Despite being favorites this week, how much faith should we put in the Las Vegas Raiders to win?
The Raiders have played excellent football to start the season. Despite injuries and their level of competition, they are 2-0 and look to make it 3-0 tomorrow against the Miami Dolphins. They are popular favorites after what feels like a long time. The problem, however, is that this game has the signs of an upset. Here, there will be reasons explained for and against the possibility of a trap.
We’ve seen this happen before…
We’ve seen the Raiders have good starts before. They have started 2-0 in three of the last five seasons, including this one. In the other two years (2017 and 2020), the Raiders finished 6-10 and 8-8, respectively. In the last two years, the Raiders looked competitive by midseason, only to collapse both years. Both meltdowns were triggered by blowout losses to below-average teams.
The Dolphins came into 2021 with playoff hopes but have looked shaky to start the season. With the Raiders surpassing almost all of our expectations in their first two games, it’s easy to see where things can go wrong. This team could easily let their guard down and pay the price for it. They cannot forget that the Dolphins still have a talented defense that can force turnovers. They have forced four turnovers already. The Dolphins defensive player to look out for is Xavien Howard, who led the league in interceptions last year with 10. Derek Carr has played at a high level so far despite a subpar running game and offensive line. Do we expect that to last?
The Raiders also shouldn’t assume that things will be easier without Tua Tagovailoa. Dolphins backup, Jacoby Brissett has 32 starts under his belt and his passer rating isn’t far off from Tagovailoa’s. Brissett will still have quality receivers to get the offense going; Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, and Will Fuller. Myles Gaskin also had a career game against Vegas last year, totaling over 100 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns.
This Raiders team is different
Yes, we have been disappointed plenty of times by the Raiders in these scenarios, but there is a reason for hope. The energy that the Raiders have displayed shows that they are aware of their previous failures. With Gus Bradley also being someone that has received praise from plenty of players, it looks like their motivation has completely changed compared to the Paul Guenther days. The fact that both the offense and defense have helped each other out so far is remarkable.
Carr has been lights out so far this season. Despite all the pressure that he has dealt with, he has 817 passing yards. The Dolphins’ secondary is elite, but that won’t matter so much if Carr can share the ball with everyone. If Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards can keep stepping up this season, that will give even more for the Miami defense to cover, which will only give space to Darren Waller. The Dolphins allowed over 100 rushing yards last week as well. That is something the Raiders can take advantage of after struggling in the running game so far.
Miami has had a very concerning offense so far. They are ranked 31st in yards per game and 32nd in points per game. Much of that’s attributed to their poor offensive line. Their inability to protect the quarterback is a big reason why Tagovailoa is not playing. Before his injury, Tagovailoa was sacked four times and hit five times. Brissett also took four sacks despite only playing three full quarters. With how well Maxx Crosby and company have looked in the pass rush, that can be a recipe for a blowout in favor of Las Vegas.
*Top Photo: AP Photo/Keith Srakocic