By now, fans across the National Football League have gotten used to the exceptional middle linebacker play on the Las Vegas Raiders’ defense – when’s the last time that’s been a thing, Raider Nation? After all, among all players at his position, first-year Raider Robert Spillane is tied for most interceptions (3), has the sixth-lowest passer rating allowed (66.4), seventh-most pressures (13) and 13th-most stops (35). After having zero off-ball linebackers make the Pro Bowl from 1990-2020, the Silver and Black may have two in a three-year span.
Again; when’s the last time that’s been a thing, Raider Nation?
Last week, against the New York Jets, Spillane was the third-highest graded [off-ball] linebacker via Pro Football Focus (90.8). The 27-year-old was all over the field in Week 10, but no moment was more memorable than his game-ending interception. For his efforts, he was crowned the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
One week later, against the high-powered Dolphins’ offense, Spillane once again showed out.
With an 83.0 overall grade, Spillane was the 10th-highest graded player at his position. Only four linebackers recorded more tackles than the Raiders’ interior linebacker, (12), and only two totaled more stops (6).
Spillane once again got his hands on the football in a crucial moment, but unlike Week 10, he couldn’t haul it in. Still, his instincts in coverage speak for themselves.
LB Robert Spillane nearly comes up with another INT. Looks like C2 with CBs sinking, Spillane opens up to passing strength, reads eyes of QB and breaks on the in breaking route to top.#RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/gRDYjztcRx
— Ryan Holmes (@Rholm22) November 20, 2023
For obvious reasons, acquiring Davante Adams was the highlight of now-former Raiders’ general manager Dave Ziegler‘s tenure in Las Vegas. However, landing Robert Spillane on a two-year, $7 million deal quietly appears to be a close second.
The Raiders need Robert Spillane at his best as they travel to Kansas City
Spillane has out-performed his contract in every way imaginable. He came in as a touted run stuffer and only exceeded expectations in that regard. In coverage, his tape prior to this season was concerning, but you’d never know it watching him this year. He leads the team in tackles (94) and interceptions (3) in addition to having the second-most sacks (2.5). What more could the Raiders ask of him; truly.
Yet, in the same breath, Las Vegas needs Spillane to once again step up in Week 12.
If the Silver and Black want to make the postseason, 10 wins is likely what it’s going to take. Now 5-6, this means the team can afford just one loss before falling to a record under 10-7. Unfortunately, the Raiders face their rivals from Kansas City twice before the season’s end.
A recent history to forget
Since the conclusion of the 2014 NFL season, the Chiefs have dropped a mere 2 games to their Sin City foes. They’ve won the last five straight, sweeping Las Vegas clean in both ’21 and ’22.
Fortunately, the Raiders’ defense is as good as it’s been in a long while, and Kansas City’s offense is as bad as we’ve seen it in the Patrick Mahomes-era. With 2,650 yards through the air, the Chiefs barely cracked the top-10 in this category with nine teams ranked above them. For comparison, Derek Carr – a familiar face to Raider Nation – and his Saints sit one behind the Chiefs at 11.
For the Raiders, it took 11 weeks for a quarterback to throw for 300+ passing yards against their defense. Tua Tagovailoa’s 325 yards was just enough to get the job done; and even still, Las Vegas’ defense was able to force three turnovers.
These are all good things, Raider Nation.
If the Silver and Black fail to walk away with a win, they’ll get another chance later on. In Week 16, these two clubs will once again face off, this time at the friendly confines of Arrowhead Stadium. It’s likely the Raiders must win at least one of these contests to punch their ticket into the postseason.
*Top photo: Candice Ward/Getty Images