Despite their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football, the Las Vegas Raiders are still strong playoff contenders.
The Las Vegas Raiders have endured arguably the hardest ten-game opening stretch out of any team in the league. Sitting at 6-4, and 3-1 in the division, the Raiders now go down the path of seriously winnable games. A late loss to the Chiefs adds fuel to Raiders QB Derek Carr’s fire, who has been playing with total command this season.
Las Vegas has one of the top offenses in the entire league, and have shown they can go toe to toe with anyone, but the defense remains the Achilles heel. While the Raiders are pushing league high averages offensively, defensively they are also giving up league high averages in points and scoring.
What went wrong Sunday night
The Raiders Week 11 loss to the Chiefs came in the finals moments of the game, where safety Johnathan Abram broke assignment to spy reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes as he rolled out of the pocket, instead of manning his quarter of the end zone, leaving tight End Travis Kelce wide open. While mental mistakes on defense have been more common than sporadic, it will be noted that in the Sunday Night Football matchup, the Raiders defense missed three quarters of the defense to the COVID-19/ reserve list after defensive end Clelin Ferrell tested positive, and the players were determined to be close contact.
As the Raiders deal with Ferrell on the COVID-19 list, and standout defensive tackle Maurice Hurst battling back from an ankle injury, the team has added former all pro pass rusher, Vic Beasley and former first round pick Takkarist McKinley to the practice squad to help add a push as the Raiders forge forward in the tight AFC Playoff race.
As Las Vegas prepares this week for the Atlanta Falcons, the offense looks to improve on fixing the errors of costly drops, while the defense gets back to work to ensure no further mental mistakes are made which could put the teams playoff picture in jeopardy. If the defense can turn the corner and perform against the run while not giving up costly 3rd and long situations, this is a team that can go deep into the playoffs and make some serious noise.