This week, for just the first time since 2016 and just the second time in the past 20 years, the Las Vegas Raiders find themselves preparing for a playoff game. The Cincinnati Bengals are a good team, and one with a formidable defense. Here are three things the Raiders must do on offense if they want to advance on Saturday.
No. 1 Establish the Run
Last week, Josh Jacobs ran for 132 yards. He did that on 26 carries, good enough for 5.1 yards per carry. He seemed to get better as the game progressed, and the Raiders really relied on him to close out the game.
The Bengals have allowed the fifth-least rushing yards this year, so this will be a tough task. However, the Raiders’ offense works best when Jacobs is getting fed the ball, so it’s imperative he gets touches to begin the game. If the Raiders can get their run game going early, it opens up the play-action pass and the entire offense as a whole.
No. 2 Target Darren Waller
Speaking of play-action, one benefit that comes along with that is Darren Waller. Waller has been the recipient of countless play-action passes from Derek Carr, and many of those have been for big gains.
The Bengals are a big-play team. The best way to counter that on the offensive side of the ball is to match that. Fortunately for the Raiders, Waller is a big-play machine.
Even if it’s just as a decoy, Waller must get some targets early. If he starts the game out with some early catches, the defense will be forced to pay attention to him throughout the game. Against the Chargers, just the presence of Waller on the field helped the rest of the receiving core get open, and gave the offense a ton of space overall. If he can get some more targets against Cincinnati, the Raiders are in business.
No. 3 Utilize Marcus Mariota Correctly
Ever since Greg Olson and Carr took control of the offense with Jon Gruden’s departure, Marcus Mariota has seen the field a lot more often.
With him getting more opportunities, it’s possible that the Raiders have started to overuse him. That’s not to say he shouldn’t touch the ball, because he definitely should. What should change, however, is the way he’s being utilized.
Every time Mariota comes in, everyone in the stadium knows he’s running a read-option. If the Raiders opened up some more opportunities with Mariota, they would be able to catch the Bengals off guard. For example, if Mariota came in and ran a play-action pass out of the read option, nobody would see it coming. Even so, anything else besides the read-option would be able to catch the defense by surprise.
There’s no doubt that this Saturday‘s game is going to be a tough one. Still, after everything the Raiders have been through this year, they’re more than ecstatic to find themselves in the playoffs. If the Raiders can do these three things, they’ll be able to keep this dream season alive for one more week.
*Top Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images