The Las Vegas Raiders are, once again, in a pivotal spot. Even three weeks ago, this game against Washington seemed to be the easiest remaining on the schedule. And although that still holds true, the WFT should not be taken lightly.
Washington is currently in the midst of a three-game winning streak. They handled Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 10 points, followed by a win in Carolina. They then beat the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, bringing them within a game of .500. Although they aren’t a flashy team, Taylor Heinicke and company are starting to find ways to win games.
On the flip side, the Raiders will look to continue their streaky ways. Following an impressive win in Jerry’s World on Thanksgiving, the Raiders seem to have a bit of their swagger back. The fight, which appeared to be lost after weeks of turmoil in the building, appeared to be resurrected. Leading into the final weeks of the season, the Raiders are going to have to use that momentum. That is, if they want to be playing football deep into January. The game this week is one that is very winnable if the Silver and Black can execute in these three areas.
An aggressive Carr is a good Carr
Between the Bengals game and the Cowboys game, the offense seemed to change dramatically. And what changed was obvious. An aggressive Derek Carr led the way, slinging the rock for almost 400 yards. As compared to the game prior, where DC threw for a mere 215 yards, according to ESPN. He certainly did not pass the eye test against Cincinnati. That seemed to change last week.
Between pushing the ball downfield, running for first downs, and taunting cornerbacks with his play, DC showed out. Furthermore, Washington’s defense allows an average of 266.6 yards per game through the air. Also, with the slow-to-get-going running game, Carr will need to air it out again. To start another winning streak in a vital part of the schedule, Carr and company are going to need to put together another strong air attack.
Stop the run!
That has been the Achilles heel of the Raiders all season long. However, it’ll be important to get it right this week. According to ESPN, WFT has the ninth-ranked rushing attack per game in football, while the Raiders have the 25th ranked rush defense. Antonio Gibson, the bell cow for WFT, has put together an impressive season, on pace for 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns.
With a passing attack that is subpar, Washington will look to lean on the run. Gus Bradley and Co. need to find a way to stop the Washington rushing attack from having a field day. Bradley’s group held their own against Ezekiel Elliot and the Cowboys’ offense, only allowing 64 yards rushing. They are going to have to, again, figure out a way to hold that number below 100 yards if they want to win this game.
Do not overlook WFT
A month ago, the Raiders were sitting on top of the football world. At 5-2, they are looking to continue their push for a playoff game to be hosted in Allegiant Stadium. However, Washington was sitting at 2-5, and the mock drafts were already flying. Fast forward, and each team is still alive. Although their records are tight, I believe the Raiders are the better team. This adds to the dread of the game. Last week, the Raiders played a huge and emotional game in Dallas on Thanksgiving. After Washington, they look for revenge in Kansas City. Sunday’s game looks to me like a trap game. The Raiders are in no position to step into that trap. The AFC West, and really the whole AFC, is still in play for the Silver and Black. Dropping this game could be a decisive blow.
The Raiders and Washington have all sorts of history. Most notably,Â the Raiders will face their former head coach, Jack Del Rio. Who can forget the 2017 Sunday Night Football game that quickly derailed what looked to be a promising season? The Raiders have a chance to continue correcting the path of their ship. Continuing to build their confidence going into the final stretch will be the determining factor for this season. This game will be one they have to take, if they plan on playing in late January, or even thereafter.
*Top Photo: Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun