It’s Week 10 and the Las Vegas Raiders have their most important game in front of them. At 5-4, coming off two straight home wins, the Kansas City Chiefs stroll into Vegas for a duel under the lights this Sunday night. After an emotion-filled Week 9 ended in a disappointing loss to the New York Giants, the Silver and Black must rebound with the spotlight shining bright on Derek Carr and this offense.
Here are the top three offensive players to watch in this must-win affair…
The new guy on campus,Â DJaxÂ joins a Raiders squad in desperate need of his speed and experience. With over 400 yards of offense in New York, including 117 yards on the ground, this Greg Olson-led offense had no problem moving the ball in their first game post-Ruggs.
But they fizzled out when they got inside the 20 and only managed a meager 16 points (19 if Carlson makes his high school-level attempt). That won’t do against the Chiefs, even if Mahomes isn’t his normal self right now. The Raiders need to limit their turnovers first and foremost, and Olson needs to get more creative when they get into the red zone (i.e. run the rock or set up more screens to playmakers). Jackson’s presence will help loosen up the box and keep the defense honest, something Ruggs did every time he was on the field.Â
Yes, taking the top off the defense isn’t as vital when you’re in the red zone. But your play-calling and options become more dynamic when more speed is on the field, plain and simple.Â
Prediction: Jackson has at least one 40 yard-plus reception in his Raiders debut, and Carr finds more success pushing the ball down the field in this sure-to-be shootout.
From MVP candidate to calls for Marcus Mariota to take over. So is the life of Derek Carr. Raider Nation (and the media) change their opinion on ‘4‘ more than Pete Davidson changes women in his life.Â
Here’s a crazy idea though: missing his favorite vertical threat, somebody who had become his friend and brother, had adverse effects on Carr’s performance. Factor in a talented and well coached defense (Patrick Graham should really be the head coach for the G-Men), and it’s understandable that DC took a step back. Are those excuses? Sure. But everybody is human, and you’re kidding yourself if you think this endless drama doesn’t take a toll on someone’s psyche.Â Â
The good news is the Raiders are home for their next two games, and have added a weapon in Jackson. The offensive line also continues to improve. And Carr notoriously is somebody who rebounds well after a poor game.Â
That’s crucial, because he must bounce back for the Raiders to win. If he doesn’t, I’ll have to delete my Twitter; the anti-Carr clan will be out in force.Â
Edwards earned the ire of Raider Nation this week for his output (or lack thereof) against the Giants. Stepping into a larger role, the second-year wideout didn’t catch any of his four targets, even dropping a possible touchdown in the first quarter. For a guy with a knack for chunk plays, especially late in games, a no-show act was wildly disappointing.
Much like Carr, Edwards was realistically not in the right mindset for football. Ruggs was arguably his closest friend on the team: a member of the same draft class, part of a tandem Las Vegas hoped would exceed for years to come.Â Now he’s that Will Smith meme,Â seemingly the only impact player left from last year’s rookie group (no offense, John Simpson).Â
Barring an Odell Beckham acquisition, Edwards is the starting X receiver going forward. Nobody is taking that from him. Will he ever fully move on from this Ruggs’ incident? Probably not. That’s hard to do when your friend now faces 46 years in prison. But hopefully, a week/game removed from it all will help him clear his mind some.Â
If he and Carr can find a rhythm, the Raiders may have one solution to their red zone woes.Â
It’s a huge week for this Raiders team. Sitting at 5-3, they’re firmly in the postseason race at the halfway point. That’s a miracle considering the hurricane of problems they’ve had to endure so far. Their defense has been stellar this season. If they get pressure in Mahomes’ face and keep Kelce/Hill in front of them, they’ll be in great shape.Â
The key to beating these Chiefs will fall in the hands of Carr and this offense (orÂ hisÂ offense, if we’re being honest). 403 yards again would be terrific; one out of six inside the 20 with a missed chip-shot field goal would be a repeat nightmare. So would another pick-six.Â
Eliminate the mistakes. Capitalize on the chancesÂ Kansas CityÂ gives you. And get these three guys mentioned above rolling. If all that happens, the Raiders will trounce into Week 11 at a cushy 6-3. Raider Nation could then take a breath.
*Top Photo: Heidi Fang Las Vegas Review-Journal