Last Thursday’s loss to the Baker Mayfield-led Los Angeles Rams perfectly sums up the Las Vegas Raiders’ 2022 campaign. While the remaining hope is fleeting, the Raiders still have some favorable matchups on the way, starting with New England. Bill Belichick will try to put the final nail in the coffin of former colleague Josh McDaniels’ team. However, he will have to go through these three defensive X-factors to do so.
Raiders’ X-Factor No. 1 – Chandler Jones, DE
After plenty of doubt surrounding Jones’ contract in relation to his play, a much-needed spark has arrived. Over the past three games, Chandler Jones has tallied four sacks, seven QB hits, and two fumble recoveries. This boost to the Raiders’ defensive line is monumental in creating opportunities for others. In 2022, the Patriots will have allowed a whopping 45 sacks to opponents. The Silver and Black front seven will have plenty of opportunities to rush the quarterback and force errant throws from Mac Jones. If Chandler Jones and Co. can pair that with bottling up the run, the team could be in business come Sunday.
Raiders’ X-Factor No. 2 – Denzel Perryman
Rhamondre Stevenson comes to town this week, and the Raiders will need their best run-stoppers on high alert. This starts with Denzel Perryman in the middle. Perryman has been one of the team’s best defenders against the run and now gets a Patriots squad averaging 104 rush yards per game. With Stevenson coming off of an ankle injury, it could be a prime opportunity. The Patriots, however, are crafty with their running back usage. For instance, Stevenson has received five or more targets in seven out of the last eight games. With Perryman especially active in the short game, his presence cannot be overstated. Perryman should see another high-volume game, adding to his 70 combined tackles in 2022.
Raiders’ X-Factor No. 3 – Nate Hobbs
The inexperienced cornerback room is coming off of perhaps their worst performance of the year, putting a lot on the shoulders of Nate Hobbs. This, combined with Rock Ya-Sin missing last week’s game and multiple practices, highlights the Raiders’ lack of depth at the position.
Nate Hobbs. ðŸ¤¯ pic.twitter.com/iZerOV96Oi
— Raiders Beat (@RaidersBeat) October 4, 2022
Undoubtedly, Hobbs will be tasked with a lot if Ya-Sin is unable to make the trip. The defensive line should be able to get some penetration, making the secondary’s job a bit easier. However, the Raiders cannot allow a repeat of Thursday’s debacle against Mayfield. Look for Hobbs to be all over the field, as he has seemed to be the only reliable member of the secondary in Ya-Sin’s absence.
*Top Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images