Michael Crabtree’s actions during Sunday’s game against Aqib Talib brought into question whether viewers were watching a football match or a fight on the undercard of a UFC event.
Now Amari Cooper is likely missing time with a rolled ankle, Crabtree’s one game suspension could not have been worse. Admittedly, Crabtree and the Raiders are fortunate to only lose him in this week’s game against the Giants – a game they should win regardless of Crabtree’s presence. The Raiders’ offense is built around Derek Carr. But expecting him to drive up and down the field time after time with Seth Roberts, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Johnny Holton as the primary outside receivers is a recipe for disaster.
Fortunately, the Raiders have the necessary pieces to make do without their top two wideouts.
It’s time to unleash Beast Mode.
Marshawn Lynch has been used sparingly this season. Prior to last Sunday’s game, the highest amount of carries and receptions he’s had in a single game was 19 in Week 1, while averaging just a measly 11.5 touches per game on the year.
Lynch was slated to have a huge game against the Patriots, but the game got away from them early and the Raiders were forced to go pass happy. This past Sunday, however, offensive coordinator Todd Downing made Lynch a focal point of the offense. He recorded 26 carries and an additional three catches on the day, for 111 all-purpose yards and a rushing touchdown. It was Lynch’s highest production both in terms of touches and yardage for the season. Jalen Richard also had a receiving touchdown out of the backfield; DeAndre Washington would’ve had a long gain, possibly even for a touchdown, had Cordarrelle Patterson stuck his block on the outside.
The running backs are going to be needed in earnest this week to ease the pressure on the outside receivers. Going to Lynch at least 20 times will be necessary to control the clock and to remain on schedule. Fortunately, the Giants are the 31st ranked run defense in the NFL (131.7 yards given up per game), so the Raiders must attack this weakness.
The Raiders have been conserving Lynch in large part to keep him fresh for the playoffs. As it stands, every game from here on out is as important as a playoff game. A small slip up here or there and the Raiders will be watching the playoffs from the couch and not the field.
Use The Tight Ends
Through training camp, the Raiders showed off plenty of two-tight end formations. Sunday’s game will be a perfect time to use them. For all the documented struggles the Raiders have had against tight ends, the Giants may even be worse in that aspect this season. New York has given up, on average, 5.6 catches for over 69 yards and almost one touchdown per game to opposing tight ends. Giants coach Ben McAdoo even claimed earlier this week that “A lot of times, the tight end may not be at the top of the list” of players to shut down on an opposing offense. Going in with that attitude this week could spell disaster for the Giants, given the Raiders have three tight ends who should be featured heavily in Sunday’s gameplan. Jared Cook can also split out wide to create some mismatches on the outside against smaller corners or to even potentially isolate linebackers on deep routes in man coverage.
Given Crabtree’s absence, Cook very well could be the #1 red zone threat for Carr come Sunday.
A lot has gone wrong for the Raiders this season, but it’s time to stop the blame, and instead, use adversity as a means to adapt and succeed. Problems are just solutions in work clothes, and if the Raiders still want to be working in January, they need to get on a roll starting this Sunday.