After a week filled to the brim with adversity, the Raiders beat the Denver Broncos 34-24 in Week 6. That same week, the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28-22. This week, the 2-4 Eagles will head to Las Vegas to take on the 4-2 Raiders.
This will be the first time the Raiders will take on second-year QB Jalen Hurts, who is a dual-threat quarterback. He can make every throw and make plays with his legs. The Raiders are mostly healthy heading into Week 7, and with a bye week on the horizon, they are looking for another massive win to get them to 5-2.
Thankfully, injuries haven’t been much of a factor as the Raiders prepare for Sunday’s matchup, but these two things have. Let’s take a deeper look into what they are.
The Raiders Rush Defense
The Raiders’ defense has been much improved since last season. A team that ranked 28th last season now sits at 4th per Pro Football Focus. Despite their high defensive ranking, the Raiders have allowed the 8th most rushing yards per game. They have allowed 130.7 rushing yards per game on average. For reference, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ranked 1st in rush defense, have allowed only 54.8 rushing yards per game.
The Raiders defense is coming off what was arguably their best game of the season, or maybe their best game of the last many seasons. They had 4 takeaways against the Broncos with one fumble recovery and three interceptions. Las Vegas did allow 112 rushing yards in that game and will need to sure that up against a very good running back in Miles Sanders.
The Eagles have been criticized week after week for their lack of rushing play calls. Miles Sanders, the Eagles RB1, has racked up just 57 attempts through six weeks. That has the potential to change this week as the Raiders defense has struggled mightily against the run.
As the Eagles prepare for this game, it is safe to assume they are aware of the Raiders’ rush defensive struggles. The Raiders will look to Denzel Perryman and K.J. Wright, their highest-graded run defenders, to be ready for Sanders this week.
On top of Sanders, the Raiders will also have to be prepared for Jalen Hurts. Hurts is known for his rushing abilities as QB. He has 300 rushing yards this season on 28 attempts, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Eagles HC Nick Sirianni knows of Hurts’ ability as a rusher and is sure to lean on his skills in crucial situations. For the Raiders to lock in this game, it is imperative the rush defense steps up to the plate.
Las Vegas’ Wide Receivers
The Raiders offense struggled in Weeks 4 and 5. They fell victim to slow starts, dropped catches, and third-down failures. In Week 6, that all changed. Derek Carr averaged over 12 yards per attempt and threw for over 300 yards. His wide receivers stepped up to the plate.
OC Greg Olson had unlimited praise for Ruggs on Thursday. “He’s confident and a different guy. We talk about it in the quarterback room with all three QBs. Henry Ruggs is always the topic, how he came out of his shell this year in terms of communication with the quarterback and what he’s doing”.
Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow, and Bryan Edwards were nearly unstoppable last week. Ruggs had 97 yards on 3 receptions while Edwards had 67 yards on just 2 receptions. This week, Eagles CB Darius Slay is looking to change that.
Slay, the Eagles’ top cornerback, has allowed only 7 catches this season and no touchdowns. Mike Evans had the most receiving yards vs. Slay this season with only 27 yards. As unstoppable as the Raiders receivers were last week, Slay is looking to make them look human again.
Ruggs’ speed and Renfrow’s shifty footwork need to be on full display against Slay on Sunday. Carr and OC Greg Olson will likely rely on their pass game this week as they continue to work on their run blocking abilities with the Raiders offensive line, setting up Ruggs, Renfrow, and Edwards for another impressive game.
Week 7 marks the second game as Head Coach for Raiders’ Rich Bisaccia. His head coaching debut was impressive, to say the least, and he is hoping to make his first home game just as memorable. The Raiders haven’t started 5-2 since 2016, the last time they made the playoffs. Historically, teams that have started 5-2 have an 80% chance to make it to the postseason. The Raiders are looking at another must-win game in the Death Star on Sunday.
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