The Raiders are 2-4 in a loaded AFC. The Colts, Bengals, Chargers, Patriots, Dolphins and Jets all sit above them in the AFC Wild Card race. That does not even include the four division leads. Vegas needs a win bad.
Big Game in the Bayou
They face a Saints team battling injuries at receiver, offensive line and quarterback. Andy Dalton has had his days versus the Raiders. Taysum Hill could give the Raiders backers problems. Tre’quan Smith and Marquez Calliway give the receiving until big play ability across rookie Rondale Moore, even without Michael Thomas or Jarvis Landry. The Saints offensive line is good, led by the trio of Erik McCoy, Andrus Peat and Ryan Ramczyk. Alvin Kamara is a big play and versatile nightmare for the Raiders. New Orleans is top-10 in rushing yards, which means the Raiders must play discipline in the run game and find ways to get off the field.
Don’t make it easy on New Orleans
Vegas needs Maxx Crosby to have some company. Bilal Nichols and Clelin Ferrell need to rush the passer. Andrew Billings needs to push the pocket. Chandler Jones needs a big game on Andy Dalton. Don’t let Dalton just sit back there dumping the ball to his playmakers uninterrupted. New Orleans has a top-10 passing attack in terms of yards.The Raiders secondary needs to make tackles on Hill and Kamara. John Abram and Trevon Moehrig have played terrible. No more blown coverage. The Saints have tons of speed outside, which can hurt the Raiders.
Establish the run
On defense, the line Saints line is big, physical and length enough to give the Raiders some problems. Cam Jordan is among the best at his position in this generation. He already has 4.5 sacks this season. Marcus Davenport has length and explosiveness to give the Raiders tackles some issues. Linebacker Demario Davis finds his way to the ball. Josh Jacobs is going to be challenged. Jacobs needs to keep the Raiders offense ahead of the chains.Vegas is much better on third and short than third and long.
Find the mismatches
Safeties Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu also have a nose for the ball. The Honey Badger knows the Raiders well from his seasons as a Chief. New Orleans will be down two of their main corners including Marshon Lattimore. This is Davante Adams and Mack Hollins time to eat. The Raiders must take advantage of their speed and physical presence outside. For sure, Waller and Renfrow will need to take advantage of Adams getting shadowed and double teamed. Adams got to set the tone early and often. Every time he touches the ball he is a threat so the Raiders must give him some touches.
This team showed what they are capable versus the Texans. It does appear the team is gaining an identity with Josh Jacobs and Adams leading the offense. They still could have started a little faster if we want to get picky.
On paper, the Raiders should beat the Saints. Vegas has more talent and less injuries than New Orleans. People point to this as the easy part of the schedule for the Silver and Black. The Raiders still have to prove it by executing. Fans know anything can happen on the road.
Stick to the plan
It’s no coincidence Jacobs went off in both the Raiders win. He was running that hard even when they were losing their first three games. The offensive line was figuring it itself out but Jacobs looked like he was running with intention. Vegas’ interior offensive line improved their surge and double-teams which is why Jacobs finally started getting free.
If they Raiders get Jacobs gong again this week I’ll say they are starting to get some momentum. This team needs to get to .500 before I feel like they learned how to win or close games. The Raiders have to prove they can do it in back-to-back weeks on the road before they look poised for a climb back into the postseason conversation.
Throw in some play action
Vegas needs to utilize some play action to get the Saints biting in the middle if the field where Waller and Renfrow run. The offensive line needs to be on its best behavior for that game plan to work. The last thing the Raiders want is third and long where the Saints ends can just get upfield on Raiders tackles that can easily get beat by speed and strong hands.
Hollins is making us forget Bryan Edwards and Seth Roberts. He needs to keep taking advantage of mismatches and gaps in coverage. Foster Moreau also could be an x-factor due to his ability to block well and slip through coverage.
Sprinkle in a play or two
The Raiders defense is also going to need to keep stepping up. Duron Harmon has made plays in the Raiders wins and losses. He needs support from the young guys around him, especially if the defense takes big lumps. Moehrig and Abrams need to make plays if they are going to give up plays.
Denzel Perryman also needs to make his presence felt without getting exploited in the pass game. Abrams and Divine Deablo gotta make tackles. Ferrell needs to show he can get off his blockers. Nichols needs to anchor the run. Billings gotta stay on the field and find ways to push the pocket. Yeah, I wrote that twice. This Raiders defense needs someone besides Harmon and Crosby to make a play.
If the Raiders can get a turnover, sack the quarterback more than once, get Jacobs established and feed Adams then they will beat the Saints. That formula should beat most teams. Vegas needs to execute by staying ahead of the chains on offense and getting off the the field on defense. A road win over the Saints should help the Raiders feel more confident headed into Jacksonville next week. It might help this team finally feel like they found an identity to build on too.