To be honest, Week 7 should be an easy win for the Las Vegas Raiders. They’re facing a 1-5 Chicago Bears team that is beaten up, likely missing its starting quarterback and has a defense that gives up 29.3 points per game, tied for third-most in the NFL. That’s a big reason why DraftKings Sportsbook has the Raiders as a field-goal favorite on the road.
That being said, the Bears do have a handful of players who could give Las Vegas’ superstars trouble as that’s the focus of this week’s key matchups.
1) Josh Jacobs vs. T.J. Edwards
While Chicago’s defense as a whole has been bad, T.J. Edwards is having a great season. He’s been extremely productive with the second-most total tackles in the league (70) and Pro Football Focus has credited him with 29 defensive stops—ranks second among linebackers—meaning he makes a lot of impactful plays, too.
Edwards is a good all-around linebacker but he’s most effective against the run. PFF has him as the sixth-highest-graded linebacker (82.3) in that department, and he owns the third-best run stop percentage (12.8 percent) at the position. Also, for someone with his volume of production, the fifth-year veteran is a fairly sure tackler with just an 11.0 percent miss rate this season, which will be a test for Josh Jacobs.
Jacobs has been known to make defenders miss in the past, but he’s only forced nine missed tackles as a rusher so far this season and five of those came in Week 1 against the Broncos. Part of that has to do with the offensive line’s struggles since the back is averaging less than one rushing yard before first contact per attempt (YCO/A) on the year.
But the line has been playing better lately, giving Jacobs more breathing room with 1.27 YCO/A over the last two games. Now, the back just needs to take advantage and show off some of the shiftiness he’s displayed in the past, especially this week seeing as the Raiders are likely starting a backup quarterback and will lean on the running game.
However, that’s going to be easier said than done against one of the top linebackers in the league during the early stages of the campaign.
2) Maxx Crosby vs. Darnell Wright
While the Bears’ offensive line as a whole has been bad for the majority of 2023, rookie Darnell Wright has been one of their few bright spots. His 70.4 overall PFF grade ranks first among offensive tackles in this year’s draft class and 27th at the position as a whole, one spot and half a point behind three-time All-Pro Ryan Ramczyk.
The ground game is where Wright has really stood out so far as his 78.2 run-blocking grade ranks ninth at the position and Chicago is averaging about 5.3 yards per rush when running to the right B- and C-gaps, per PFF. With Justin Fields being ruled doubtful for Sunday, I’d expect the Bears to pound the rock behind the rookie early and often.
That’s where Maxx Crosby comes in as he’s having another excellent year against the run. Across the entire league, Crosby is tied for fourth with eight tackles for loss through six games. He also has the most tackles against the run (19) among edge defenders, ranks second at his position in PFF run defense grade (90.2) and is tied for fourth in run stops (11).
All of that sets up for an intriguing battle in the trenches.
3) Davante Adams vs. Jaylon Johnson
Davante Adams is coming off of a disappointing game where he only had a couple of receptions and just 29 yards, but he has an opportunity to get back on track this week against a familiar foe. During his time with the Packers, Adams faced the Bears 16 times and racked up 81 catches, 1,024 yards and 10 touchdowns, and several of those games were blowouts where Green Bay wasn’t throwing the ball much in the second half.
While the wideout has had plenty of success against Chicago, he does face a tough matchup with cornerback Jaylon Johnson.
Johnson has been stingy in coverage this season, surrendering a 47.1 completion percentage when targeted—10th-best among cornerbacks—and just 95 receiving yards in four games. He’s also tied for the 10th-highest PFF coverage grade (80.9) at the position and is in the top 20 with a forced incompletion rate of about 18 percent.
These two have faced each other three times in the past and Adams has gotten the better of Johnson with eight catches on 13 targets for 137 yards and a touchdown, according to PFF. However, the Raiders’ quarterback situation throws a wrench into things as it’s looking like either Aidan O’Connell or Brian Hoyer will get the start.
That also means the team will need its top receiver to win this one-on-one battle and make life easier for whoever is under center.