The Las Vegas Raiders are going to have to right the ship if they want to make a playoff run. Right now, the ship is upside down, backward, underwater, and sinking. Even so, the Silver and Black are still only a game out of first place in the AFC West.
In the wild card standings, they’re sitting in eighth, only a half-game back from being right back in a spot. But who’s sitting directly behind them? The Cincinnati Bengals.
Last week, it was concerning to admit that the Raiders had a must-win in early November. Yet, that’s what it was. I’d say they are back in that same position here in Week 11.
Two teams that sat atop the AFC only three weeks ago have started to slide. Both lost two straight, including a game in New York that they definitely shouldn’t have. The similarities don’t stop there. These teams are as evenly matched as they possibly could be. According to ESPN, the Raiders are averaging 399 yards per game on offense. Furthermore, the Bengals are averaging 381.1 while allowing about 376.7 yards per game. The Silver and Black are averaging 372.2 yards per game.
Two weeks ago, this game looked like it could be a battle for the top of the AFC. Now, it looks like a matchup just to stay relevant in 2021. The Raiders must win this game. And here are the three keys to how they can pull it off.
Get Darren Waller The Ball
It’s hard to pin down whose fault it has been that the best player on offense hasn’t gotten the ball. While Derek Carr has been dealing, he shoulders some of the blame. So does Greg Olson. So does Darren Waller. It’s time for him and Carr to get it going again. Following an absurd 19 targets and ten catches in Week 1, he has only surpassed five catches once. And that was in the loss to the Giants. He hasn’t had a touchdown since Week 4 against the Chargers. And with a struggling offense, both in and out of the red zone, they have to feed Waller. If DC and Wall Street can get back to their old ways, I think that it’s a step in the right direction. Not only for this week but for the rest of the season.
Let DC Cook
To say that the running game has not been productive would be an understatement. A staple of former head coach Jon Gruden’s offense, the Raiders currently sit at 28th in yards per game on the ground, according to ESPN. And although it continues to be what the Bisaccia Mafia wants to do, it’s time to throw the ball to open up the run. The Chiefs have a similar approach to their game, as their running game has also struggled, and that is something the Raiders can steal. According to ESPN, Carr is on pace for 5338 passing yards. And although he lost his number one target only a couple of weeks ago, there are still plenty of weapons in this offense. They need to come out similarly to how they did in the second half against the Chiefs. Coming out guns-a-blazing will be huge for the Raiders’ offense.
Keep Ja’Marr Chase In Check
The preseason questions are out the door for the Bengals’ 2021 first-round pick. According to ESPN, he is on pace for 83 catches, 1577 yards, and 13 touchdowns. He is one of the best wide receivers in football. There is no doubt about that. And although Gus Bradley’s group is vastly improved from years past, there are still question marks. Johnathan Abram has, again, struggled in coverage. Furthermore, the cornerback group is diminished due to injuries. But, Trevon Moehrig has been a huge bright spot in the secondary, and Brandon Facyson has shown out since joining the squad, as well. Casey Hayward has been as close to a shut-down corner as you can be. The secondary can stop stud wide receivers. They are going to have to show out this week to secure a huge win.
The Raiders are going to have to win this game to stay in the playoff picture. And as the front office, management, and the players have said, the belief is that the team should be playoff-bound. A win over a good team in the AFC at home would go a long way towards that goal. It would also serve well for a team that appears to be lacking confidence. Correcting that sinking ship will be pivotal for a late-season push. These three keys will assist in that effort. Because for Bisaccia, Carr, Mayock, and many other pieces of this Raiders team, it’s do or die.
*Top Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports