The Las Vegas Raiders head back to the East Coast for the third time in the 2020 season to face the 3-7 Atlanta Falcons.
Do not let the Falcons’ 2020 record fool you, in the words of Jon Gruden, “This is the best 3-7 team I have ever seen.” Moving on from Dan Quinn was the best move the Falcons could have made after an abysmal 0-5 start. They have won three of their last five, and have been competitive in every game, outside of the buzzsaw they ran into last week when they played the New Orleans Saints.
Interim head coach Raheem Morris has this Falcons team working better than their record portrays, especially on offense. So, how can Gruden, and more importantly, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, get the Raiders back on track?
The Raiders must wreak havoc up front
Guenther’s front seven has been a topic of discussion amongst Raider Nation since his arrival in 2018, as his scheme was known to get to the quarterback consistently. That has not been the case, but this is a week that the narrative can be turned around in favor of these two coaches.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is starting to age, his mobility has never been his forte, and their offensive line certainly isn’t a strength either. The Saints defense got to the 2016 MVP eight times last week. The Silver and Black have 11 sacks on the season.
Guenther has started opening up his playbook a bit to show more types of blitzes and coverages. This needs to continue his unit must keep progressing. The return of Clelin Ferrell this week is a cause for optimism as well.
DB’s must lock down Jones and Ridley
It is no secret that the Falcons’ passing game is their bread and butter. Ranking second in the NFL, Atlanta trails only Kansas City in passing offense. The Raiders passing defense ranks 28th and is giving up an average of 273.6 yards per game through the air.
The young cornerbacks, as well as a polarizing safety Johnathan Abram, need to display discipline this week if they expect to be successful against this offensive powerhouse. Trayvon Mullen needs to continue showing he’s a real CB1. Also, Damon Arnette is still a work in progress, but he needs to prove this week why he was drafted 19th overall. One passing game juggernaut after another, the secondary needs to not only show up but show out.
Just Pass Baby!
While Atlanta can throw the ball, they certainly can’t stop anybody from throwing the pigskin. Carr’s primed for yet another huge game, as Atlanta gives up an average of 300 yards per game through the air. ‘4’ has shown that he can play at an elite level.
The weapons surrounding him and the offensive line should absolutely feast this week in Atlanta. The last time these two teams played, Carr threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns. Another performance like this would not surprise anybody in Raider Nation, and something similar should be expected this week in Atlanta.
A shootout in Atlanta is not out of the question and is most likely expected. Two teams with struggling passing defenses and strong passing offenses have the making of a Big 12-like game, and the Raiders need to be on the positive side. The playoffs loom on the horizon. And for the Raiders to reach their lofty goals, adding yet another road victory will be crucial.
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*Top Photo: L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal