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!

TOO MUCH BYE BLUES FOR MORE BAD NEWS

This is not the badass Raiders your Dad and Grandpa watched. You can’t as easily sneak out of a motel after curfew for a few extra broads and brewskis before a big game. Police don’t just escort people home after drinking and driving anymore.

The Henry Ruggs tragedy is a reminder that times are different. Forty times won’t keep you in Silver and Black.

Drinking and driving kills. It only takes one time.

There’s no doubt it is 100 percent preventable, especially when you’re a professional athlete. You add all the other details and you wonder how can Ruggs not serve time? You’ve read about the high speeds, gun and BAC. You’ve seen those videos.

It’s still crushing to watch a 22-year-old fuck up his life. Ruggs went from playing the best football of his life to looking like he may never play again. Plus, all the guilt he feels from taking a life and letting down people relying on him. This is probably the craziest situation I’ve seen in terms of a professional athlete.

I don’t blame Derek Carr, Rich Bisaccia or Mark Davis for saying they love the person and stand by him. I can’t blame them for releasing Ruggs. Same goes for fans who want to see him punished and those who feel for him. It’s a rough situation but I life was lost from a preventable accident that happens far too often. Whatever happened in that car doesn’t change the fact that Ruggs is ultimately responsible.

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More Rain

The bye week got worse when news dropped that Damon Arnette was facing a lawsuit for a hit and run acr accident en route to a meeting last year. News broke about separate incidents with a valet and instagram live. People must be held accountable. You can’t play with guns like the ’70s anymore.

This is a lot for a fanbase that just accepted a move. You add that to the Raiders track record of losing. Don’t forget we just got embarrassed by Gruden’s dated and misogynistic locker room talk. One email can mess up your entire wikipedia. A mediocre second tenure didnt help.

Football is changing. You can’t do whatever you want anymore. You can’t say whatever. It’s a new time and the Raiders are in a new state.

AND the Raiders are not winning. It’s been almost twenty years since we won a playoff game. Being a renegade is only fun when you win.

The quest for a new home and stadium finally ended. Now, it deserves a playoff squad. There is also an addition playoff team and regular-season game this year.

Moving Past the Past

We saw the Raiders collapse in the second half of the season under Gruden. They started good but flamed out at the end. They missed the playoffs narrowly. Their struggles after the bye week are well documented under Gruden. We’ve also been bad traveling east for a minute.

That said, I feel great about Bisaccia. The team went into the bye week looking good. They got some rest. Then all these distractions happened.

We went from talking about the extra element Ruggs gave the offense to discussing Desean Jackson or Odell Becham Jr. Vegas zoomed with Jackson but they aren’t expected to add receiver this week.

Still, Bisaccia steady the ship. He was empathetic, commanding and honest with the media. It seems like the team is rallying around him and a more established Derek Carr.

This Carr isn’t the same 2016 MVP candidate. This Carr has to play like he is battling for his job. This Carr has been through two mediocre seasons. He lost his head coach and best receiver. Carr and Bisaccia give the team a fighting chance through adversity.

Receiving Options

Otherwise, Las Vegas promoted receivers Dillon Stoner and Marcell Ateman. Zay Jones is the veteran who really needs to step up into a starter role. Jones holds great chemistry with Carr as they always practice together in the offseason. More pressure falls on Bryan Edwards and Hunter Renfrow without Ruggs’ speed stretching the field every single play.

If OBJ is free, you sign him based on his age and upside. The shoulder injuries worry me but his lower body seems recovered from previous injuries. However, I’ve always wanted to see Jackson as a Raider. He is healthy and still brings speed. Jackson doesn’t have the same ability as Odell but he would fill Ruggs’ shoes better.

The Raiders could honestly use both if they’re serious about boosting the offense for a playoff push. They need Jackson at least. I’m also curious why they didn’t bring back John Brown since they also signed him for his speed.

We can’t forget the team stayed quiet at the deadline. I can’t blame them given everything with the team. They also believe in Zay Jones and their practice squad guys. Let’s see if they can get better in free agency or internally. They have done both this season already.

New York, New York

The Giants aren’t a great team but they do get teams to play down to their level. New York is 2-6 but they lost three games by one score or less. Saquon Barkley is ruled out but the Raiders know Davontae Booker can pop off. Receiver Kenny Galloday is questionable which means the Raiders secondary should dominate. Nate Hobbs and Casey Hayward are among the best rated at their positions.

Few teams need receivers like the Giants. Look at their injury report. However, the Raiders are still bad at covering tight ends. New Yorks’s Evan Engram is athletic and could torch the Raiders under the right circumstances. Engram was on the trade block too.

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I wouldn’t go as far to call it a trap game but the Giants do have enough to beat the Raiders. Leonard Williams and Dexter Jackson could give the Raiders run game some trouble. They can also be effective against the pass with James Bradburry and Adoree Jackson as a balanced corner duo. Our o-line looked improved a few weeks ago but they must maintain that growth on the road after a week off. The receivers must also step up without Ruggs taking the top off the defense.

Either way, the Raiders have a chance as long as their defensive line pressures Daniel Jones. The Raiders’ defensive line depth is their greatest asset. They face a Giants line with three players in the bottom ten at their position, per PFF. Everybody is healthy and rested again this week. The Raiders should have a full rotation.

Carr has to keep playing efficient football. The challenge will be finding ways to make big plays and strikes without Ruggs. Carr is going to need someone else to step up as his ex-factor. Look for more Foster Moreau, Kenyan Drake and Alec Ingold. Carr should spread the ball around a lot this game. He must rely on finding mismatches more without Ruggs beating his defender every play.

TMC

The point is, the Raiders know what they need to do. They must build their identity around their defensive line. Their secondary must continue making plays. Don’t screw up by giving up big chunks on penalties or blown assignments.

The offense must continue running through Carr and a strong run game. Vegas has a cast of characters who can help Carr drive the ball downfield. He can’t press too much. Lean on Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller. Find Hunter Renfrow on third down. Carr must develop trust with new players since Ruggs is gone.

Bisaccia should continue leading with poise and confidence. He should keep relying on his coaches as well as letting his players play.

Vegas plays the Chiefs in a game that will have meaning in a heated AFC West race. You can’t overlook the Giants but you want to be healthy and rolling into that game confident. Once again, let’ put a win between us and all this off-field mess.

RIP Tina Tintor and her puppers Max

Hello Victory Our Old Friend

Right before our season completely bottomed out, the Raiders ended their two-game skid by whooping the Broncos for their first division win. Coach Bisaccia became the first coach to win his debut since Hue Jackson.

Lessons From The Donkies

We got glimpses of the Ruggs and Carr combo we all dreamed about. Kenyan Drake and Josh Jacobs finally brought the 1-2 punch finally. Jacobs mixed physical running with Drake’s explosive play making.

Jacobs said the sideline had a much more professional feel minus Gruden yelling at all the players and coaches. It felt that way as the Raiders made noticeable adjustments. They never felt complacent or panicked which is how playoff teams play versus lesser division teams.

The Defense made big plays when needed. Solomon Thomas forced a crucial strip. Shout out to him for donating 8k per sack this year. Our defensive backs got back into the interception column too.

Well the Raiders sat in the driver seat by scoring on their first drive, Raiders PTSD made it feel like the game could turn at any moment. Las Vegas never really put Denver away even after the turnovers. 

Still, that is really nitpicking a road team playing a talented and banged up rival on the road. The Raiders found a way to win and that is all that matters baby. 

Deeper Meeting

Moreover, Fuck power rankings. Who cares if we fell in some made up rankings after staying in the West’s second spot? Our team showed the grit and confidence needed for a playoff push. Whether or not they get there will depend on many things including the offensive line. Rodney Hudson and Lincoln Kennedy ain’t walkin thru that door. 

At the very least, this team isn’t going to be packing it in even if they have all the reason to. Carr said he didn’t think the team could get any closer but that is exactly what happened after the Gruden of situation.

Gruden-Gate

Speaking of Gruden-gate, we heard from many Raiders and league stakeholders pushing for more emails from the WFT. Gruden is reportedly fumed that he got fired from an investigation he had nothing to do with. No shit. Mark Davis also said it was an intentional hit by the league. Probably.

The Raiders would still be controlled by some dated mediocre coach with misogynistic and racist thoughts if it weren’t for the emails. It’s also documented how the Raiders went from one of the most Black teams in the league before Gruden. The percentage instantly dropped when Gruden came to the field.  

Who cares though? The Raiders are off a great win and headed into another winnable match versus the Philadelphia Eagles. No pitty parties for coaches out the club.

Taking On Philly This Week

Some say this week’s matchup sets up a let down. The Eagles have a mobile quarterback along with an explosive tight end. Jalen Hurts is leading the team in both rushing and passing. Dallas Goedert is officially TE No. 1 with Zach Ertz shipped out. Myles Sanders can make plays. 

On defense, they have pass rushers blended with experience on all levels. Philadelphia top 10 in interceptions and passing yards allowed. However, they are in the bottom 10 for rushing yards allowed and passing touchdowns given up. That sets the Raiders up for perfect success since they want to run the ball to setup big pass plays downfield.

Keys to Beating the Eagles

Philly is ranked in the top-10 for yards per first down but they rank in the bottom over the last two games. The Eagles rely on creating manageable third downs for young quarterback Jalen Hurts. They are in the bottom ten for most passing yards in the NFL this year. If the Raiders can stop Myles Sanders from controlling the down and distance, they should be able to get after Hurts on passing downs. Hurts can also kill Vegas with his legs so the pass rushers must stay discipline on fakes and keep contain when getting up field. Getting Quinton Jefferson back should also help pressure Hurts and stop the run. Jefferson’s get-off is missed as he disrupts both the run and pass. It would also be great if the Raiders can force an interception again like last week.

Offensively, the Raiders must exert their will again. Vegas needs another fast start like last week. Forget the last time they looked lethargic at home versus the Bears as all the Gruden stuff loomed in the shadows. Let’s put that behind us by starting fast and getting all the weapons involved. This team is hard to beat when Ruggs is getting targets downfield and Bryan Edwards is making catches in the deeper intermediate route. Carr can find Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow anytime because of their chemistry. However, Ruggs and Edwards give them the big play threat that makes it hard to lock in on Carr’s favorite targets.

Bottom Line

Overall, it won’t matter what the offense wants to do if they can’t get blocking up front. The O-line played better versus the Broncos but they could only go up from where they played versus the Bears. Hopefully, this group can continue improving as they get more reps together. They’ll face real tests with Fletcher Cox and company in town. Philadelphia leaves much to be desired versus the run so this is a chance for the young offensive line to gain some confidence running the ball.

Vegas played with a chip on their shoulder for the first time in a bit. They looked mad and angry. However, they kept it balanced by rolling through the good and the bad. Our Raiders looked like they had been there before even when it seemed like they were going to let Denver back into the game. If the Raiders can maintain the physicality and the professional focus forward, there is no reason why they can not make the playoffs. That starts with handling business versus a beatable Philly team.

Otherwise, a loss won’t be the end of the world headed into a bye week. The Bye Week is the breathe of fresh air we all need. Yet, sitting at 5-2 in first place is much better than tied for second at 4-3. Hopefully, the game won’t be too crazy with Philly fans, although they travel well and Vegas is a transit town.

Either way, the Raiders got to find a way to put good to solid teams away if they really want to legitimize themselves as contenders. For now, I think we’ll all just take 2-0 in the post-Gruden era.