The 5-4 Bengals are on their way to Vegas to take on the 5-4 Raiders in a matchup that has major playoff implications. Both teams are coming off of a two-game losing streak that they need to turn around – and fast.
The Raiders will be without CB Keisean Nixon (ankle) and LB Nick Kwiatkoski (ankle). CB Brandon Facyson (finger/hamstring) and RB Jalen Richard (ribs) are questionable to play.
As the Raiders continue their playoff push, here are a couple of things to watch for that could make or break Sunday’s game for the Silver and Black.
The Raiders haven’t looked like themselves for the last two weeks. The offense looked slow, and the defense looked tired due to all the time they spent on the field. Considering everything that has happened for the Raiders this season, it’s fair to give them a little slack. But when a one-game losing streak turns to two as you enter the hardest chunk of your schedule, it’s justified to question what the final eight games will bring.
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley spoke to the media on Thursday to discuss what he believes has been the Raiders’ biggest downfall the last two weeks.
“I think some of it was concentration. It felt like there was some reverting back to old-style as far as some tackling technique and things like that. Even what we saw in the beginning of the season, some of the missed tackles we had due to some of the technique or style showed up again,” Bradley told reporters.
Bradley mentioned that this week’s practice has had an extreme emphasis on concentration and proper technique on the field.
Like all things, going back to the basics can be helpful. When you stray too far from your core technique and skills it can prove to be detrimental, and that was evident for the Raiders last week. Bradley told the media the Raiders defense has had six missed turnover opportunities this season. Ensuring that the Raiders are focused and concentrated on the task at hand should prove to be a game-changer on Sunday.
Will to Win
It has been four seasons since the Raiders made the playoffs. After starting the season 3-0, they had an 80% chance of getting to the postseason this year. Entering Week 11 at 5-4, the Raiders now have a less than 30% chance of making the playoffs according to NFL Network’s Cynthia Frelund’s projections. The Bengals have a similar chance. This week, one team will find themselves at 6-4, one will drop to 5-5 and .500 on the season. It will all come down to the will to win.
The Raiders have long been known to be one of the competitive franchises in the NFL. Al Davis’ motto “Just Win, Baby” will need to be on the minds of every player as they go head-to-head with what Gus Bradley refers to as an extremely competitive QB in Joe Burrow.
“I know how competitive Joe is. He’s extremely competitive, very smart, very talented, very poised… he’s always looking to make plays.” Bradley told the media on Thursday.
The Raiders have a chance to move to first in the AFC West with a Chiefs and Chargers loss as well as a Raider win on Sunday. First in the AFC West will put the Raiders back in playoff position as they navigate through the hardest part of their schedule for the next eight weeks.
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