The 2-0 Las Vegas Raiders have a chance to make another statement towards them being true playoff contenders with a win over another AFC opponent, the Miami Dolphins, who visit Allegiant Stadium on Sunday.
The Dolphins, who are 1-1 and are coming off an 35-0 home loss to the Buffalo Bills, appear extremely beatable.
Here are five keys to victory for the Raiders:
Finish in the red zone:
The Raiders’ offense has been terrific so far as it has scored 59 points. But the team has stumbled in their red zone like they often did last season. Through two games, the Raiders are ranked 19th in the NFL in the red zone, and reached the end zone in 44.4 percent of their drives. Last season, the Raiders were ranked 23rd in the league in the red zone as they converted 54.4 of their red-zone trips. Kicker Daniel Carlson has attempted six field goals (tied for the fourth most in the league) on two games (four at Pittsburgh). He’s on pace to attempt 51 field goals in 17 games. He attempted 35 field goals (the sixth most in the NFL) in 16 games in 2020 and the Raiders thought that was too much. Again, the offense is doing well, but it’s time for the Raiders to shine in the red zone.
Run block well:
The Raiders had one of the lowest run-blocking win rate in Week 2. The Raiders also struggled running the ball in Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens as well. The Raiders are averaging 67 rushing yards a game, which is tied for the second lowest in the league. Yes, starter Josh Jacobs and several offensive lineman have been hurt. But the Raiders need to somehow get Kenyan Drake and Peyton Barber going if Jacobs doesn’t play on Sunday. Continuing to put pressure on the Las Vegas passing game is not a great thing even though it has had success so far. Jon Gruden’s offense is at its best when there is balance.
Pressure the Miami offensive line:
The Miami offensive line has struggled this season, especially left tackle Austin Jackson. Raiders pass rushers Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue — who have been terrific this season — could have a field day. Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett is playing for the injured Tua Tagovailoa and the Raiders have a chance to make life miserable for Brissett, who struggles against pressure. They need to make sure they accomplish that.
Brissett's average time to throw the last 5 seasons is 2.9 seconds, the 5th-longest in the NFL. It's led to him being pressured on 34% of his dropbacks, the 6th-highest rate in the NFL since 2017.— Marcel Louis-Jacques (@Marcel_LJ) September 22, 2021
Beware of Xavien Howard:
The Dolphins are not a great team, but they have some solid players, starting with cornerback Xavien Howard. He is stud playmaker and he can change games by himself. He had a good game against the Raiders last December and Carr needs to account for Howard at all times. He had 10 interceptions in 2020 and has one already this season.
Don’t be dumb:
This is really the bottom line for the Raiders this week. They should crush the Dolphins. The only things that will sabotage that outcome is Las Vegas making silly mistakes. If the Raiders can keep penalties and turnovers at a minimum, this should be a blowout victory for Las Vegas.