By now, you are probably more than aware that the Oakland Raiders play their final game in Oakland this Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jon Gruden has talked about wanting to “go out with a bang.”
Everyone affiliated with the Raiders and all of Raider Nation will be emotional, but also celebratory as this chapter in the franchise’s history closes. For the celebration to hit peak levels, the Raiders need to just win, baby.
Here are three matchups that the Raiders need to be wary of in order to celebrate on Sunday night:
DE Yannick Ngakoue vs. RT Trent Brown/Brandon Parker
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said earlier this week he thought Parker played well against Tennessee, and that he could start again this week in place of the injured Trent Brown. We will find out who faces the unenviable task of facing a tough Jaguars front on Sunday.
Whoever lines up at right tackle faces an even stiffer challenge than a week ago, going against the free agent-to-be, Yannick Ngakoue. At just under 25 years old, Ngakoue has quietly been one of the most productive pass rushers since he entered the league out of Maryland in 2016.
He does it mostly with speed, pretty much the exact opposite of what Parker faced a week ago against the big, burly defensive ends of the Titans.
Ngakoue’s numbers are a bit down this season, but he remains the best player the Jaguars have on either side of the ball. Despite the dip in production, he figures to be No. 1 or 1A on most teams’ free agent wish lists this Spring, assuming Jacksonville does not franchise tag him.
That is the challenge for Brown or Parker, and potentially Kolton Miller on some snaps. The Raiders cannot allow the Jags to recapture their essence as Sacks-onville in the third to last game of the season.
If Ngakoue influences the game as much as he’s capable of, it could be a long home finale in Oakland.
WR Chris Conley vs. CB Trayvon Mullen
D.J. Chark did not practice this week and is OUT for Sunday’s game. With Chark not playing, Chris Conley becomes the No. 1 outside receiver for the Jaguars—a dysfunctional offense, even without missing pieces.
Still, Raiders fans can attest from seeing him in Kansas City. If nothing else, Conley can fly. The Jaguars aren’t always smart enough to call plays to take advantage of that, and the protection doesn’t often hold up long enough for Gardner Minshew to get him the ball.
But don’t be surprised if Jacksonville send Conley deep if they end up backed-up near their own goal line in a similar manner that Tennessee did with A.J. Brown a week ago. Will the Raiders mishmash secondary be prepared to handle such a concept one week later?
This is a fast Jaguars wide receivers unit. Mullen and the rest of the woebegone secondary needs to be prepared for that speed
RB Leonard Fournette vs. LB Marquel Lee/Nicholas Morrow
Leonard Fournette has had a bounce back campaign in 2019 despite being miscast as a single back ball-carrier in a shotgun-heavy offense. He’s even improved his pass-catching, and as a result is a legitimate threat on all three downs.
Make no mistake about it though, it’s the 1,000-plus yards and battering running style that has you most concerned about Fournette if you’re sitting in Paul Guenther’s defensive coordinator office late at night. The same is true of whichever linebackers starts at Will and the other Raiders linebackers.
Tackling Fournette is not for the faint of heart. When he does get the ball out in space—which to their credit, Jacksonville has done a much better job of this season—he has enough elusiveness to not only run over you, but run around you as well.
All of the linebackers will end up chasing Fournette when he is a ball-carrier. And Morrow will likely be the guy who draws Fournette in the passing game.
The Raiders do not have to completely shut Fournette out, but they must contain him if they want to win on Sunday.