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!