It’s safe to say this year’s Las Vegas Raiders’ defense is much better than what we’ve seen in the past. That may not be saying much, but even with some shortcomings, the unit has been impressive. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that this defense is one of, if not the main reason, the Raiders find themselves in the playoffs. Nevertheless, here are three Raiders’ defenders who must play well if Las Vegas wants to advance.
No. 1 Yannick Ngakoue
The Bengals’ offensive line is suspect at best. The Bengals have allowed the most sacks of any team this year and have struggled with opposing pass rushers throughout the year.
Joe Burrow and his receiving corps have been exceptional this year, but only when he’s had time to throw the ball. There’s no doubt that Maxx Crosby will command attention from the Bengals’ offensive line. All that attention, though, could offer some opportunities for Ngakoue. He’ll need to have a big game to help keep Cincinnati’s passing attack contained.
No. 2 Brandon Facyson
Facyson has had somewhat of an off-and-on season. There have been times when his penalties have really hurt the Raiders. One of those cases came on a Chargers touchdown drive last week, in which he was beaten by Mike Williams and had to commit a penalty down the field to avoid giving up a big catch. That play was on third down, and he’s had some similar drive-extending penalties this year.
Regardless, it would be unfair to dismiss how Brandon has helped this team. After being brought in by Gus Bradley early this year, Facyson has done more than enough to earn his respect. He’s held his own against receivers for the most part throughout the year.
He’ll be forced to hold his own against a talented Bengals’ receiving core. The unit features Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins, among others. Facyson is going to be tasked with guarding at least one of them throughout the game, and the Raiders will need him to be successful.
No. 3 KJ Wright
KJ Wright has gone somewhat unnoticed this year, but he’s been one of the most crucial parts of this defense. The last time these two teams played each other, Joe Mixon ran for over 100 yards. The Bengals’ passing attack took a backseat to their run game, and it allowed them to control the clock and the game. Wright has been excellent in both pass and run defense, but his run defense will be needed most by Las Vegas this week.
There’s no easy way to stop this dominant Bengals’ offense, especially with the hot streak they’ve been on. Still, the Raiders were able to contain them and keep the game close in their matchup earlier this season. If these three players can step up this week, this should be a great game.
*Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal