As questions remain due to COVID protocol for their offensive line, the Las Vegas Raiders prepare for the tough defense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Raiders vs Buccaneers game on primetime television has some key matchups and opportunities for Las Vegas to win their second straight.
No one – including Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden – is a fan of the bye week. Especially coming before having to defend the greatest quarterback to ever play the game in Tom Brady as the Raiders vs Buccaneers is teed-up for Sunday Night Football this week.
But this bye week seemed to come at an ideal time for the young Las Vegas Raiders who entered the bye week on a big high after beating the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium and needing time to heal up. A team that has managed to climb to a 3-2 record, after the nightmare part of their schedule, even while being decimated by injuries.
More importantly, it gave guys like Josh Jacobs and Henry Ruggs III, who have been playing banged up, an opportunity to rest and heal up. Even with all the positives of the bye week, the Raiders treacherous slate of games didn’t end. They now face a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that just beat the undefeated Green Bay Packers 38-10. This is another tough match-up for the Raiders, but there are some match-ups and keys to this game that can help them upset yet another playoff contender. Raiders vs Buccaneers is a massive game for this young Las Vegas squad looking to show the world they are real playoff contenders.
But, just as the Raiders seemed to be prepared for their big primetime matchup with the Bucs on Sunday Night Football, the COVID monster reared its ugly head. As of post time, we still don’t know the status of the game or the Raiders offensive line. We’ll forge ahead as if the game (and those players, minus Trent Brown) is on schedule to take place Sunday at Allegiant Stadium
Here’s a look at key matchups and keys to victory Sunday night at Allegiant Stadium as Raiders vs Buccaneers lights up the national stage:
Derek Carr Vs. The Blitz
Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is widely considered one of the most aggressive play-callers in the NFL. Per Sportsradar, the Buccs have blitzed the 2nd most of any team in football this year and they blitz on over 40 percent of defensive snaps. I wouldn’t expect this to change on Sunday and Derek Carr is going to have his work cut out for him. The good news: Derek Carr is 3rd-best in the NFL against the blitz with a 133 passer rating. Carr neutralizing the Buccaneers pass rush by getting the ball out quickly and making correct reads will go a long way in deciding this game. It will be important to sustain drives early and keep the Raiders on the positive side of the field, keeping momentum away from tthe Buccaneers elite defense.
Raiders Defensive Line Vs. Buccaneers Offensive Line
Last Sunday, Tom Brady could have done a live interview in the pocket, that’s how little pressure he was under. The Green Bay Packers, a team considered to have one of the best pass rush duos in football, only pressured him fice times according to Pro Football Focus. Kenny Clark and Z’Darius Smith – two elite NFL players – were held to one combined pressure. The Raiders are only averaging 1.4 sacks per game and on Sunday this will need to change that. Similar to the blueprint it took to upset the Kansas City Chiefs, the Raiders will need to pressure Tom Brady as they did Patrick Mahomes. If the Raiders vs Buccaneers is to have a positive outcome for the Raiders, they have to pressure Brady. In games where Tom Brady has been sacked 3+ times, the Buccaneers are 0-2, and in their four wins, Tom Brady was only sacked a combined two times. The O-line, combined with Tom Brady’s quick release of the ball, will make getting pressure a tall task. This is something the Raiders will need to do in order to pull off a victory on Sunday.
Jamal Dean and Carlton Davis Vs. Henry Ruggs and Nelson Agholor
This is as obvious as it comes: the Raiders need their two top outside WR’s to produce to win. The key here is that this is an elite cornerback duo. Jamal Dean has a 90.5 PFF rating and is quickly becoming one of football’s top lockdown corners and his counterpart Carlton Davis already has three interceptions on the season. I expect the Raiders to try and run the ball a lot early in this game, but getting a couple of chunk plays from these two speedsters will be vital. Ruggs and Agohlor combined to average 46.25 yards per catch vs. Kansas City, and against a stingy pass defense like Tampa Bay, they will need to produce some big plays to keep this offense humming. Raiders vs Buccaneers has the makings of an offensive display if the Raiders can run the ball and use these two wideouts effectively.
Keys to Victory
Josh Jacobs Over 100 Yards
Josh Jacobs running well is always a key to victory. In this case, it’s easier said than done. Tampa Bay has only allowed one 100-yard rusher under Bowles and their run defense has dominated so far in 2020. This season, Christian Mccaffery’s 59-yard performance in Week 2, is the most the Bucs have given up to a running back. So, if Josh Jacobs eclipses 100 yards for the first time this season, the Raiders win the game. Josh Jacobs season-high of 93 yards vs. Carolina seems like ages ago, but it’s been clear that he isn’t 100 percent and this bye week should help him be free for this coming Sunday.
Win The Turnover Battle
Jon Gruden has been very vocal in his desire to get more turnovers from this defense. A team like the Raiders, which doesn’t have a great defense, needs to produce turnovers to help mask other deficiencies. The offense would greatly appreciate, some decent field position as well, something the Raiders have struggled at in Gruden’s second tenure. The turnover battle in Raiders vs Buccaneers will be key, because when the Raiders turn the ball over multiple times they tend to lose, as with most NFL teams. Protecting the ball in this game, which should be a shootout, could prove to be the difference-maker in the end.
Hold Ronald Jones Under 100 Yards
Ronald Jones has rushed for 100+ yards in three-straight games. The Raiders run defense has improved as the season has progressed, as shown against Kansas City. Las Vegas held standout rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire to 40 yards. The key for the Raiders will be to get Tampa into 3rd and long situations allowing for Paul Guenther to get creative with his pressure situations. Stopping the run, and Jones, is the first step in doing that. Limiting the long-yardage run plays on first down is something the Raiders have done very well the past two weeks, and they will hope to do that again on Sunday.
Stay Ahead of the Chains
Similar to what Tampa Bay likes to do, the Raiders offense is built around getting to 3rd and less than 4 situations. The way to do this is to stay ahead of the chains. In doing so it limits the Buccaneers chances at pulling their ears back and rushing the passer. Keeping Tampa Bay’s defense on their heels is going to be crucial on Sunday during the Raiders vs Buccaneers matchup. The Raiders will need Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs, and company to play fundamental football, and keep the chains moving.