This weekend’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars was supposed to be the Raiders’ chance to regroup after a crushing defeat in New Orleansâ€”an opportunity to recover some of the momentum that appeared to have been generated by the win over Houston.
Instead, it ended in an even more disappointing loss. Once again, they blew a big lead and slumped to defeat, 27-20, against arguably the worst team in the NFL. At the start of the season, NFL bettors checking out the markets at BestOdds.com would have seen the Raiders up there among the favorites. Now, with a 2-6 record, the playoffs look to be off the table altogether. So where do they go from here?
Stop blowing leads
The playoffs may be gone, but there is still a chance to end the season with some momentum and lay the groundwork for next year. And if that is to happen, then the key thing they need to fix is their damaging habit of blowing big leads. Throughout the entire history of the franchise, there have only been eight occasions when the Raiders have blown leads of over 17 points. Three of those eight have happened this season.
Blowing a 17-0 lead to the Jaguars and a 20-0 margin over Arizona were bad enough, but they also gave up a 17-0 lead against the Kansas City Chiefs at a point in the season when victory over such a strong team might have given them a much-needed confidence boost. Whether it is fatigue in the final quarter, an inability to shut down opposing teams, or just a psychological block, it has to change.
Have the offense play an entire game
The other side of the blown-leads issue is the fact that the Raiders’ offense has at times been impressive. But it has invariably followed a good half with a bad half. Against the Jags, for example, they averaged a solid 7.84 yards per play in the first half and 2.8 in the second. Davante Adams had nine receptions in the first, but one in the second. Inconsistency is the hallmark of a team that is still learning to play together while being low on confidence, but it is killing their winning chances.Â
Have the defense show up at all
If criticism of the Las Vegas offense has been relatively muted, it is because the defense has been worse. Against Jacksonville, Trevor Lawrence was allowed to run the show with the help of Travis Etienne. The Raiders couldn’t stop the run, and they couldn’t get to the quarterback, recording zero sacks once again. Not surprisingly, they are last on the sack table with nine. They also allow a league-worst 70.5% pass completion when defending the pass and rank 28th for yards conceded per pass.
This defensive weakness will be harder to resolve over the next few weeks, given that Divine Deablo is likely to be out for some time. The linebacker picked up an injury on the second defensive snap of the game, and without him, the defense is even less effective. Deablo started the game as the sixth-most prolific tackler in the NFL, and the Raiders now need to find a way to cope without him.
Josh McDaniels is in trouble
To an extent, Josh McDaniels has been shielded by the coaching calamities at the Broncos and also by the steadfast support from team owner Mark Davis, who said that McDaniels would be the head coach for many years. That remains to be seen, but what we do know is that he inherited a solid playoff team, had the benefit of big investments in players (most notably Davante Adams), and has produced a significantly inferior product. And since game management is largely down to the coach, McDaniels has to take his share of the blame for the Raiders’ regular collapses.
There have been moments this season, indeed entire halves, that suggested the Raiders were close to discovering something. Derek Carr is a solid quarterback. Davante Adams is an elite receiver. On paper, this roster is not a 2â€“6 group. There have been a lot of near-misses.
And yet, near misses can shape reality if you have enough of them, sapping confidence to the point where you end up conceding big leads against a team as poor as the Jaguars. When teams get into that state, it usually requires some sort of periodâ€”a new coach, a new quarterback, the season endingâ€”to reset. With neither of the first two options an option at the moment, the end of the regular season can’t come soon enough.
*Top Photo: Rick Scuteri/Associated Press