A classic AFL matchup between the Bills and Raiders is set to take place on Sunday, with this being the first encounter between the two in Las Vegas. The Raiders have two wins, beating the Saints and Panthers, but just last week they lost to the Pats.
The Raiders lead the all-time series 21-20. Despite the Raiders bad week against the Patriots, there is some level of competitive interest in this one.
With that, here are three keys to the game for both the Raiders (2-1) and Bills (3-0) heading into Week 4:
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
1. Punch the Bills in the “mouth” with Jacobs
It’s not a secret that the Bills run defense is lackluster. While they are ranked eighth in the NFL so far this season, stats aren’t everything. The Bills have given up big chunk yards on critical plays, allowing defenses to extend drives. That’s why Buffalo is still allowing a disappointing 4.6 yards per carry. Darrell Henderson pulled this off several times against the Billslast week, and Henderson, while young and talented, is no Josh Jacobs.
Jacobs stormed onto the scene last season, and has quickly emerged as one of the premier running backs in the National Football League. In an offense, and franchise, that has struggled over the years with finding it’s footing in the run game, Jacobs has been a breath of fresh air and helped open up this offense.
The Raiders need to stick with Jacobs, and make this defense commit and respect the run. Jacobs is explosive enough to grab those big yards, and then, quarterback Derek Carr can utilize his under appreciated efficiency, and hit his receivers to keep this Bills defense on the field and on their toes.
2. Don’t get cute until the second half
The Bills have regressed defensively as a whole. Last year, they were ranked in the top-five and had been for a few seasons under head coach Sean McDermott. This year, the Bills have the 21st ranked defense. It’s still early, and there is plenty of time to clean up their act, but, seeing what we’ve seen from the Bills over the first three games of the season, there’s no need to show off in the first half.
Keep the offense simple. Stretch out drives with the run game, gas the defense, and keep passing routes simplistic. Play tight defensively, keep the game close, and head to the locker room confident. Save Jon Gruden’s beloved “Banana” routes for the second half. The Rams, while not necessarily doing it intentionally, really opened up their offense in the third and fourth quarters, and looked like “The Greatest Show on Turf.”
The Raiders have the capable talent of pulling it off. Until the Bills defense proves otherwise, every team playing Buffalo going forward should game plan with that in mind. It almost worked for the Rams, and this style of defense that the Bills play will not save them from the better and more consistent offense of the NFL.
3. Chase Josh Allen backward and close down his escape lanes
There is not a player on this Raiders defense that could lace up Aaron Donald’s cleats, but, Donald, like several others less talented, showed once again that Josh Allen has a habit of tripping over himself if forced to scramble backwards.
Allen made drives harder than they had to be, holding onto the ball longer than he needed to, and not throwing it away in Week 3. As great as Allen is progressing, this is his Achilles heel. The most important step to this is controlling the edge of the field, leaving little room to escape.
Gruden, as archaic as he is with some of his play-calling and schemes, has the smarts to have his defensive coordinator and team prepared for everything that Allen has to throw their way.