime national loss to your rivals. If the Raiders can pack it in so can I.

Things got worse when I heard Derek Carr was starting versus Miami. No disrespect to Carr as he is by far the best Raiders QB that I have seen. It is not his fault the Raiders have collapsed the past two seasons. However, he hadn’t been the solution either.

Marcus Mariota really provided a spark when he entered the Chargers game. I get you don’t lose a starting job to injury. Yet, the Raiders have routinely replaced QBs after injury. That is a commitment to excellent. The best players play.

It would’ve been nice to see Mariota play again after a full week’s practice. He gave the Raiders an added element with his legs. That is a weapon I wanted with the season on the end, especially in the red zone. Plus, they would’ve won the Chargers game minus Gruden’s conservative call in the red zone.

Still, Mariota doesn’t play safety. He couldn’t have bailed out a defense that gave up a game winning touchdown to Miami in a matter of seconds thanks to a blown coverage and unnecessary roughness call.

Yet, the difference was Miami having the balls to change quarterback. Tua is their guy long-term but Fitz helped them a little more and matched up a little better. With their backs against the wall, the Raiders went the QB with nothing to lose. Vegas did not.

The loss to Miami hurts even more since the Raiders lost to Miami a few years ago too. After that, the season unraveled as did the Jack Del Rio era. That Dolphins team made the playoffs. They were bad a few seasons in between but here they are making the playoffs again. Basically, they made the playoffs more recently than the Raiders and they rebuilt and turned it around faster than Vegas too.

Don’t forget former Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie is with Miami. The kicker in this is that Lynn Bowden Jr. for a fourth and then that fourth for Raekwon McMillan. So yeah the Dolphins are ran better than the Raiders.

Moving forward, the Raiders close their season in a division game versus the Broncos. It is basically a meaningless game besides the historic rivalry element. The Raiders will also start Carr and reports indicate they have no plans to move on from the QB who put up one of his best seasons statistically.

That’s cool and all but even Carr’s best year is only good for 8-8? Either the roster is so bad that Carr is the only reason they are 8-8 or Carr is really just an 8-8 QB who can be extraordinary with great weapons around him. Both options scream the roster isn’t enough.

It’s also what many of us screamed before the season. The only real selling feature of this team was Ferrell, Jacobs, Mullen and Crosby getting another year better. Abram, Ruggs and Arnette were supposed to be instant spark plugs. Joyner and Brown were supposed to be healthy. All of that made this team a sleeper playoff pick.

Unfortunately, none of that really happened. We should’ve expected that based on the team making a change at d-line coach despite that group playing great last year. Look at the track record developing picks. Did any of those 2-3 years players actually get better? Maybe Key or Morrow but that is about it.

Look at injury histories Joyner, Williams and Brown. We played ourselves thinking this year would be different.

My issue with the Raiders is they are chasing ghosts trying to remake Gruden’s glory years. That’s fine but they got to stick with it. Those Raiders teams were filled with experienced veterans providing competition. This team cut a lot of veterans opting for young players getting reps. That is fine but it is not a commitment to excellence. Play the best players regardless of age, salary or draft position. That’s what the Raiders do.

Why did the Raiders never try and add a veteran safety? There was so much starting experience at the position in free agency. They never added a pass rusher via trade until Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley. One was lost and the other hurt. The season was also getting away from them at that point. Yet, the Raiders kept fielding the same group expecting different solutions.

Every time we thought the Raiders found an identity they did something to undercut that. One week we thought this team would get driven by Jacobs. The next week we thought they could win off big plays with Carr and company. Another week it was everything thru Waller.

We fooled ourselves into thinking they could win in many ways. The truth is, they were just doing whatever they could to win. It’s fine for just Win Baby but it’s not how you build a culture that demands excellence.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say we are doing whatever it takes to win but you aren’t signing and playing the best guys. You can’t say your building something when in year three you still don’t have an identity or even a great foundation. Jury is still out on Jacobs, Crosby, Ferrell, Mullen, Arnette and more. However, Littleton, Joyner, Brown, Nassib, and more have not been as advertised.

Frankly, Gruden himself hasn’t been as advertised. He has a worse record than Jack Del Rio. We are also asking ourselves the same questions as when JDR left. Is Carr enough? Who is the No. 1 receiver? Where is the pass rush, dbs and lbs? Is Jacobs really a workhorse?

We expected answers to these questions three years later. Joke is on us because maybe Gruden always was just a .500 coach. A coach who can help guys reach their potential shouldn’t be the end all be all of roster decisions. Gruden deserves some credit for getting this mediocre team playing hard but the proof is in the pudding. The Raiders need to get better from top to botfom.

Thus, the Raiders got one more week to prove they are building something. Prove you are getting better and establishing an identity. Prove you can beat a lesser team no matter what. Prove you can dominate physically and take what you want on offense That’s the Raider way.

This game also has meaning for guys like Maliek Collins and Nelson Agholor playing for their next contract. It means something for guys like McMillan and Joyner trying to prove they can be part of the solution. It matters for fans like us who want to end the season with our pallet cleansed from another late season collapse.

Let’s hope this team can end the season on a win. Sure, many of us didn’t think we’d make it to the end of the season with COVID. However, this new market team needs to give the fans the ending they deserve with a win over the Broncos. Show the world that we really aren’t too far from breaking through. Otherwise, another loss might signal time for yet another rebuild, retool or re whatever you call it.

Point is, we can’t except this 8-8 mediocrity. We also can’t fool ourselves into thinking this team is much better than the record indicates. The truth is the Raiders are probably a middle of the pack road with an above average QB and coach. That still doesn’t mean they shouldn’t beat up on the Broncos and get their young players ready for a playoff run next year. It’s what fans across the Raiders’ three homes deserve.

The fact is the Raiders need to win today not for the playoffs but for themselves and the culture. Get back on the path to excellence instead of enabling the mediocrity. Stop selling hope and just win. Stop making excuses and make excellence. This is the first game of next year as far as I am concerned. Well, I guess it is a new year!

Just Don’t Lose, Please

Almost everything hit the fan a few days ago when the Raiders got dominated by the Colts. Big runs broke, safeties got beat and the Raiders gave up 40 points.

It was the latest memory we have of Derek Carr driving meaningless down the field while down more than two scores. He and the offense struggles in the red zone, turning it over and not finishing drives with touchdowns. Philip Rivers showed what he can do with a defense that can create turnovers paired with above average skill players and line. The only thing the team did right was establishing Jacobs early and firing their defensive coordinator after the game ended.

Now, the Raiders face an AFC West rival Chargers team down significant depth. Anram, Arnette, Lawson and Heath out mean the secondary is paper thin. Morrow is quietly only competent backer and he will sit. Ferrell missing the game hurts the rush and pass defense.

Both teams only got a few days rest. Yet, the Chargers will play hobbled Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Austin Ekler could play too. This team is playing better than when Vegas barely beat them on the road. Justin Herbert keeps improving and Joey Bosa won’t sit this game out. Los Angeles might not be playing for the playoffs but damn straight they want to eliminate the Raiders’ playoff chances.

Baker Mayfield and the Browns did not due us any favors when they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. There are four teams within a game for that last spot. The Raiders’ only chance to make the playoffs is by winning out. They got to beat the Bolts, Dolphins and Broncos. Based off last week’s performance, it is hard to see them winning this game let alone two more. However, this team is at home and desperate for success Year One in Vegas.

Rod Marinelli enters the fold at defensive coordinator. He is one of the most well respected coordinators ever but his d-line has been far from great this year. The defense he managed in Dallas last year died as the season went on. Marinelli’s opening press conference talked a lot about discipline but he should start with his own unit.

The good thing is, the Chargers o-line is far from perfect. Vegas should make a statement by attacking the line and young QB with more blitzes but that will be hard with limitations in the back end. How will the Raiders matchup with Williams and Allen? Even hobbled they have speed and size to embarrass the Raiders’ best DBs.

Offensively, the Raiders need to attack too. The Chargers can give up big plays and they struggle with the run. Vegas needs to come out strong with their identity. Run the ball and take shots deep. Find that sense of urgency again.

Controlling the clock is one way you keep Herbert out of rhythm. However, it doesn’t matter if the Raiders let the Chargers run all over them. That’s the discipline this team needs. Stopping the run and giving yourself a chance to make a play on the ball. Sure, the Raiders secondary might get beat by elite talent anyways but they can’t beat themselves by doing too much, getting out of position or getting penalties. Limiting those mental eras alone could help the Raiders win this game and save their season. At the very least they won’t lose it.

Ultimately, this division game at a weird time on weird day will come down to will. It’s cliche but true when both teams are tired and hate each other. Thus, the Raiders gotta be themselves but they also got to find ways to not kill themselves. Run the ball, take chances deep, stop the run and give yourself a chance to stop the pass is how the Raiders don’t lose this game or their playoff chances.

A Playoff Push Starts With Indy

Did the Raiders win the game or did the Jets lose last week on the final play? It probably depends who you ask.

Mainstream media and the Jets mainly blame the play caller Greg Williams who was fired after the winless Jets stayed that way. However, Vegas pass protected, made the throw and completed the pass.

Either way, you probably screamed as Ruggs III went in for the game winning touchdown. It was a high feeling that came in a game where we all wondered WTF. There’s a universe somewhere not too far where these Raiders gave the Jets their only win. So much for talk about playoffs.

Still, the Raiders are lucky they can still talk about playoffs after that narrow victory. Sure, they played with a lot of injuries including Josh Jacobs sitting out.

Regardless competition goes up this week as they take on the Indianapolis Colts. Indy is duking it out with the Silver and Black for Wild Card position. Damon Armette and Jeff Heath are out, Daryl Worley enters from free agency. Josh Jacobs and Jonathan Abram are both questionable after missing last week too. Isaiah Johnson could also be out which makes the secondary even more depleted.

What the Raiders do got going for them is a familiarity with QB Philip Rivers as he was in their division a long time. Jonathan Hankins was already talking smack after the Silver and Black dominated Rivers twice last year when he was with the Chargers. Colts starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo could also be out with a questionable designation.

Speaking of, Clelin Ferrell battled COVID for a few weeks and came back with aoms new pass rush skills. Ferrell was crucial in two fumbles versus the Jets. That’s exactly the performance the Silver and Black need him to build on in this playoff fight down the stretch. Vic Beasley continues getting hyped up too. Let’s see what they do versus a hobbled or backup Colts tackle.

The secondary will need all the favors they can get. Hopefully, the d-line can convert sacks. We know Rivers will make mistakes but the secondary must capitalize on them by getting ints.

This Colts group doesn’t have nearly the same imposing size and speed on the outside as the Jets. They do have more speed and explosiveness out of the backfield which means the Raiders LBs are on notice. Playoff football means stopping the run and the Colts offer a good foe there.

Offensively, the Silver and Black have their hands filled with a Colts defense that gave up the 8th fewest passing yards and 5th fewest rushing yards. Indy is also top-12 in sacks and top-10 for interceptions.

A lot of that is attributed to Colts linebacker Darius Leonard. He’s one of the best defensive players in the whole league. He does a lot for them all over the field.

The Raiders are also familiar with the Colts front four. Denico Autry continues producing on a modest contract after leaving the Raiders for the Colts in free agency. DeForest Buckner continues is producing in his first year in Indy. Buckner is nursing a hip injury but should play. The point is, the Raiders interior line will have their hands full with this rotation. Long-time Chief Justin Houston has 7.5 sacks with the Colts this year. He is another former division rival with experience giving the Raiders hell.

Nonetheless, the Raiders will need to keep being who they are. These days, a good offense beats a good defense. Vegas needs to run the ball to neutralize the upfield aggressiveness of the Colts. Getting Jacobs back can only help that cause. They can also sprinkle in some screens.

Then, it’s up to Carr to find his receivers deep. The Raiders receivers have a speed advantage on the outside. This is the week the Raiders got to execute those big plays. The Silver and Black need to be themselves. Run the ball and take shots deep. That is Raiders football.

Expect this game to be physical. Both teams are indoor teams and fighting for a playoff spot. Each team has two division games and another potential playoff team remaining on their schedule. Point is, neither team wants to lose. The Colts have one less loss and are still in play for the division crown so they have a little more room for a loss.

A win for either team pads the playoff resume while a loss just makes it that much harder. Don’t forget it is a short week for the Raiders as they play the Chargers Thursday. That means Execution needs to be all that more crisp with less preparation and recovery after this matchup vs the Colts.

If Vegas comes with the same intensity and urgency they kept versus the Chiefs, they can get a statement win. However, they come out like they did the past two weeks versus teams with nothing to play for and their season could be over. Hopefully, being at home helps them overcome any slow start. No east coast travel fatigue to blame either.

The Raiders goal of making the playoffs is within their reach. They just gotta do their part by winning the next four games.

Vegas needs to execute by finding ways to create turnovers and force Rivers into mistakes. They got to stop the run and also control the clock with their own o-line and running back play. Don’t forget a big play in the pass here and there. If the Silver and Black do that in this four game stretch they can make the playoffs. However, that starts with this huge test versus the Colts. Nothing else matters without handling business versus Indy first.

Jet Set on Just Winning

The Raiders did their best to kill any argument they belong in the playoffs. A 43-6 loss puts them in ninth place and outside the postseason. The only good thing is Baltimore lost in their J.V. Wednesday game. Vegas still has head-to-head matchups with the Colts and Dolphins who are ahead of them in the standings so not all hope is lost.

Still, last week’s collapse was oddly familiar to the egg they laid last year around the same time. The seams came undone on that year but Gruden and others swear this is a different team.

Either way, if 2020 was a game it felt like last week. We knew the Falcons were a threat so we did not completely overlook them. We thought we were discipline enough to beat a deadly virus disguised as a common cough. Scoreboard told a different story as the Falcons hit the Raiders in the mouth like COVID hit our entire way of life. The Silver and Black went from being the physical team versus the Chiefs to getting bullied by a team with an interim coach and no playoff chances.

Sure, you can expect a let down after the Raiders came so close to beating the Chiefs the week before. It was a West Coast team traveling East. They had COVID issues too. All good reasons to que the it’s a trap memes!

This week, the Raiders have no excuses. People like to point out that teams have ended losing streaks versus the Jets. Sam Darnold hasn’t thrown a TD pass in four starts. Frank Gore keeps fighting time as he is their feature back off his best game.

It will be cold and Derek Carr won’t get the benefit of the dome. We know how he struggles in the cold but I can’t believe we are talking about him securing the ball this late in his career. He had three fumbles and three interceptions last week. It was his second game with multiple fumbles. His turnovers have been major in all of our losses this year.

Beating the Jets starts with controlling the ball. Vegas will also be down Josh Jacobs who is nursing an ankle sprain. Trent Brown also won’t be returning so who knows what to expect at right tackle. Right when we thought Brandon Parker was turning a corner he gives us a game like last week.

Not to mention, our defense still looked like Swiss cheese. They were still short handed due to the virus and they will be again with Carl Nassib out. Damon Arnette is also out due to a concussion. Maliek Collins ends a disappointing year with IR. Jonathan Abram will also be out.

On the other hand, Clelin Ferrell will return and Vic Beasley makes his debut. Some good news for the Raiders front seven.

Still, this could easily set the stage to the Jets finding themselves and putting together a win. Their coach is on the hot seat and Trevor Lawrence is in their sites which means New York’s effort could go either way.

The Raiders defense is messy and their offense will be down their identity which is Jacobs. Another poor defensive showing should send Paulie G. packing. Injuries can only save so much mediocrity.

On offense, the Raiders need to get back on track versus a Jets defense that ranks towards the bottom of the league. Their secondary is incredibly young so that should mean the Raiders look to get Henry Ruggs involved early and often. They will need his playmaking and speed in the cold. What New York does have is a near unblock-able Quinnen Williams. Blocking him is challenging enough but the Raiders added o-line injuries to Good and Brown could make him a real factor.

Ultimately, the Raiders got to forget about last season and last week. Carr has to put his cold and east coast struggles behind him by finding ways to convert on third down and not turning the ball over. He is the Raiders advantage given Darnold’s struggles. Carr can’t put his already struggling defense behind by turning the ball over.

Vegas’ x-factor is Davontae Booker. The former Bronco is averaging 5.5 yards per carry behind Jacobs rhis year. He earned himself some playing time and this is the game where he may shoulder the load in the cold. Look for the Raiders to give it to him early and often.

Defensively, the Jets do have size and speed at receiver. The Silver and Black are already undersized in the secondary which means the Jets could challenge them down field. Add the fact the Raiders are down bodies in the secondary and they will have their hands full.

New York also features one of the best young tackles in Mekhi Becton. Still, the Raiders figuring out the pass rush is once again imperative to winning. It will be harder given Nassib and Collins are out. Hurst could be out and oh yeah they have injuries in the secondary again.

It’s hard not to sound like the sky is falling after last week’s loss. The challenge is the Raiders have looked good versus playoff teams like the Chiefs, Browns and Saints but also looked bad versus middle of the road teams like the Falcons and Patriots. We are three quarters of the way through the season and should be playing our best ball. Instead, we’re worried about stacking three losses amid all these injuries.

As much as it feels like the Raiders are better and finding an identity, we still don’t know what to expect on a week to week basis. Should the Raiders beat up on a Jets team that is going the other way? Yes. Could they lose on the road to young team with all these injuries. Yes. Predicting what team shows up this week is as good as a guess.

If the Raiders want to make the playoffs they better find a way to make up for their sins with an imposing win versus the Jets. They need the confidence and their reserves need the experience amid all these injuries.

Even if mathematically there is a still a shot, a loss here could signal the end of a lot. The end of the coordinators in Vegas. The end of the Carr chapter. Or at the very least the end of our legitimate playoff hopes. But fuck it Just Win Baby!

Raiders Rants: No Let Down Vs K.C., How to Beat the Falcons and more.

Last week’s Sunday Night Football loss to the Chiefs was hardly a setback. The Raiders fought hard, down four starters and limited practice time due to COVID.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not sure Cory Littleton, Clelin Ferrell or any one else prevents the Chiefs from carving up the Raiders on that last drive. Still, they fought hard and competed versus a rival and the reigning champs.

There were some bright spots like the hobbled offensive line not giving up a sack. Las Vegas also spread the ball around through the air. Agholor and Waller continue leading the team as pass catchers.

It would have been nice to see them stick with the running game a bit more. Their defense also got another int versus Mahomes. Shoutout to Trayvon Mullen.

Still, they gave up over 100 rushing yards. Both Tye Hill and Travis Kelce caught over 100 yards. They did not get a sack on Mahomes either. Considering all that, it’s hard to believe the Raiders were a few moments from winning the games.

This week they play an Atlanta Falcons team that is better than their record indicates. They’ve lost a few close ones and blown a few big leads. Gruden called Atlanta the best 3-7 team he has seen. The Falcoons have a win and a loss to Carolina, a loss to the Saints and a win over the Broncos. The Raiders beat all three of those common opponents.

A loss last week was not a setback as the Raiders still hold playoff position in the seventh seed. That could easily change with a loss to the Falcons as their are seven teams at 6-4 or 7-3 with Vegas.

The Silver and Black can’t afford to give the Falcons any rhythm on offense. Atlanta will be down Todd Gurley and could also be without Julio Jones and TE Hayden Hurst. On defense, the Falcons could be down Dante Fowler Jr.

That offense down those pass catchers is good for the Raiders considering last week’s safety play. Erik Harris could also miss this game while Ferrell is expected to return. Cough, sign Earl Thomas.

Either way, the Raiders need to continue establishing their identity as an offense that can pound the ball and convert big plays on third downs and carry that into the red zone. All that starts up front with the offensive line which continues to play at a high level down bodies.

Defensively, they got to find ways to take the ball away and make plays on the QB. It’s good this group is playing physical and fast, especially versus a juggernaut like the Chiefs. However, it does little good if they keep getting carved up in the pass and run.

Swagger is great until you give up a game winning TD. Their hodgepodge secondary of veterans and young players needs to keep working through their lumps. As up and down as they are in the back end, the pass rush could do them more favors this week if Ferrell plays.

This week, the team signed two players on the right side of thirty who know the Falcons. Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley both teetered on draft bust before leaving Atlanta via free agency this offseason and the waiver wire. McKinley heads to injured reserve where they hope they can stash him. Beasley might not be active this week.

Nonetheless, I hope the Raiders got some defensive intel and play calls from the guys who were once supposed to be book ends for the team. The first round picks flashed potential in Atlanta but neither put together the consistency expect. Still, Las Vegas needs that top end athleticism in their front seven. Both guys are scheme versatile and should push for playing time once they are healthy. Beasley was a big part of the Falcons Super Bowl run a few years ago too.

The moves are good for the short term this week as the front seven is not playing well. It is also good for the long term if they redeem their careers. It’s the Raiders efforts to take a chance to get better that excites me. They aren’t just resting on their Chiefs win, overall record or playoff standing. Maxx Crosby needs help on the edge. He is a really good player but he can’t do it alone.

Ultimately, a win this week should be expected but that does not mean it will be easy. Atlanta has little to play for besides blowing up team’s playoff hopes. They can’t exactly do that to Vegas right now. However, the Raiders need to stay full steam ahead as they move through winnable games if they really want to contend. They need this win over Atlanta and next week against the Jets. Both games could be challenges on East Coast time zone alone. Then, they got games versus the Colts and Dolphins which could be important to playoff seeding. Plus, tough division games versus the Chargers and Broncos.

Still, you got to win this week by limiting big plays, stopping the run, rushing the passer and executing the game plan on offense. This is a tune up game but that does not mean we make it a let it down game after a tough loss versus Kansas City. Good teams don’t lose games back-to-back, especially versus teams with worst records.

Just Win Baby!

Playing with The House’s Money on Sunday Night

All division wins feel great but especially a 20+ point victory over the Broncos. It was exactly the dominating win the Raiders need as they rally confidence and winning experience en route to the playoffs. Defensively and offensively, the Raiders looked like a team focused and not distracted by COVID or Denver’s record.

Now, the Raiders will try and stretch their undefeated division record with another game versus the AfC West rivals Chiefs. We now know a lot more about this team since these two last played.

The Raiders proved they did not just get lucky by beating a playoff contending Browns team and two arch rivals. Kansas City continued finding ways to win and add some talent. This matchup is under the Sunday lights.

At this point, the Raiders are playing with the house’s money. The last victory versus Kansas City was the biggest regular season win since the Tay Train on Thursday Night. They proved themselves against the rest of the division. However, every loss counts in the tough AFC Wild Card race. The Chiefs are playing for that solo bye and a chance to redeem their only loss.

Good news, seven of the 10 players from the COVID list this week should play. Many of them starters on defense. The bad news, limited practice time before a game against Mahomes is not advised.

Still, the formula is not changing much. Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker should see a lot of work. The goal is to stay in front of the chains, keep the clock running and control the game away from the Chief’s offense.

Las Vegas continues flashing big play ability but they are still not ready to shoot it out with the Chiefs. They need a strong running performance to open up the play action. Derek Carr continues playing well on third down which should help the Silver and Black maintain long drives. Kolton Miller should return which will help both the run and pass game.

Defensively, the Raiders line looked improved since that first Chiefs game. Nonethless, Crosby can’t be the only threat to get home and sack the quarterback. Maurice Hurst could return this game which gives the Raiders back their best interior rusher.

It also won’t help being down Clelin Ferrell. Ferrell is the Raiders best edge versus the run, he slides inside and played well versus the Chiefs. Carl Nassib and Arden Key will both need to step up. Key doesn’t have a sack this year and Nassib only has 1.5.

The Raiders are also down Cory Littleton. That won’t help them cover the Chiefs dynamic pass catchers at TE or RB. The x-factors are the safeties. Let’s see if the Jeff Heath hype is real.

When the Raiders are good, it’s cause their secondary plays well. The corners get Damon Arnette for this game. He missed the last game and they can use his speed versus the Chiefs.

Ultimately, the Raiders will need 100 rushing yards, a turnover and a big play from their receivers. They can get that and a strong showing from Carr and still lose though. That’s how talented the defensing Champion Chiefs are.

Considering our record and standing in the West, I wouldn’t be mad at a loss. Obviously, another win versus the Chiefs makes a huge statement for the entire league. Either way, playing well on one of the league’s grandest stages is enough given all the adversity this team is facing due to COVID.

PS Takk McKinley is free again. Maybe the Raiders can add him to their defense assuming he passes a physical.

Raiders and Chargers: The One With No Fans

This is the game many Los Angeles Raiders fans circled. The Raiders are in L.A. and opening SoFi without the thousands of fans that cheered them as they won a title for the city.

L.A.’s Chargers almost didn’t happen. That would’ve opened things up for a return of the Silver and Black without the Las Vegas title.

Well, that’s for another universe. These days the Bolts field a rookie sensation QB who might be better than the Raiders starter today. They’ve got an underrated defense even down Desmond King who they got rid of faster than a Sears sale.

Offensively, the Chargers bring a solid group of receivers and backs. The Raiders pass defense will be tested again. Herbert can also scramble when things break down. The DEs will need to be discipline when rushing the prototype.

Las Vegas needs to keep running the ball. They got back to that and squeezed out an ugly win in Cleveland. They will be tempted to shoot out with the Chargers in a dome but the Raiders are a run team.

The Silver and Black rush attack will be down Trent Brown. Brown adds aggression to the entire unit.

Vegas will also need a play from their receivers. Look for Nelson Agholor or Henry Ruggs to make a big play to answer the Chargers offense. They also need Darren Waller to help them convert in the end zone.

As for common opponents, the Chargers lost close ones to the Saints, Buccaneers and Chiefs. The Raiders beat 2 of the 3 as well as the Panthers who gave the Bolts an L.

This game could go either way much like most AFC West games. The Raiders should handle the Chargers if they are serious playoff contenders at the mid point. However, the Chargers are more talented than their record indicates. You definitely don’t want to overlook them or their high powered offense.

The Raiders are only favored by 1.5 points. This game will come down to which offense controls the clock best. The Raiders are set up for that.

A problem will arise if the Raiders get into a shootout, especially if Keenan Allen plays. Defensively, The Raiders don’t have the secondary to matchup with L.A. Another big game from the d-line could even the score.

Ultimately, the Raiders want to win all the AFC West battles. You don’t want to give the young Chargers any hope or confidence.

Taking the Chiefs Challenge

The mentor became the teacher last week. Josh Allen and Derek Carr are from the same region of California. Allen mentioned looking up to Carr and his older brother. However, it was Allen who was throwing strikes downfield.

It is Allen who went from laughing stock a few seasons ago to the postseason last year. It is Allen who has his Bills looking like a real playoff contender. The technique, mechanics and accuracy have all changed so much for Allen since coming to the league.

That’s not to say Carr was bad versus the Bills. He mixed his usual efficiency with a few good deep throws. One which got called back due to a penalty. Carr played well enough again but the defense continued to struggle.

We still don’t really know who the Raiders are. For the second week, they dropped a game to an AFC East team. Vegas looked solid in the first half of both games.

Yet, the Bills and Pats both pulled away in the second half. That’s the difference between a playoff team and a young team trying to be a playoff team. The Raiders haven’t been a second half team in decades. They need to find an identity that includes more aggressiveness and adjustments in the second.

Right now, they are resting on two wins versus the NFC South. Vegas’ defense was mediocre even in those contests. The offense is good but it is still leaving points on the board. That is not something you can afford when your team is young and your defense is mediocre on the best days.

The Champs Enter The Chat

Moving on to the Chiefs, the Raiders play their toughest division foe. Yes, you want to win every AFC West game and beat the hell out of your long-time rival.

However, is that really realistic? Are you making bets with your friends and family who are Chiefs faithful? Probably, not.

Our Silver and Black haven’t shown much versus the Chiefs in years past. They haven’t shown much to beat them this year, either. The Raiders pass rush and secondary are still lacking too much to disrupt Mahomes and cover all those weapons.

The Best Chance

Sure, the offense put together flashes. Their best chance is keeping the ball out of Mahomes’ hands by controlling the clock with Josh Jacobs and the run game. The run game should improve if Trent Brown and Henry Ruggs III end up playing. Both practiced this week and are listed as questionable.

What won’t help the Raiders is the Chiefs getting their best pass rusher Chris Jones back. Hopefully, Brown in the mix can help limit Jones. You can read more about the Raiders offensive line here.

The Raiders also need Ruggs to take the top off an aggressive Chiefs secondary. Vegas got some sparks from Zay Jones and Nelson Agholor last week. I want to see what they do with Ruggs back keeping people honest on deep routes and play action.

Carr won’t get any favors playing in Kansas City. We all know Carr does better in the Vegas home setting than in the cold at Arrowhead. The Chiefs are also one of the few teams allowing fans into game as they try and repeat as Champions this year. Carr has got to step up or Justin Herbert will surpass him as the second best quarterback in the AFC West.

A Hope

As for the Raiders defense, it all comes down to the defensive line again. The Raiders defensive scheme really relies on those front four causing disruption. Johnathan Hankins is strong against the run but we need more pressure from our tackles in the middle. Maliek Collins has not been as great as we hoped. It might be time to see Mo Hurst get even more snaps as he is the best interior rusher on the team. Clellin Ferrell moving inside should be causing more havoc too.

Our ends have been hit or miss both in the run and pass game. Ferrell is the most consistent versus both but he still needs to do more to get home to the quarterback. You can read more on the Raiders defensive line grades here.

Either way, it’s not the Raiders defensive line’s fault their backers are not filling. It is not the d-line’s fault the safeties are taking bad angles or if the corners get beat.

Regardless, the Raiders have limitations on their defense. The best way to neutralize this, especially versus a team like the Chiefs, is with your d-line finding another gear.

Keep It Competitive

Sure, the Raiders are over matched. That doesn’t matter. It’s the Chiefs. You got to find a way to win your division games, especially when you hate your rivals as much as we hate Kansas City.

Moreover, a win would really get the Raiders’ confidence on track headed into the Bye Week. It will give them a key win. We will also be one step closer to knowing if this team is a playoff team or just a young team who is competitive for one half a week, again.

Ultimately, we need this game to be competitive. It will catch the attention of every one if the Raiders surprise the Chiefs this week.

Plus, no one wants to get blown out by their division rival. That might happen versus Mahomes and a high powered offense. In that case, the Raiders have a Bye Week and more out of conference games to lick their wounds.

Point is, the Raiders don’t have much to lose. At the very least, I want them to take some chances and make some adjustments in the second half. Show something different. Do something surprising you haven’t done before this season. Bust out all the stops versus the juggernaut contender.

Don’t forget that Raiders swagger and heart. Just Win Baby! Don’t got out like no punks versus the Chiefs. Don’t quit even if the scoreboard isn’t in our favor.

Should we expect them to win? Probably not. But will we be cheering, praying and hoping? Fuck Yes! It’s a new chapter in one of the oldest rivalries written. Vegas Baby!

Raiders Versus Bills Preview

Las Vegas had a real chance at beating the Patriots. They left too many points on the board by not converting touchdowns in the redzones. Settling for field goals versus a well coached Patriots team is not the answer.

Still, the defense forced a turnover with Johnathan Abram’s interception. Maxx Crosby registered a couple of sacks. Josh Jacobs averaged over four yards a carry. Devonta Booker gained some big chunks. Derek Carr was efficient again with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a high completion percentage. The team missed their rookie receivers.

Either way, the Raiders went into the half with a momentum gaining score. They failed to build on that in the second half. Carr’s second TD also came with the game seemingly out of reach. New England had Sony Michel averaging over 10 yards a carry while Rex Burkhead tore up the Raiders from the backfield as a receiver and runner.

Meanwhile, Buffalo fought off a Los Angeles Rams comeback. The Bills were blowing out L.A. 21-3 in the first half. The Rams came back strong in the second half. They scored 29 to take the lead before Buffalo scored on the final and winning drive.

More On The Bills

Buffalo is 3-0 and looking like a real threat in the AFC East. Josh Allen is second in the league in passing yards as well as completing 70 percent of his passes. He has thrown 10 touchdowns to only one interception. PFF ranks him among the top QBs.

Receiver Stefon Diggs brought a new outside weapon to his team. He’s caught two TDs and two passes form ore than 25 yards. Cole Beasley and John Brown are also playing well. Their running game is also solid with Devin Singletary. The Raiders have their hands full again this week.

On defense, the Bills are strong on the edges with veterans Mario Addison, Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy. Rookie A.J. Epenesa also registered his first sack. They are deep in the interior with Ed Oliver, Quinton Jefferson, Vernon Butler and Harrison Philips.

Buffalo’s secondary is among the best in the league too. Jordan Poyer is PFF’s top rated safety. Safety Micah Hyde, corner Tre’davious White and corner Levi Wallace are playing at a high level.

Matt Milano is a force at outside backer with both an interception and sack so far this season. Tremaine Edmunds is an athletic freak. Both will be needed to cover the Raiders’ tight ends.

How The Vegas Defense Stacks Up Against Buffalo

LB Nick Kwiatkoski will return. Our defense was missing him the past two weaks. Cory Littleton needs help.

CB Damon Arnette will miss this game too. Arnette could be out a couple of months.

Buffalo’s biggest weakness is their interior offensive line. That means the Raiders will need DT Mo Hurst, DT Maliek Collins and DE Clelin Ferrell to push the pocket from the interior.

Tackles Daryl Williams and Dion Dawkins are both playing well for Buffalo. Las Vegas will need their ends to step up and apply pressure. It can’t only be Crosby all year.

The Raiders rush defense also looked bad last week. Buffalo may turn to Singletary early and often. RB Zack Moss could also play through a toe injury and give the Bills added physicality at the tailback spot. We can’t afford to let Buffalo establish the run when they already have such strong passing threats.

Vegas will need their safeties to play discipline this week too. Allen has a big arm and the receiving threats to push the ball deep. The Bills also have Beasley to eat up intermediate junk.

The Raiders Offensive Keys Versus the Bills

Offensively, the Raiders will be down WR Henry Ruggs and OT Trent Brown again this week. WR Bryan Edwards is out with an ankle sprain.

Ruggs and Edwards out means more Zay Jones and Nelson Agoholor. Both have made splashes in the early season. Jones is facing the team that drafted him before trading him last year. Hopefully, he is extra motivated and open this week. They’re going to have their hands full with the Bills secondary.

The Rams threw a couple of big passes to Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee. That means, Foster Moreau and Darren Waller should both find opportunities to eat this week. Carr has also got to push the ball to all his guys again this week.

Vegas also needs to keep mixing Booker into their run game. He looked good last week and could spell Jacobs. Jacobs looks good as always but we need to keep his legs strong for those AFC West battles.

Don’t be too hard on rookie guard John Simpson. It’s still early in his career. He’s shown some flashes but will have his hands full with Buffalo’s rotation.

What A Mean Would Mean For The Silver And Black Stakes

Are the Raiders in a rebuild or a threat for the playoffs? The answer becomes a little more clear with this matchup versus the Bills.

A win versus the 3-0 Bills could put the Raiders back towards the top of the AFC. It would give them some momentum before next week’s division matchup with the Chiefs.

Losing puts the Raiders at .500. It’s a winning percentage the Raiders can live with through the first quarter of the season. However, we still wouldn’t know how good the Raiders. Is the AFC East that good? Is the NFC South that bad?

Nothing really surprising has happened this year. The Raiders offense looks efficient with Carr and Jacobs leading the way. The defense is still giving up big chunks versus the run and pass. They found just enough stops to beat two NFC South teams.

That is what the Raiders need this week. They need something unexpected versus a well coached and talented Bills team. We need a turnover or a big run or pass to really put Buffalo on their toes.

The Raiders usually find a way to beat Buffalo. Vegas is up 14-5 in the all-time series. Adding to that win total is not out of reach. It will just take capitalizing on the unexpected as well as applying pressure on Allen and creating turnovers.