Which members of the Las Vegas Raiders’ offense will be the most vital in the wild card round tomorrow?
The Raiders are going to be in for one of the biggest games they’ve had in almost two decades. They will be facing the Cincinnati Bengals in their territory to open the NFL playoffs on Saturday. Las Vegas will be the underdog in this matchup, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance, especially with all the adversity the team has dealt with this season. If these three Raiders can show up on offense, their chances will certainly receive a big boost.
QB Derek Carr
It’s been a long time coming as Derek Career will be making his first playoff start in his career. Carr’s numbers weren’t pretty in the team’s four-game win streak to close out the season. He has only averaged 219.5 passing yards during that span along with a 5-4 TD/INT ratio. What has been important, though, is that Carr has been making the right plays when they matter most. Yes, Daniel Carlson deserves a lot of credit for making the game-winning kicks, but someone’s also got to get them in range.
Besides playing against a hot Bengals team, Carr will have to deal with another obstacle, the cold. Carr is known for struggling in cold weather games with a 0-5 record in games below 37 degrees at kickoff. Cincinnati is expected to be around 32 degrees with a slight chance of snow around game time. Last week was practically a playoff game where Carr did enough to win. Now he needs to put on a better performance to prove that he’s a franchise quarterback for Las Vegas.
RB Josh JacobsÂ
Don’t look now, but Josh Jacobs has looked more like his rookie self lately. In the final three games of the season, Jacobs averaged 4.7 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns. He’s made a lot of improvement in finding space and creating yards after contact. With the game facing cold weather on Saturday, Jacobs will be a key in getting the offense going. Injuries have held Jacobs back throughout his career, but when healthy, he can provide a spark that can take some weight off of the passing game. The Bengals defense will be up to the challenge as they have allowed the fifth-least rushing yards per game. The offensive line will have to chip in as well and give Jacobs room to work with.
TE Darren Waller
Darren Waller finally made his return last week after missing five games. He only caught two of his nine targets for 22 yards, but it’s not too worrisome given all the time he has missed. Waller’s production will still be vital this week nonetheless. Hunter Renfrow has been above exceptional, filling in as the team’s top receiver in Waller’s absence.
The Bengals’ defense could underestimate Waller and still focus on Renfrow. That wouldn’t be wise as Waller was still getting key targets against the Chargers. He was open for what would’ve been a game-winning touchdown in overtime, but Carr overthrew the pass. The Bengals’ defense also allows the eighth-most passing yards per game, which makes this feel possible.
*Top Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images