4 Keys to Raiders Victory Against the Bills

The Oakland Raiders looks to have finally turned the corner on offense after putting up more than 500 yards in week 7. After a huge win against a division rival, the Raiders still have high hopes.

The AFC looks much better this year and 10 wins might be needed to secure a playoff spot. The road to 10 continues this week against the Buffalo Bills. A game the Raiders need to win as teams with more talented rosters await in the horizon. Below are four ways the Raiders can come out of Buffalo with win #4.

  1. Establish identity on offense

A quarterback that was ranking last in the league in deep pass attempts came into the Thursday night game against the Kansas City Chiefs left the game attempting more deep passes in a single game than any other quarterback in any game this season.

As Greg Papa mentioned on his show, the identity of the offense is Derek Carr and Amari Cooper. The Raiders have found their identity and should stay on the winning track if they can keep their talent filled offense rolling. The Bills rank 26th in the league in pass defense and 7th in rush defense. The Silver and Black have the offensive talent to air it out with any defense but against the 26th ranked team against the pass, the air attack should be a priority.

  1. Protect the football

Per the stats above, we can agree that the Bills defense has a “bend don’t break” strategy. Even with a 25th ranked offense and 21st ranked defense in terms of yardage per game, the Bills have managed a 4-2 record largely due to their takeaways, ranking #1 in the league with +10 turnover differential and #3 in interceptions with nine.

Carr has great ball control and awareness and rarely throws bad interceptions so he needs to stay away from pre-meditated throws and settle down in the game early. He has thrown four interceptions all season and three of them came in his first 10 attempts per NFL.com Situational Stats.

  1. Shut down “Shady”

On the defensive side of the ball, no player on the Bills offense scares the Raiders more than running back LeSean (Shady) McCoy. Although he is only averaging 3.4 yards per carry in 2017, last year he ran for 1,267 yards and 13 touchdowns on 234 carries (5.4 yards-per-attempt), adding another 356 yards and one touchdown on 50 receptions. With quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back Mike Tolbert also gaining ground yards, the Bills as a team rank #13 in rush yards per game.

Per PFF, no team was more efficient last year on zone runs than the Bills, as they averaged 5.38 yards-per-carry on inside zone carries and 5.23 yards-per-carry on outside zone plays. With the addition of fullback Patrick DiMarco, we should see a lot more outside zone runs.

What is “zone running,” you ask? In short, offensive linemen block zones rather than block defenders. In outside zone, the idea is to “stretch” the entire defense the width of the field.  This provides for numerous cutback lanes for the ball carrier to insert himself and a perfect scheme for a shifty runner like McCoy.

The Raiders’ front seven needs to play disciplined football by knowing what their gap assignments are, penetrating the backfield, beating the offensive linemen to their spot, and sealing off the edge. Maybe even bring eight men into the box. The tweet below shows an illustration of what could be an effective base defense against the run. Note Mack and Irvin setting the edge and the linebackers and strong safety take on pulling guards and fullback.

Shutting down the run will make Buffalo one-dimensional and force them to throw the ball, which they have not done well all season.

  1. Throw Tyrod Throw

The Bills’ offense has been anemic this year thanks to their non-existent passing attack. To make matters worse, they are missing their #1 receiving threat in tight end Charles Clay due to an injury. The Buffalo passing offense ranks 29th in yards, only putting up 181 yards per game. This should not be surprising as Taylor does not have any big names to throw the ball to.

Even though Raiders’ secondary gave up 10 touchdowns through the air without recording a single interception this season, making Tyrod throw to his receivers should bode well. The Raiders’ secondary has seen improved play from TJ Carrie and Dexter McDonald. We have seen what Amerson can do when he puts his mind to it and Sean Smith actually plays well when not matched up against small speedsters, which Buffalo does not have.

Tyrod, however, has done damage with his legs, racking up 174 yards this year on the ground. It will be a good idea to have a linebacker like Morrow spy him all game.

Prediction – If the Raiders want to be taken seriously, this game is a must win. I predict a 27-13 victory for the Silver and Black.

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