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!

Keys to Blacking Out the Bolts In Prime Time

When the Raiders take on the Chargers tonight, there’s a good reason many anticipate a home game. That’s what Derek Carr called it already and that’s what we’ve experienced each time the Raiders come to Los Angeles. This is the city where they won as the Oakland Raiders won a ring and they are the only team from L.A. to earn a Lombardi for Los Angeles. The Vivid Seat data backs all that up, citing 74 percent of seats sold for this game went to Raiders fans.

There’s a good reason why this is a primetime game. The Chargers are 2-1 and playing well. Las Vegas is 3-0. Both teams look playoff-bound but could easily mess it up. The Bolts always find plenty of ways to lose to the Raiders in a close game too.

Anyways, there isn’t too much to say about the Raiders 3-0 win over the Dolphins. It’s the first time the team has been 3-0 since their perennial playoff days in the early 2000s. Most teams that start that well make the playoffs as well. Nonetheless, they barely beat a team that was down their starting quarterback.

Still, this year feels different. Vegas found a way to win when they found a way to lose to Miami when it could last year. The Raiders ran the ball down their starting running back Josh Jacobs this time. They threw at a variety of receivers. Six receivers finished with three or more receptions. Byron Edwards continues to flash. It was the Silver and Black’s second OT win at home this season.

Their defense wasn’t a total liability. They did get a couple sacks despite losing contain on Brissett. Mike Gesicki had his best game of the season and reminded us of our past lows covers the tight end. This was also the first game in the early season where the Raiders didn’t force an INT. They did bend too much in their run defense as well. Both Malcolm Brown and Myles Gaskin carved them up for more than four yards a carry.

The point is, the Raiders still found a way to win a winnable game when that game probably would’ve gone the other way in seasons passed. Now, the Raiders face their biggest test as they take on a division foe that has made their own breakthroughs.

What’s up with the Bolts these days?

Justin Herbert deserves all the hype he is getting. Dude is off a game where he scored four touchdowns in the air and beat the reigning division champion. Mike Williams is finally having his breakout moment after 7 receptions, 122 and 2 touchdowns versus the Chiefs. Herbert registered 956 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions through three games.

Williams could be a problem for the Raiders due to his size and ability. The former Clemson standout registered at least a touchdown and a catch for more than twenty yards in each game this season.

The Chargers offense is still figuring out the offensive line, tight end and running game. They’ve been trying to make Jared Cook a thing all offseason. The Chargers are eighth in yards per game but rank 18th in points per game. Cook has had at least six touchdowns his last three seasons so they hoped he would help them in the red zone. He found the end zone once but it got it reversed. He has no TDS so far this year.

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler has been effective as a pass catcher and runner but he is not on pace for 1,000 rushing yards. Ekeler is averaging over five yards a carry his last two games, along with registering multiple receptions.

Yet, he only has one touchdown and one run more than twenty yards. The rest of the running backs are not even seeing enough touches to know if they’re a threat. Vegas can not let the Chargers running game gain any confidence with big runs or bursts that move the chains on first and second down.

Cook won’t be the only notable player with a past playing in this game. Former Chargers corner Casey Hayward, linebacker Denzel Perryman and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley all hold the same positions with the dark side.

Offensively, rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater seems like the real deal. Otherwise, the rest of the offensive line group is a hodgepodge of veterans. The weakest point is the Chargers’ right tackle with Storm Norton. The Raiders’ defensive ends must take advantage of any 1-v-1 with Norton.

Defensively, Joey Bosa only has 1.5 sacks this season but his impact is still seen on every play. If the Raiders don’t get better play from their offensive line, Bosa could easily build confidence early and often. The Chargers are still trying to figure out the edge spot opposite Bosa, since Melvin Ingram left.

The Bolts could also be down linebacker Kenneth Murray who went down with an ankle injury in practice this week. L.A. already allowed the 9th most rushing yards this season so the Raiders should exploit that by giving the ball to Jacobs or Barber early and often.

Veteran corner Chris Harris Jr. also missed two games with a shoulder injury. He could miss this one too. Asante Samuel Jr. won defensive rookie of the year a few weeks ago so don’t overlook him either. He is part of a pass defense that allows the sixth least passing yards per game.

The Bolts also have safeties that can help contain Darren Waller, at least on paper. It’s hard to bet against the Carr-Waller connection even versus Chargers safety Derwin James.

Conflicts aside, I own Chargers tickets really because the stadium is down the street and it makes financial sense for me to sell the other 8 games just to get a seat for the Raiders each year.

How do the Raiders Beat the Chargers?

This will be a game decided by whichever defensive line can impose their will on the opposing offensive line. Both teams have liabilities at the right tackle spot so whatever team figures out how to patch that leak will win. Whatever team exploits that best will be that much closer to stopping the opposing team’s MVP-caliber QB.

Otherwise, the Raiders must carve the Chargers up on the ground early and often. There is no reason the Raiders should not have a 100-yard rusher, especially if Jacobsplays and Murray is out. Running the ball will also keep Bosa and company on their toes. It protects Carr and sets up big shots in the play action. It also keeps the defense from having to defend Herbert and those big receivers on long drives.

Further, the Raiders must limit big plays in the run and pass. This run game is hit or miss but the Raiders defense must prove they are a hit by not letting Ekeler wear them down. It could also also be the game Jared Cook pays out considering what the Miami tight end did last week.

The last thing you want to do is give the Chargers momentum when they will be playing at home in front of a visiting crowd. That is why the defensive line will be so important again.

This whole unit plays off the energy and hussle of Maxx Crosby. Yes, we need Crosby to beat Norton and Slater for sacks but he also can’t let them get any confidence with run blocking. Defensive tackles Quinton Jefferson and Solomon Thomas are equally important as they must push that pocket and prevent a sneaky athletic Herbert from making anything happen as he steps up in the packet.

If the Raiders can sack Herbert, that keeps the Chargers pass-catchers from exploiting one-on-ones over smaller, less athletic defenders or finding breakdowns in the zone. It also gives the Raiders secondary a chance to make a play on any mistakes Herbert makes. He has not been perfect, throwing an interception in the first two games this season.

L.A. is favored by three points at home which means this game could go either way. Both these teams have pasts that include them finding ways to lose. Each AFC West team is trying to prove those days are behind them.

Either way, a win here could help with positioning since the Chargers are 2-2. The Broncos got embarrassed by the Ravens even if they are both still 3-1. A Chargers win creates a three-way tie for first while a Raiders win puts them in the driver seat of the West almost a quarter of a way through the season.

There is no reason the Raiders can not win if the Raiders can make the Chargers QB go down hard and fast. Double points if the Raiders can establish their will with the run game and deep shots as they have in three wins already this season.