Raiders Stats and Storylines: Week 6 Edition

The Raiders win in Denver was many things: A feel-good moment for a team going through a tumultuous period, a boon to playoff chances and the beginning of the #ExtendFangio movement.

Perhaps equally as good as the win, though, are some of the positive storylines that have emerged with the new coaching staff.

Let’s run through ten of these storylines, starting with what Rich Bissacia’s first win as a head coach means to the team he’s inherited.

1. Bissacia’s First Win Was a Big One

Rich Bissacia’s first win as an interim coach was not just a feel-good win: It improved the Raiders playoff odds by the largest margin of any team in Week 6.

Here’s where the Raiders now stand, according to three different projections, plus the implied sportsbook odds on a Raiders team that’s currently +110 to make the playoffs:

Raiders Playoff Odds After Week Six



The Upshot

Playoff Odds68%63%51.4%47.6%

Raider fans — and preseason bettors — should hope that the true odds are closer to the PFF projections and not the sportsbook oddsmakers.

2. Eagles Game Could be Equally Consequential

According to The Upshot, the outcome of the Eagles game has the potential to swing the Raiders playoff odds by 18%:

What’s the degree below a must-win game: Preferable-win? Advisable-win? Whatever the term is, this game — and the Giants game after it — qualifies.

The reason why: After two games against weaker NFC East opponents, the road gets much tougher.

3. Road to Playoffs Gets Bumpier

According to PFF, the easiest part of the Raiders schedule is behind them. Their first six games ranked as the 17th hardest, while their remaining games rank as the 11th hardest:

In 6 of their last 9 games, the Raiders play a likely playoff team. The other three games are against the Broncos, Colts and Football Team, none of which will be cakewalks.

Therefore, it’s imperative the Raiders do something that has so often eluded them: beat teams they’re supposed to. They’ll get that chance over the next two weeks.

4. Short-Yardage Offense Takes Flight

Regular readers of this column — and Pivotal Plays — know that short-yardage offense has been an Achilles’ heel for the 2021 Raiders.

Week in and week out, Jon Gruden ran the ball in short-yardage situations, which was problematic for two reasons: it was predictable and it relied on one of the worst units in football, the Raiders offensive line.

Lo and behold, Greg Olson called many more passes in his first game at the reins:

And, predictably, the results were great and included the highest EPA-play of the game, this third-and-two bomb to Henry Ruggs:

Continuing to trust your best offensive player — Derek Carr — instead of your worst unit, would not only be wise, it could be the recipe to get the Raiders to the playoffs.

5. Kenyan Drake: Reappearing Man

Last week’s column called Kenyan Drake a disappearing man. Well, this week, he reappeared, with the Raiders clearly making a concerted effort to put the ball in his hands.

Drake touched the ball in over half the snaps he played. And what did he did on those snaps was impressive: Totaling 73 yards, two touchdowns and the 4th-highest PFF grade among RBs in Week 6.

For the season, Drake now has the team’s highest Rushing Yards over Expected Average:

Given his effectiveness in both the passing and run game — coupled with his week-six performance — one would hope Drake does not disappear again.

6. Raiders Offense: Highest EPA per Play in Week 6

The task the Raiders offense faced in Week 6 was a tall one. They had a new playcaller and were facing a top-ten defense in Expected Points Added (EPA).

Which makes their best-of-the-week performance all the more impressive:

The Raiders’ 0.283 EPA/play was the highest in Week 6, thanks to the right arm of Derek Carr and aggressive play-calling by Greg Olsen.

7. Henry Ruggs Continues His Breakout Season

Coming into the season, the hope was that Henry Ruggs could be a complementary player. Six weeks into the season, it may be time to instead consider him a premier player.

Among WRs with at least 15 targets, Henry Ruggs now ranks:

  • First in yards per catch (22.3)
  • First in Average Depth of Target (18.6)
  • Second in receiving yards on targets 20+ yards downfield (289)

He’s consistently excelling and consistently being underrated. He’s topped the over/under on his receiving-yardage total every week this season and is only 255 yards from topping his season-long over/under.

His breakout has not only been surprising, but crucial to an offense that has been attacking vertically more than anytime in Derek Carr’s career.

8. An Even More Surprising Breakout: The Raiders Defense

The Raiders finished 2020 has PFF’s 29th-ranked defense. In 2019, they were also 29th. In 2018, they were 30th. Noticing a theme?

Well, the 2021 unit has diverted from that theme in a major way, climbing all the way to 4th in PFF’s defensive rankings.

And Week 6 was one of their best performances yet, as they racked up a league-high 20 QB pressures and 5 sacks, while allowing -0.002 EPA/play:

The weekly consistency from Gus Bradley’s unit has been impressive, especially in the pass game, where they’re getting pressure — and covering — at an elite level.

9. Raiders Defense: Lowest Blitz Rate, Highest Pass-Rush Grade

What’s most surprising about the Raiders’ league-leading pressure level is how they’re achieving it. Or, more specifically, how they’re not achieving it:

Eric Eager 📊🏈 on Twitter: “The #Bills, who play in about a half an hour, blitz less than all but one team, the Raiders, on passing downs this year #BUFvsTEN #MNF / Twitter”

The #Bills, who play in about a half an hour, blitz less than all but one team, the Raiders, on passing downs this year #BUFvsTEN #MNF

Despite the low blitz rate, the Raiders have the following:

  • PFF’s highest team pass-rush grade at 84.5
  • The NFL’s leader in total pressures: Maxx Crosby with 43

The ability for Maxx Crosby and gang to get pressure without blitzing has been the linchpin of the best Raider defense in ages.

10. Raiders Have Best Punter, Too

Punter is a position you hope to never use, but one that’s important nonetheless. And no punter in the NFL is doing it better than A.J. Cole, who leads the NFL in Punter EPA:

And the Broncos game was his best yet, as he averaged a whopping 57 yards per punt, while downing half his punts inside the 20.

Here’s hoping Cole’s right leg is unneeded in Week 7, but you’ll have to stay tuned to the betting column for thoughts on that game.

Twitter: @TravisGilkeson