The result of the Raiders-Patriots game emphasizes for me how much we may overrate talent, or at least the “commonly held” perception of who is talented. On what channel is New England’s roster better than the Las Vegas roster?
That appears to be the network I tuned into on Sunday despite the lack of notable names on either offense or defense for the Patriots other the former MVP who was definitely not the reason the Raiders lost their first game of this season.
If you were asking me — and you’re not, I’m only forcing my opinion on you and then phrasing it in a way as to suggest that you compelled me to write this — then I’d say that the Las Vegas Raiders are one of the most talented teams in the AFC. And that New England wouldn’t be close.
I prefer Josh Jacobs to almost any running back in the league. The Raiders have an offensive line that should at least allow Derek Carr to put up decent numbers — and then he did and that also didn’t matter. Three of the top four receivers playing in this game probably play for Las Vegas but not even the Patriots being led in receiving yards by Rex Burkhead would stop New England from asserting dominance over a franchise that they’ve grown accustomed to asserting dominance over after the last two decades.
The perception of talent has to fall with a heavier weight on the Raiders side this season than the Patriots side. The reality of the score tells a different miniseries altogether and Vegas falling behind 36-13 at a time when there was so much positivity about the offense must force Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock to re-think how to win in the coming weeks.
And of course, other “more talented teams than the Patriots” must figure out how to beat the Patriots.
Life as a Carr-dealer
If Derek Carr puts up 24-32, 261, 2/0 every week, the Raiders will at least see him going to the Pro Bowl, something they’ve only been able to say about him three times before. And each of those seasons turned out well, I’m sure of it.
If the Patriots defense is as good as it was last season (unlikely but I’m open to the idea we’re living in the dystopian future foretold by the ancient ones) then it is even more impressive than the numbers.
Derek Carr to Hunter Renfrow just before half, crazy catch.pic.twitter.com/ebLyd2SHRX— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 27, 2020
Carr also isn’t the hero today and we didn’t need the ancient ones to tell us that. He lost two fumbles and the Raiders went three of nine on third downs, two of five in the red zone and Carr went stat padding (what I’d prefer to call “tud-thumping”) with a fourth quarter drive that would have no impact on the win/loss outcome.
But also general managers are willing to sell non-essential organs for QBs who can post passer ratings of 107.5, 120.9 and 119.4 to start the season.
Of course, Carr skeptics and passer rating skeptics will be living one in the same today.
Breaking out the Maxx-ophone a week after playing New Orleans
Maxx Crosby gets the 2nd sack of the season for Las Vegas pic.twitter.com/e6niC5yeXE— Ben Brown (@FelixTheDog23) September 27, 2020
Maxx Crosby had no sacks through his first four games and two sacks through his first seven games as a rookie in 2019. He had no sacks through two games and now he has two sacks through three games in year two.
In 14 games in which he played in at least 70-percent of the snaps, Crosby has 12 sacks.
Abram Stoker’s Yack-ula
Maybe I should have said “Snack-ula” because in addition to drafting Clelin Ferrell and Josh Jacobs in the first round last year, the Raiders also “caught feelings” for Johnathan Abram at pick 27. Abram missed virtually all of his rookie season and instead has lived out most of his career at this point as a Vegas daydream.
Well Abram got out of my dreams and got into my Carr on Sunday when he yacked a Cam Newton pass attempt out of the air for his first career pick.
#Raiders DE Maxx Crosby says the team needs to make tackles in space, stay in their gaps, and have more penetration upfront and play better every down.— Carlos Sánchez (@HaeruHariken) September 27, 2020
Abram has been everything the Raiders ever hoped for and I imagine they want him to BMine4Eva.
Newton, New-team, Same-result
Cam Newton was a part of a few good teams in Carolina and it seems he’s in another good situation in a new city. It’s Bill Belichick flexing his value to have this roster out to a 2-1 start, which would be 3-0 if Newton was able to score from the one yard last week against the Seahawks.
But if Raiders fans were concerned the team would get beaten by the Patriots because the defense would get beaten by Newton, that wasn’t the case.
Las Vegas held Newton to 17 of 28 passing for 162 yards, one touchdown, one interception, sacked him twice and 27 yards on nine carries. This would be indicative of a good defensive result for the Raiders if not for the fact that the defense also gave up 250 rushing yards on 38 carries with no fumbles.
From @ESPNStatsInfo: The Patriots have eclipsed 200 rushing yards in a game for the 2nd time this season. The last time the Patriots had 200 rushing yards twice within the first 3 games of a season was 1983.— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) September 27, 2020
250 rushing yards is the most the Raiders have allowed since a 30-14 loss to the Vikings in 2015. That defense finished 13th in rushing yards allowed for the season though so I guess what I’m saying is that today clearly Vegas had an above average run defense! (Once you get to the end of the season and average it out maybe!)
It could be that the Raiders played good pass defense, but it could also be that New England’s best receiver is a 30-year-old running back.
Sunday was the second time in Trayvon Mullen’s 19-game career that he posted three passes defensed.
Trayvon Mullen out here looking like a No. 1 corner today.— Eddie Paskal (@EddiePaskal) September 27, 2020
Mike Mayock liked Damon Arnette even more than he liked Mullen. (Presumably.) He liked Clelin Ferrell more than he liked Maxx Crosby. (Obviously). It’s reason for optimism when the “number two” players are out-performing the number one players and to consider what the future will be like for those subjects. Adding in Abram, Nick Kwiatkoski, Cory Littleton, Maliek Collins, Maurice Hurst, Johnathan Hankins, Lamarcus Joyner etc and why not wonder if the Raiders will be better defensively by the end of the season than at the beginning?
We will bounce back— Trayvon Mullen Jr (@MullenIsland1) September 27, 2020
Foster Frees / “Mother, Mayock?”
In the same round that Crosby was drafted, Mayock found Foster Moreau and in the last two games he’s had a 31-yard reception, a 24-yard reception and a touchdown reception. I understand criticizing Mayock for “the reasons” but is he kind of maybe exerting some draft dominance with his first two efforts?
I mentioned the other position-partners who have a quality “other half” and that goes for Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards also. Edwards had two catches for 48 yards before leaving with an injury. But Mayock’s 2019 class would be thriving by any standards right now even if you didn’t include the fourth overall pick:
Josh Jacobs, Johnathan Abram, Trayvon Mullen, Maxx Crosby, Foster Moreau and Hunter Renfrow. Fourth rounder Isaiah Johnson also remains on the team and seventh rounder Quinton Bell is a special teamer for the Buccaneers.