Raiders Stats and Storylines: Week 10 Edition

Thanks to flex scheduling, Sunday Night Football is often billed as the game of the week.

For the Raiders, it could very well be the game of the year.

In a division where all teams have the same number of wins and a conference where eleven teams sport winning records, the Raiders can’t afford to lose more ground.

Let’s dig into the numbers.

1. Must Win, Baby

The Raiders enter this week with a 57% chance of making the playoffs, according to The Upshot. But they need a win over the Chiefs if they want to keep those odds above 50%:

Although the Chiefs have struggled this season, they are 2.5-point favorites. And 76% of the cash wagered has been on the side of the Chiefs.

2. No Division More Competitive than the AFC West

Heading into Week 10, every division had a team with PFF odds greater than 50% of winning that division, except one: the AFC West.

With every team above .500, even the sportsbooks see no clear favorite, with the Chargers, Chiefs, Raiders and Broncos all plus money to win the division:

In a race this competitive, it’s clear that division games will be critical. This is especially true for the Raiders, who have already lost one to the Chargers and have the division’s toughest remaining schedule:

PFF Remaining
Strength of Schedule
Raiders4th hardest
Chiefs10th hardest
Broncos22nd hardest
Chargers26th hardest

Losing to a weak Giants team will sting all season, as the remaining schedule leaves little room for error and requires beating teams like the Chiefs, if the Raiders want to make the postseason.

3. Bisaccia’s Questionable Fourth-Down Decision

When you’re a head coach who’s neither an offensive nor defensive play-caller, you need to be an outstanding in-game tactician. In their week nine loss to the Giants, Rich Bisaccia was not.

His decision to kick a field goal while down four points with 9:31 remaining in the game was not just overly conservative, it harmed the Raiders’ chances at winning:

  • Going for that fourth down would have added 5.6% of Win Probability according to
  • Attempting the FG was the fifth-worst coaching decision last week, in EdjSports’ weekly rankings.

Unfortunately, Bisaccia’s decision was not a fluke and is instead part of a trend during his time as interim head coach:

Bisaccia is fortunate to have two solid coordinators working under him. For the team to excel — and for him to prove he should shed the interim label — he needs to maximize his team’s scoring chances and be more aggressive on fourth down.

4. Derek Carr’s Post-Ruggs Target Distribution

An ongoing storyline this season has been the evolving offense. The previous chapter was the post-Gruden one, where Greg Olson took the reins and varied the play-calling for the better.

The newest chapter will be the post-Ruggs one, where the offense must evolve to replace their speedy, big-play threat. It’s too soon to judge the results, but the process appears to be one that increases short passes to the backs:

More worrisome than the lack of WR targets is the result of those targets: Zay Jones and Bryan Edwards turned their combined 8 targets into 1 catch.

The Raiders must hope that the addition of DeSean Jackson can change that.

5. What to Expect from DeSean Jackson

Let’s start with the obvious: DeSean Jackson is on the downslope of his career. He’s likely not a long-term option nor was he as sexy an option as Odell Beckham Jr.

That said, DeSean Jackson was the right option for this offense.

In replacing Henry Ruggs, the Raiders needed a deep target. And, in a small sample size, Jackson has proven he can still be that. Among WRs with a minimum of ten targets this season, here’s where DeSean Jackson ranks:

  • First in yards per reception (27.6)
  • Second in average depth of target (21.5)
  • Eleventh in yards per route run on passes 20+ yards downfield (20.43)

Expecting Jackson to replicate Ruggs’ box score is foolish, but expecting him to give the Raiders a much-needed field-stretcher — who can help open up the field — is reasonable.

6. Gus Bradley’s Counterintuitive Innovation

By running Cover 3 61% of the time, Gus Bradley is proving you can be predictable but unique at the same time:

And the results speak for themselves, as the Raiders are currently fourth in PFF’s team coverage grade and have yielded a league-low 9.6 yards per reception.

7. Raiders Elite Early-Down Pressure Rate

Perhaps even more unique than the Raiders coverage style is the style of their pass-rush.

They are getting league-best early-down pressure with league-low blitzing, per Warren Sharp:

If the Raiders post-Ruggs offense can get on track, their robust pass defense has the potential to carry them deep into the playoffs.

8. The Engine to that League-Leading Pressure

The natural question about the Raiders pass rush: How do they do it? The answer is simple: Speed.

In an article for FiveThirtyEight, Josh Hermsmeyer detailed a new Next Gen Stat that tracks “average time it takes for a defensive player to get past the line of scrimmage after the snap of the ball.

Unsurprisingly, the NFL’s best pressure unit has the fastest pair of edge rushers off the ball:

Having two of the four fastest pass rushers is a welcome sight to Raiders fans and a terrifying one for opposing tackles.

9. Maxx Crosby Poised for Big Game

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they’ll be down their starting right tackle this week. Even more unfortunately, their backup right tackle will also be out.

Enter third-stringer Andrew Wylie, who posted a subpar 57.1 PFF pass-blocking grade last season and has a 41.0 grade so far this year.

Lining up against him will be the NFL leader in pressures, one Maxx Crosby.

Facing a Defensive Player of the Year candidate is tall order for any player, much less a third-string sub.

10. Raiders Top Pass-Rusher in Week 9 Was… Who?

In Week 9, the Raiders top-rated pass rusher wasn’t Maxx Crosby. Nor was it Yannick Ngakoue. Or even Carl Nassib.

Instead, it was rookie corner Nate Hobbs. His 90.9 PFF pass-rush grade led the Raiders and was third-highest in the league last week.

On four blitzes, Hobbs tallied 2 quarterback hits, 1 hurry and 1 sack. Not a bad outcome when you generate a pressure on every pass-rush.

Hobbs now has the third-most pressures among all cornerbacks in the NFL, which he can add to the following resume:

  • PFF’s ninth-rated rookie
  • PFF’s sixth-best coverage grade among CBs
  • Fifth-lowest yards per reception among CBs

It’s early in the rookie’s career, but he has the athletic profile and production to be a star.

Twitter: @TravisGilkeson


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