Three weeks ago, the Las Vegas Raiders’ season was on life support. They had two wins and just lost to a rapidly declining Colts team. However, by some sort of medical miracle, the Raiders have awakened from their comma to win three games in a row, including yesterday’s 27-20 Week 13 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Las Vegas dug itself into a deep hole during the first three months of the season but, like last year, a late November and December push has revived the Silver and Black’s 2022 campaign, and a lot of that is due to the resurgence of the players below.
WINNER: Raiders’ playoff hopes
The Raiders still have some work to do to earn a postseason berth, but they’ve at least brought themselves within striking distance with this win streak.
The New York Jets currently hold the AFC’s third and final Wild Card spot at 7-5, two games ahead of Vegas. To make matters even better for the Raiders, the Jets have to go to Buffalo this Sunday and the Bills are coming off of a mini-bye week after playing on Thursday Night Football. Meanwhile, Las Vegas has the midweek matchup this week and will play the Rams in Los Angeles which is typically a home away from home for the Raiders.
Long story short, the Raiders could easily pull within a game of the Jets after Week 14.
Now, the Patriots and Chargers are still ahead of the Silver and Black at 6-6, and the former gets to play the Cardinals on Monday Night Football this week. But, the Chargers will host the Dolphins next Sunday, and New England comes to Las Vegas in two weeks, so the Raiders still have a chance at controlling their own destiny down the stretch of the season.
The Browns are Steelers are also sitting at 5-7 so it’s important to keep tabs on them as well. The good news is Cleveland has three divisional games left on the schedule, and Pittsburgh and Las Vegas will meet on Christmas Eve.
WINNER: Chandler Jones
Yesterday was the version of Chandler Jones the Raiders have been waiting all season for. With just a half-sack in the first 11 games of the season, Jones managed to increase his production for the entire season by a multiple of six with three sacks against the Chargers. He also ended the day with five quarterback hits and a pass breakup as he was harassing Justin Herbert all game.
But the veteran didn’t just show up as a pass rusher, he was stout against the run, too. Jones also racked up two tackles for loss and finished the day tied for third on the team with six total tackles.
He was able to take advantage of a beat-up offensive line and make Jamaree Salyer look every bit like the rookie he is, which few edge defenders have done this season. Hopefully, Jones can build on this momentum and continue to ride the wave he’s been on over the last two weeks and help the team make a late playoff push.
WINNER: Amik Roberston
After being limited to just 20 defensive snaps in the last two games combined, Robertson desperately needed a bounce-back performance yesterday. And the team needed him to step up too after Anthony Averett was placed on injured reserve.
Robertson was also thrown into the fire by drawing the tough assignment of covering Keenan Allen in the slot. However, the defensive back was up for the challenge and was sticky in coverage, creating a few incompletions with tight coverage on Allen and recording a pass breakup in the contest. Some of those big plays came during clutch situations like third downs, too.
Allen did end up catching six passes for 88 yards and a touchdown with the 35-yard score coming with Robertson in coverage. But that play came off a scramble drill where Robertson had good coverage, it was just a perfect throw and catch.
Also, the wideout was targeted 14 times and with that amount of passes getting thrown his way, he’s bound to put up some yardage numbers. Holding him below a 50 percent catch rate is a win for Vegas’ secondary.
LOSER: Nate Hobbs
In fairness to Hobbs, this was his first game back after missing the previous six contests with a broken hand, so it’s understandable that he’d be a little rusty. That showed as he struggled to cover Joshua Palmer, who had seven catches and 60 yards on 11 targets.
While Hobbs did lead the team in tackles with eight total, all solos, that’s typically not a good sign for a corner, especially with him making all of those tackles on his own. That means he was getting beat in coverage and had to rally after the catch to limit the damage. Granted, he was successful at the latter.
Again, there’s no reason to panic as this was the second-year pro’s first game back after a long time off. Also, there weren’t many options for this week’s losers list and I wouldn’t expect to see Hobbs on it much moving forward.
WINNER: Pass protection
Derek Carr and Davante Adams were able to connect on a few long passes to start the second half and give the Raiders a two-score lead at the beginning of the third quarter, and as a team, they averaged 15.6 yards per catch throughout the afternoon.
The reason Carr was able to push the ball down the field so much is that the offensive line gave him nothing but time all day. On the broadcast, Adam Archuleta kept pointing out how much time Carr and Adams had to hit those in-breaking routes over the middle of the field, and that’s a testament to how well the guys up front played.
Las Vegas' offensive line gave up no sacks and just two quarterback hits to Khalil Mack and the Chargers’ pass rush. That just goes to show how much the big uglies have grown as a group over the course of the season as Mack had three sacks by himself in the season opener.
LOSER: Jayon Brown
With Divine Deablo on IR and Blake Martinez retiring last month, Brown is playing essentially because he’s one of the few linebackers left on the roster and that’s showing on the field.
Since being brought back into the starting lineup in Week 10, he’s earned the seventh-lowest PFF grade (42.2) among all linebackers. A big reason for that is he’s tied for the ninth-most missed tackles (MT) with five and has the ninth-worst MT rate at 19.2 percent during that timeframe. Brown added two more misses at a 28.6 percent clip on Sunday while simultaneously allowing three catches for 39 yards — 13.0 yards per catch.
When he signed as a free agent, he was supposed to be a good coverage linebacker, but he’s been anything but that by allowing 27 receptions on 30 targets for 256 yards on the year. The cupboard might be bare in the position room, but it might be time for the coaching staff to give someone else a shot. It can’t get much worse.