Is Rich Bisaccia the Long-Term Coach for the Raiders?

 

Las Vegas Raiders, interim coach, Rich Bisaccia
Las Vegas Raiders, interim head coach, Rich Bisaccia and former coach Jon Gruden

1. Rich Bisaccia has some Raider fans living in the moment.

At last, a Daniel Carlson kick sealed a playoff berth for the Rich Bisaccia-led Raiders, but is it enough? They weren’t perfect, but they functioned as a complete NFL team. Bisaccia should get credit for that. But, with that being said, fans of the Silver and Black can’t become prisoners of the moment. Maybe Bisaccia is the next John Harbaugh, a veteran special teams coach who is a great leader of men. But with all the coaching vacancies going on, why has no one inquired about him? Yes, the team is still in contention, but the rumor mill is 24/7, and there is not one about him becoming a head coach for any other organization.

2. Derek Carr has been clutch but can Rich Bisaccia be trusted with determining who the offensive coordinator next season should be?

When the situation was bleak, Derek Carr delivered during each of the four consecutive victories to end the season. But, during these games, the offense was carried to the finish line by its special teams and defense. In the redzone, the Raiders ranked in the bottom third of efficiency with the Jaguars and Lions. Some may say that is complementary football, but the offense must do more to carry their weight moving forward. It remains to be seen whether or not the former special team coach would part ways with current offensive coordinator Greg Olson or go in a different and more explosive direction.

3. Can Rich Bisaccia attract free agents to the Raiders?

Free agents are always a hit-or-miss proposition for any NFL team. Without a doubt, it’s going to cost you more to get someone to come to play for a team led by Coach Bisaccia. The owner can cut the check; the GM can talk to the agent. But then, the impact players in free agency will want to both get paid and win. Moreover, they will want to know their role on the team. Rich may have difficulty with specific utilization on certain players, considering he has been a special teams coach his whole career. Free agents want to play with a proven winner, and while Bisaccia has done admirably this season – it is not a big enough picture to determine whether he is a consistent or effective NFL head coach just yet.

4. The Raiders’ opponents in 2022 will be a daunting task for any coach, let alone a new one.

The NFL is unpredictable — look at the schedule for the 10-7 playoff-bound Las Vegas Raiders this year. They beat good teams yet lost to some of the worst teams in the NFL. In 2022 here is the list of head coaches the Raiders will face:

  • Andy Reid (2x)
  • Kliff Kingsbury
  • Kyle Shanahan
  • Mike Tomlin
  • Mike Vrabel
  • Sean McVay
  • Sean Payton

It is critical that the Raiders obtain a coach who can go head-to-head with the league’s best. The team plays hard for Bisaccia, but his passive game planning in critical situations is concerning.

4. Rich Bisaccia may still be collateral damage in the Raiders cleaning house.

When you look across the current NFL landscape, some tough decisions are being made. Some teams are opting to remove many critical parts of their front offices.

For example, the Chicago Bears fired head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. On the other hand, the Jacksonville Jaguars fired Urban Meyer but have committed to retaining general manager Trent Baalke. While Jon Gruden’s resignation was purely based on off-field issues for the Raiders, it remains to be seen what Mark Davis wants to see change with the rest of his staff.

Subsequently, people will undoubtedly raise eyebrows when you draft the following players in the first round:

  • Henry Ruggs III
  • Damon Arnette
  • Clelin Ferrell
  • Alex Leatherwood

For general manager Mike Mayock, Bisaccia and numerous other coaches, they may see their judgement day based on that premise alone.

5. In the end, the Raiders deserve better.

Much was made over the 10 year $100 million contract that Jon Gruden signed with the Raiders in 2018. Some loved it, and some hated it. At the end of the day, it ended in poor drafts, no playoffs, and disgrace to the Raider brand. The only positive that came out of it was that the team got a reprieve. They have young foundational pieces littered throughout the roster and just made the playoffs. Rich Bisaccia did an excellent job keeping the team focused on the task at hand. However, he is not the long-term answer. The Silver and Black need a proven head coach this offseason.

Final NFL Power Rankings

nfl power rankings
Chris Unger, Getty Images

These are the final NFL Power Rankings of the 2021 regular season. As we head into the playoffs, the season is officially over for over half the league. 14 teams still have some work to do to sort themselves through postseason football. But, the other 18 teams are all now locked in place until the first NFL Power Rankings of next season. Let’s see what the damage is.

32. New York Giants (4-13)

Last Week: 31

There were a lot of bad, pathetic losses across the NFL this week. But, I think the most pathetic loss belongs to the New York Giants. They were already treading the bottom of the NFL Power Rankings after a rough, drama filled finish to the 2021 season. But, after watching Jake Fromm take over for Mike Glennon and show the world how valuable Daniel Jones somehow is, I had no choice. John Mara, this is what you get for the taunting emphasis. Now, the whole NFL is teabagging your franchise. I feel absolutely no sympathy for you.

31. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-14)

Last week: 32

I don’t know how, but the Jaguars absolutely OWN the Colts in Duval. They’re now 7-0 against their division “rivals” at home since the Jags absolutely plastered the Colts 51-16 in Week 14 of the 2015 season. They’re also 4-1 in December and January since 2017. They’ve got the No. 1 overall pick in 2022. But, you could probably argue that’s an advantage for whomever gets the Jaguars’ head coaching job this offseason.

30. Carolina Panthers (5-12)

Last Week: 28

It sounds like Matt Rhule is sticking around in Carolina. Personally, I think that’s the right move. He had this team looking solid until the quarterback situation imploded. If he can’t figure something out next year we can talk seriously about moving on. Still, I can’t get that 24-point desolation by the Bucs out of my head. They looked like they quit.

29. New York Jets (4-13)

Last Week: 29

I’ll give the Jets some credit for keeping it close with Buffalo until the fourth quarter. But, the Jets just don’t have the firepower to keep up with an offense like that forever. I still feel like Robert Salah has put some foundational pieces together they can build on going forward. But, there’s still a lot of work to do.

28. Detroit Lions (3-13-1)

Last Week: 30

The Lions have something with Dan Campbell. I know the Packers had nothing left to play for and Jordan Love played the second half of the game. But, the Lions were beating Aaron Rodgers at halftime. They have a ton of work to do to get to a truly competitive level. But, I think Lions fans should feel like there’s a spark in this franchise for the first time in a while.

27. Washington Football Team (6-11)

Last Week: 27

Good job ending the season with a win over the worst team in football. How long is it going to be until people start wondering if Ron Rivera is the right coach for this team? I know they went to the playoffs last year. But, this year was a major disappointment. I’m not saying the conversation should be happening now. But, this team doesn’t appear to be on the path to being a contender any time soon.

26. Houston Texans (4-13)

Last Week: 26

I was all ready to give the Texans a huge boost in the final NFL Power Rankings. Unfortunately, they couldn’t complete the comeback over the Tennessee Titans. I have to say though. I really think there’s something to that Davis Mills kid. If the Texans can create some stability going forward, this could work.

25. Chicago Bears (6-11)

Last Week: 22

Part of the reason I’m dropping the Bears in the final NFL Power Rankings is because they fired their coach. It just seems like the next logical step. If you don’t have a head coach, you’re clearly not in a good spot. I have to admit though, the Bears would have been worse off to keep trying to force the Nagy situation to bear fruit. Hopefully the coaching change doesn’t stunt Justin Fields’ growth.

24. Atlanta Falcons (7-10)

Last Week: 22

Cordarelle Patterson really believes in what Arthur Smith is building in Atlanta. I’m not sure I do, based on the fact that their tendency to choke continued to be a problem with this coaching staff. But, it’s not fair to judge them on the results of one season. They made a three game improvement over last season and were on the bitter outskirts of the playoff race until the final few weeks. That’s definitely progress.

23. Seattle Seahawks (7-10)

Last Week: 25

You may have very well seen the last game Russell Wilson will ever play in a Seahawks uniform. If that is the case, he went out a winner. That deserves respect from me. The win didn’t make much of a difference and, if anything, it probably just hurt their draft positioning. But, I’ll give them a boost in the final NFL Power Rankings purely out of respect.

22. Denver Broncos (7-10)

Last Week: 19

I wonder what it’s like to be a Broncos fan dealing with Drew Lock. He’s clearly talented enough to elevate the Broncos’ ability to compete. But, he’s also very limited in other areas that really hold the Broncos back from the potential that defense gives them. What do you even do with that?

21. Minnesota Vikings (8-9)

Last Week: 21

Welp. The Vikings beat the Bears pretty decisively. I was going to give them a boost in the final NFL Power Rankings. Then they fired Mike Zimmer. I get it. He got eight years and more than half of them the Vikings hovered right around .500. They made the playoffs a few times and even advanced twice. But, at some point you want to see more. Still, I think it’s a step back for the Vikings, so I’m not moving them.

20. Baltimore Ravens (8-9)

Last Week: 17

Of all the teams left in contention before Week 18, the Ravens had the lowest chance to make the playoffs. Those odds probably also took into consideration the fact that they’re just not very good. I get injuries are a factor. But, still, to go from 8-3 to 8-9 is how you get an entire fanbase screaming “COACH OF THE YEAR!” to wondering “Is Harbaugh the right guy?”

19. Cleveland Browns (8-9)

Last Week: 20

Credit to the Browns. They clearly wanted to end the season on the most positive note they could. So, they took advantage of a Bengals team that was resting almost every starter and finished the year with a win. Now, you have to figure out what to do with Baker Mayfield. I think you have to keep him unless you can get Rodgers or Wilson. But, I’m not sure they can.

18. Indianapolis Colts (9-8)

Last Week: 13

WOW! Remember when I had this team as the fifth best team in the NFL a couple of weeks ago? Now they’re not even going to make the playoffs! That slow start the Colts had came back to bite them after all. You know it’s bad when you’re playing the biggest game of your season against fans dressed like clowns and you still can’t make it happen.

17. Miami Dolphins (9-8)

Last Week: 18

I might be in the vast minority on this one. But, I think the Dolphins moving on from Brian Flores was the right move. Tua is a talented guy with plenty of upside but Flores refused to develop him. He also had a tendency to be extremely fickle with his players. I know his record in Miami has been impressive considering the circumstances. But, I think he’s as responsible for the circumstances as anyone this year.

16. New Orleans Saints (9-8)

Last Week: 16

The Saints took care of the business they needed to take care of this week. So, they could have been in the playoffs. That’s pretty impressive for a team with such a chaotic QB situation this year. But, they put themselves in the position of needing help to get in and didn’t get that help. I’m not forgetting about the rest of the season in the final NFL Power Rankings just because they won a key game.

15. Los Angeles Chargers (9-8)

Last Week: 11

Brandon Staley, what are you thinking? I get analytics and putting your team in the best position to succeed on each play. But, there’s this thing called situational awareness. I fully believe if he hadn’t taken that timeout, the Raiders wouldn’t have been as aggressive trying to win the game. There are very few situations where playing for the tie is the right move. But, I think this is one of those times. As brilliant of a young football mind as he is, he’s going to have to prove he can learn from this mistake to win back the trust of Chargers fans.

14. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1)

Last Week: 23

Before the Steelers get obliterated by the Chiefs in the Wild Card round, I have to admit something that makes me sick. Mike Tomlin deserves nothing but respect for the coaching job he did this year. He dragged this Steelers roster kicking and screaming into the postseason. Most other coaches would have gone 4-13 with this roster. As long as Mike Tomlin is in Pittsburgh, you can never truly count them out.

13. Philadelphia Eagles (9-8)

Last Week: 14

I don’t know how much the Eagles are capable of doing in the playoffs this year. But, the fact that they got there at all is a testament to Nick Siriani. Despite how ugly things went this offseason with Doug Pederson and Siriani failing to endear himself to anyone, he made it work. I think the Eagles are right on the verge of being truly competitive. I doubt they do anything impressive in the playoffs this year. But, they have back to back picks in the top 16 this year in addition to their own first round pick depending on where they finish. The future looks much brighter than we all thought.

12. Arizona Cardinals (11-6)

Last Week: 12

I feel like the Cardinals deserve to drop in the final NFL Power Rankings after losing to the Seahawks and failing to take the NFC West. The opportunity was there, but they couldn’t get it done. The Cardinals seem like they peaked at the wrong time and now they have to play a high powered Rams team they, most recently, lost to.

11. Las Vegas Raiders (10-7)

Last Week: 15

I’m so damn proud of the Raiders, and I’m not even a Raiders fan. To go through what they’ve gone through this year and to still end up in the playoffs is truly impressive. The Raiders are the first team since, from what I can tell, 1957 to change head coaches mid-season and make it to the postseason. Would you believe the last team to do it was the national champion Detroit Lions?

10. New England Patriots (10-7)

Last Week: 8

Losing to the eliminated Dolphins, who fired their head coach the next day, is not the way you want to head into the postseason. It wasn’t too long ago I thought this was the most dangerous team in the AFC. Now, I wonder how far they can even make it.

9. San Francisco 49ers (10-7)

Last Week: 10

The 49ers took care of business this week in a must-win game that punched their ticket to the playoffs. You have to give them credit. After starting 3-5 people were starting to question Kyle Shanahan’s job. And, unlike the Eagles and Dolphins, they turned their season around against impressive competition. They swept the Rams, beat the Bengals, and took down a Vikings team that was looking really dangerous at the time.

8. Tennessee Titans (12-5)

Last Week: 9

I am fascinated by the season the Titans have had. Despite losing Derrick Henry against the Colts in Week 8, they found a way to win. They’re now the No. 1 seed in the AFC despite looking pretty rough down the stretch at times. They almost messed it up against the Texans. But, credit where credit is due. That said, their run of form lately still has me a bit worried about their ability to string wins against other playoff teams together. Luckily, they have a bye week to try to get healthier.

7. Los Angeles Rams (12-5)

Last Week: 4

I was going to destroy the Rams in the final NFL Power Rankings for losing to the 49ers with the division on the line. Luckily for them, the Cardinals might be even more unreliable than they are. The crazy thing is this team has a ton of firepower and are damn near unstoppable when they are on. But, can they keep up that consistency for four games in a row? I doubt it.

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)

Last Week: 7

How do you put the stench of almost losing to the Jets and watching AB end his career in the middle of a game behind you? Beat the shit out of the Panthers for the second time in three weeks. There are a few worrying trends with the Buccaneers over the last six weeks or so. But, they’re still worthy division champions and should handle business against an Eagles team they’ve already beaten this week.

5. Buffalo Bills (11-6)

Last Week: 6

The Bills’ slow start against the Jets in their season finale was a tad worrisome. But, they really turned on the jets (no pun intended) in the fourth quarter. They’ve now won four straight and ended up winning the AFC East despite some struggles in the middle of the year. This Bills team is as dangerous as anyone in the playoffs and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them make a deep run.

4. Dallas Cowboys (12-5)

Last Week: 5

I don’t know about the decision to play Dak and Zeke for a full game in Week 18 despite having the division wrapped up and no shot at the No. 1 seed. To be fair, Dak took full advantage of one last opportunity to wrap up his case for any postseason awards he’s after. But, there would be a ton of criticism if he had aggravated an injury this week. It seemed like an unnecessary risk to me. But, they still showed why they are one of the favorites in the NFC and why the rival Eagles are not.

3. Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)

Last Week: 3

The Bengals rested almost all of their starters this week against a Browns team that was resting way fewer starters than expected. And yet, they still came within an onside kick of coming away with a victory this week. With the seeding race working out to the Bengals drawing the Raiders instead of the Patriots in the Wild Card round, it almost felt like a win.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)

Last Week: 2

How good of a pickup was Mark Ingram for the Chiefs? The Broncos played the Chiefs tough this week, as they always do. But, the Chiefs proved to be a little too much to overcome, even when they aren’t playing at their best. Patrick Mahomes is a weapon. As long as he’s on the field, you have to consider them the favorite in the conference.

1. Green Bay Packers (13-4)

Last Week: 1

It feels weird to keep at team at the top of the final NFL Power Rankings after losing to the Lions. But, it was nothing but an exhibition game for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers rested after halftime. They locked up the NFC’s No. 1 seed last week, so why bother putting everything out there this week? And now Za’Darius Smith is coming back? Yeah. I have no reason to move them.

Why the Raiders Will Defeat the Chargers in Week 18

Las Vegas Raiders, QB, Derek Carr
Las Vegas Raiders, QB, Derek Carr

The Las Vegas Raiders are on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since 2016. However, one hurdle stands between them and their goal – the Los Angeles Chargers. A winner-take-all primetime matchup bodes well for the Silver and Black for numerous reasons.

1. The Las Vegas Raiders have defied the odds this season.

The Raiders started the 2021 season with a blistering 5-2 record. In their wake, they defeated preseason playoff hopefuls in the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, and the Pittsburgh Steelers within the first three weeks. Then, however, a Week 5 loss to the Chicago Bears drastically changed their season.

The team also had to reconcile with a fatal tragic off-field incident with former first-round pick Henry Ruggs III. Yet, despite all these events, the team has won its last three games, and interim head coach Rich Bisaccia can potentially secure a full-time head coaching role with a victory in the finale versus the Chargers.

2. The energy in Allegiant Stadium will be next-level.

While Las Vegas, Nevada, is most certainly not the same atmosphere as Oakland, California, the engineers of Allegiant Stadium did a fantastic job. With a playoff berth on the line, trust and believe that Raider Nation will be representing. In addition, the passing of the legendary John Madden will affect the contest as well. Before kickoff, the Madden family will light the Al Davis torch. It is the Raiders’ first home contest since his passing, and they will do all they can to honor his legacy.

Atlanta Falcons Offseason: Breaking Down the Quarterbacks for 2022 (atbnetwork.com)

3. The Raiders have unfinished business to take care of against the Chargers.

The Chargers had the upper hand in the first matchup between these two teams. The Bolts utilized their ground attack as Austin Ekeler rushed for 117 yards scored two touchdowns as a receiver and rusher. Justin Herbert attacked the Silver and Black down the seams by turning Jared Cook against his former squad. A 28-14 defeat should sting in the team’s mouth. However, with the playoffs on the line, the magnitude will energize Derek Carr and company for many reasons:

  • John Madden
  • Revenge
  • Pride

Last but most certainly not least, a playoff appearance.

*Top photo: Derek Carr – by Getty Images

Week 3 Game Preview: Dolphins @ Raiders

Credit: Harry How/ Getty Images
  • Date: Sunday, September 26
  • Time: 4:05 ET (21:05 UK Time)
  • Venue: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV
  • TV: CBS and NFL Gamepass International
  • Record: Dolphins (1-1) Raiders (2-0)

Week 2 Recap

They say time heals all wounds and eases the pain. As I am writing this, and as I’m sure when you are reading this too, we all know as Dolphins fans this plainly isn’t true. With the foul taste of Week 17 still lingering in the minds of many Dolphins fans, it was almost inconceivable that things could get any worse. They did. In what can be a contender for one of the coldest takes of the year, led by my heart, I predicted that the Dolphins would win in a shootout. Oh how wrong I was. So where did it all go wrong?

In my preview article I stated there would be 3 keys to success against Buffalo:

Contain Josh Allen

With the threat of Josh Allen widely known the Dolphins needed to contain him. For the most part they did as Allen was only able to rush for 35 yards. However, with the Dolphins pass rush only creating 1 sack across the first two games, there was not really much need, as Miami were unable to generate consistent pass rush, despite Buffalo’s issue at tackle.

Elite Secondary Play

The Dolphins secondary deserved a lot better from this game. They held Josh Allen to 17-33 for 179 yards. Stephon Diggs completed 4 catches from 8 completions. Xavien Howard continued to show why he is the best corner in the league with yet another INT this time against Diggs. Rookie Jevon Holland recovered a fumble forced by Jerome Baker. The coverage of the secondary was elite and by the half Allen only had 62 passing yards.

Protect Tua

And this is where it all went wrong. Not only did the offensive line allow 6 sacks, 11 QB hits and 24 pressures of 45 dropbacks, starting QB Tua Tagovailoa left the game on a back of a cart following a sack by AJ Epenesa. After an average 2020 season, it very much feels like we are back in 2019 after last weeks performance. It was by no means pretty and was not addressed during the game. Flores and Jeanpierre have stated openly that they will address the offensive line this week, how though remains to be seen.

Star Performer

In an elite secondary like Miami’s it is very hard to stand out, especially if you are a rookie. Just ask Noah Igbinoghene. Jevon Holland however has had no such issues, even replacing Eric Rowe during the game. Against the Bills he was the second highest graded player on the defense, in what was a good defensive performance. Furthermore, he is the highest rated rookie defender in the league. It will be interesting to watch his performances compared with Raiders’ rookie safety Tre’von Moehrig who was the widely regarded No.1 safety in the 2021 NFL Draft. A lot has been said this week about Chris Grier’s drafting capabilities. Thus far, Holland is looking like a home run pick.

Expectations Heading into Week 3

The Raiders come into this game very hot. The Raiders lead the league in passing yards, averaging 8.8 Yards/Attempt, while managing 12 plays for 20+yards over two games. In that time the Dolphins have managed 3. What is all the more impressive is the teams that they have beaten in the Ravens and the Steelers, two elite defenses. Despite heavy reliance on Darren Waller Week 1 with 19 targets, Derek Carr began to spread the ball around against the Steelers, including Henry Ruggs, Kenyan Drake and Hunter Renfrow.

Nevertheless, without Josh Jacobs in the backfield their offense does look very one dimensional which plays into the Dolphins’ strengths. In Week 2 the Raiders run game managed 2.1 YPC on 25 attempts.

In a week that has been full of negativity, one positive has emerged in the return of Will Fuller. Fuller looks set to make his Dolphins debut against the Raiders. For the first time the Dolphins have all of their receiving options available to them, a luxury that has been missing for a long long time. A strong Dolphins’ receiving corps against a young Raiders’ secondary will be a key matchup throughout this game.

Key Matchup:

We all know that Darren Waller is a freak. Despite Eric Rowe being one of the best safeties in the league at shutting down TEs, he was no match for Waller when the two sides faced each other last December. With the performances of McCourty and Holland impressing in the first weeks of the season, it is unclear as to who will be guarding Waller and how the defense plans on shutting down the main focus of the Raiders’ offense.

Keys to Success

#1 Improvements on Offensive Line!!!

If the offensive line can improve to be just a functional, average, yet stable the Dolphins can win this game. A big if. It has been reported that Eichenberg has been taking reps at LG, RT and LT. In addition, Solomon Kindley looks at risk of being dropped or shifted back to RG if Jesse Davis does not feature, pushing Hunt back out to RT where he played last season. I believe that it should be Eichenberg who starts at LT which then pushes Jackson inside at LG, who typically does better with linemen around him. The offensive line will need to perform better against a strong Raiders pass rush who have 5 sacks on the season already

#2 Explosive Pass Rush

Miami did better at getting pressure to Josh Allen than they did against the Patriots, but it will not be enough. With the speed of Ruggs a potential mismatch against most likely Byron Jones, the Dolphins front seven have to do better at getting pressure in the face of Carr before those routes can develop downfield. The Raiders offensive line underwent quite the overhaul in the offseason, and with Richie Incognito out and Jermaine Eluemunor a player that didn’t make the Dolphins’ roster while losing Ronnie Stanley, this is a good time for Miami’s pass rush to get started.

#3 Put Points on the Board

There were several instances where the Dolphins left points on field and it should not have been a shutout. Down 14-0 DeVante Parker dropped a 33 yard TD pass from Brissett right into his hands. Following this Xavien Howard then intercepted Allen just outside the redzone. The Dolphins then elected to go for it on 4th and 2 at Buffalo 16 yard line. If the TD pass was completed and then the Dolphins elect to kick the field goal, the Dolphins are back in the game down 14-10 with the momentum on their side. From the dramatic ending last season in Vegas thanks to a game winning field goal by Jason Sanders, the Dolphins need to ensure they are coming away from drives with something to show for it.

Injury Concerns

The BIG news coming out this week is that starting QB Tua Tagovailoa is OUT this week and most likely for the next couple of weeks with fractured ribs. A disappointment to many fans in an all important evaluation year for Tua. Thankfully however, the Dolphins do have one of the best backup QBs in the league who will not lose us this game based off his performance. As it stands, the only other players who may be in doubt to feature are Jakeem Grant and Jesse Davis who were both limited in practice after leaving the game against the Bills.

The most notable names on the Raiders injury report is that it is looking unlikely that Josh Jacobs or Richie Incognito will play after not participating in practice, while DE Carl Nassib has been limited.

Score Predictions

After last weeks horrendously bad prediction on my behalf of Dolphins 31- 28 Bills, I am going to be much more reserved. Until I see some notable improvements on the offensive line early on in the game I cannot predict a Miami victory at this time. That is not to say it will not happen, so hopefully I am proven wrong this week. Check out the ATB Dolphins staff’s predictions below:

Bradley Davies 27-21 Raiders

Hussam Patel 24-17 Raiders

Chris Spooner 24-17 Raiders

Tyler DeSena 23-10 Raiders

Rishi Desai 20-17 Miami

Tanner Elliot 28-10 Raiders

Jared Vandermyde 17-14 Miami

Conclusion

This game is winnable. The Dolphins are tied with the Bills and the Patriots in the division. While it may seem that the sky is falling in after this Past week, the Dolphins still have a better record than this time last season. The Dolphins beat the Raiders last year. These next two games against the Raiders and Colts will be vitally important in getting the Dolphins’ season back on track if they are to mount any playoff push. Fins Up!

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Steelers Raiders Recap: Back to the Drawing Board

The Pittsburgh Steelers fell to the Las Vegas Raiders 26-17 this Sunday. After a remarkable performance from their defense, the Steelers upset the Buffalo Bills last week; the Raiders also won their opener in dramatic fashion against Pittsburgh’s rival, the Baltimore Ravens. Even though the Steelers’ offense played very inconsistently in Week 1, most seemed to expect them to beat Last Vegas, given that they had to travel across the country on a short week after a very emotional win. However, the Raiders got the best of the Steelers on Sunday for a number of reasons. We’ll begin our recap of the Steelers and Raiders matchup discussing injuries.

Injuries Abound

One element of this loss was the mounting injuries for the Steelers. Now obviously, every team deals with injuries; the Raiders lost both their starting guards at the beginning of the week, along with their starting running back. But the Steelers’ injury problems began late in the week. On Friday, cornerback Joe Haden and linebacker Devin Bush appeared on the injury report with “questionable” designations. On Sunday, both were declared inactive. 

To make matters worse, two more starters suffered injuries that knocked them out of the game on Sunday. Tyson Alualu fractured his ankle and could be lost for the season. But the worst loss came when TJ Watt pulled up in the first quarter. He went to the sideline and discarded his helmet and gloves. When he came out for the second half, he was in street clothes. Watt indicated that he suffered a groin injury, like Haden and Bush, but should be ready to go for this week’s game. 

Again, injuries are a part of the NFL. But losing four starters late in the week, including two during the game, prevents the coaches from being able to gameplan around these absences and get the backups reps with the starters. There’s also the fact that losing a consistent DPOY candidate and arguably the best edge defender in the NFL makes a significant negative impact on the defense. At the end of the day, it’s hard to expect a defense to be their best when they’re missing four starters with no practice to prep for it. But let’s dive into the actual game. 

Steelers Raiders Recap: Defense

Against the Bills, the Steelers did an excellent job at preventing explosive plays. They also prevented Stefon Diggs from destroying them like in their 2020 matchup. Part of this success is attributable to the Steelers’ willingness to sell out to stop the pass and play different types of coverages. Obviously, Pittsburgh’s pass rush helped as well, as they kept Josh Allen from being comfortable in the pocket. Mike Tomlin and the coaching staff took elements from their game plan against Buffalo and applied them to their matchup with Las Vegas. This strategy worked for a time.

The Steelers took extreme measures to eliminate tight end Darren Waller from the Raiders’ game plan. Waller earned double coverage, typically with an underneath defender and a safety over the top. Essentially, Pittsburgh wanted Derek Carr to beat them with his other, not-as-elite weapons. For most of the game, the Steelers’ defense shut down Waller and forced the Raiders to kick field goals. 

However, in the second half, the defense began to crack and erode. Darren Waller started getting involved; more importantly, the Raiders took advantage of the Steelers’ focus on Waller. Carr comfortably targeted his other weapons, distributing the ball to whoever was open. Players like Wille Snead, Derek Carrier, and Foster Moreau made clutch catches, with the latter scoring the Raiders’ first touchdown. 

The Slow Knife

The backbreaker, of course, came on a beautiful deep shot to Henry Ruggs III. The color commentator, Charles Davis, noted this on the broadcast: the Steelers’ focus on Darren Waller gave just enough room to get Ruggs open on that play. On that play, Minkah Fitzpatrick played as the single-high safety but kept his eyes on Waller. Carr made sure Fitzpatrick held his place, as Carr kept his eyes on Waller as well; Carr even added a very subtle pump fake to get Fitzpatrick to cheat towards Waller. Minkah got back but was just an inch/second too late and in a flash, Ruggs was in the end zone. 

There’s a lot of blame to be distributed for this play. One could obviously blame Minkah for not keeping proper depth. Against a guy like Ruggs, you have to make sure you keep the lid on the pot, so to speak. But I’m sure the coaches instructed Minkah to keep his eyes on Waller and make sure he doesn’t beat you deep. Furthermore, on 3rd and 9, you have to expect Carr is looking at Waller to convert. Give Carr tons of credit here; he took advantage of that assumption, and he threw a perfect ball to Ruggs. 

You could also assign some blame to Ahkello Witherspoon. Obviously, your job as a corner is to prevent a receiver from getting behind you; against a speed demon like Ruggs, that should be your only concern. But give credit to Ruggs here; if you look at the play above, he adds a little hesi-move to his route, causing Witherspoon to freeze and allowing Ruggs to get open.

One might bring up the fact that Witherspoon was playing where Joe Haden would usually line up. Even though Haden is obviously a superb technician as a cover corner, such that he doesn’t need to rely on his speed, I don’t think he would have done a much better job. At the end of the day, the Raiders offense did an excellent job executing, even when the Steelers took away their primary weapon. Pittsburgh wanted Las Vegas to beat them with their third and fourth options; they did just that. 

Steelers Raiders Recap: Offense

The Steelers offense has averaged 16.5 points through two games, a far cry from the explosive, versatile unit of the mid-2010s. However, in comparison to their performance last week, I would argue they looked markedly improved. Opening the game last week, the Steelers punted on every drive in the first half, going three and out on two of those five drives.

This week, they still didn’t score until midway through the second quarter. But they only went three and out once. Two of their first three drives ended in turnovers (an interception and a turnover on downs). Despite those mistakes, Ben Roethlisberger played very well, arguably his best game since last October (granted, that isn’t saying much). He did a good job surveying the defense and throwing to the right receiver. We even saw him throw some very nice deep balls. Not all of them were caught but more often than not, they were decently accurate and gave the receiver a legitimate chance to make a play on the ball. 

However, Ben was very reticent to test the defense over the middle in the intermediate range. This was most likely due to the Raiders’ coverage schemes. But to have a complete offense, you need to threaten that area. Hopefully, the Steelers can incorporate that into their offense in the coming weeks. 

Growing Pains

With that being said, the most pressing issue for the Steelers’ offense is the offensive line. Roethlisberger still did a solid job of getting rid of the ball quickly. But he took too many hard hits. Dan Moore Jr. took a step back in his second career start and Chukwuma Okorafor had another rough day at the office. The bigger problem, as many would expect was the run blocking. While it was somewhat improved relative to last week, as Najee Harris had a better game, it still isn’t good enough. Harris got stopped behind the line multiple times and he’s getting physically punished by defenders every play. 

Luckily, there is a remedy for these symptoms, although it might be unpleasant: time and patience. The Steelers’ offensive line in the mid-to-late-2010s was so dominant because they were experienced veterans with great chemistry as a unit. This offensive line features two rookies, a second-year player in his first year as a starter, a fourth-year player who is technically a backup and still their weakest link, and a veteran on his third team with pass-blocking limitations. Nothing is going to help this offensive line more than playing time with each other. This line is going to take their lumps, especially the younger guys. But that’s the necessary evil to get better. 

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