The Las Vegas Raiders hit the road again in Week 8 as underdogs on DraftKings Sportsbook against the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football. Ahead of the game, Ryan Mathews from Pride of Detroit was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Lions for Raider Nation.
Q: The Lions have been a well-oiled machine for the majority of the season but are coming off a blowout loss to the Ravens. What happened in that game? Did a weakness potentially get exposed for Detroit?
A: It’s been a bit of a running theme–no pun intended–for this Aaron Glenn-led defense to struggle against mobile quarterbacks. One look at the box score from last week might have you wondering why because Lamar Jackson only had 36 rushing yards on 9 carries, but it’s a mobile quarterback’s ability to extend plays that continues to plague this defense.
They don’t have a solution to stopping it, they haven’t figured it out over the past couple of years, and there are more than enough data points to consider it a trend at this point. Detroit’s defense gave up 255 passing yards on 17 completions in the first half of last week’s game, and 12 of those passes were good for first downs.
That doesn’t seem like it will be much of an issue against the Raiders in this upcoming matchup considering Jimmy Garoppolo’s profile, but if Las Vegas can give him a little extra time to operate, there’s definitely room for him to make a few plays against this banged up Lions secondary.
Q: Amon-Ra St. Brown has emerged as a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver over the last two years and is the offensive player I worry the most about against the Raiders. Can you give us a brief description of his game, and is there a type of corner that seems to give him trouble?
A: St. Brown really is the lifeblood of this passing offense, so your worry is substantiated. He’s Jared Goff’s security blanket, the guy he trusts the most to make a tough catch over the middle of the field between linebackers and safeties closing in. And he usually does so, posting the eighth-best contested catch rate (69.2%) among NFL wide receivers with at least 20 total targets this year.
If there’s a “type” of cornerback that seems to give St. Brown trouble, it’s the athletic type that can stay ahead of him, matching his routes and staying tight in coverage. But with that said, St. Brown’s play strength keeps him a threat despite how sticky the coverage is, as long as Goff is accurate and timely with his throw.
Q: A one-on-one matchup that I’m really excited to watch is Maxx Crosby against Penei Sewell as both guys are becoming one of the best at their positions and are still in their 20s. How do you think that matchup will play out on Monday night?
A: You and me both! That’s one helluva primetime matchup between two ascending stars at their respective position, so I couldn’t agree more.
There’s an argument to be made for Sewell already being one of the best tackles in all of football. He has surrendered just three quarterback pressures (all hurries) this season, no sacks, and leads all NFL offensive tackles in Pro Football Focus’ “Pass Blocking Efficiency” (a PFF signature stat measuring pressure allowed on a per-snap basis with weighting toward sacks allowed) with a 99.5 score.
But Crosby, in his own right, is at or near the top of his position, too! He’s got more pressures than any other defender in the NFL, he’s making impact plays, he’s the real deal. Somehow, I’m even more excited for this matchup, and I have even less of an idea of who has the upper hand coming into Week 8. It’s strength on strength, and those are the kind of matchups that make this league great.
4) Besides Aidan Hutchinson, who is one defensive player for Detroit who will make a big impact against Las Vegas and why?
Alim McNeill is a name I’ll bring up because he’s been one of the most impactful defensive linemen in the league, but his name flies under the radar a bit because he isn’t necessarily a pressure or sack machine. He’s one of the best run defenders among interior defenders–he currently ranks fifth in PFF’s run defense grade (80.5)–but he isn’t a slouch at pushing the pocket (he’s t-22nd in QB pressures with 16).
Last week was a down week for just about everybody on the Lions defense, but McNeill registered three pressures and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if this defense came out with their ears pinned back after a sackless performance a week ago.
5) DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the line set at Lions -8. So, what do you think the Raiders have to do to keep this a one-possession game and cover?
It’s all going to come down to ball possession. Can the Raiders sustain longer drives by establishing a running game? Can Las Vegas avoid turning over the football? Are they ready for what is sure to be the most raucous crowd they’ve faced, maybe in their entire NFL careers? Ford Field will be absolutely electric come Monday night, especially with the bad taste left in everyone’s mouth after the disaster that was last week’s game.
It feels like a spot no team would want to be in this week, and for a Raiders team that’s had a couple of clunkers already this season, they’re going to need to be sharp to keep this game competitive. Not ruling it out by any means, but they’ll need to be on their A-game if they want to survive the spread.