While the Raiders’ playoff hopes are slim, they have a chance to impact the postseason this Monday by pulling off the upset and preventing the Chiefs from earning the AFC’s top seed and home-field advantage throughout the tournament. Also, Las Vegas has an opportunity to prove itself on a national stage heading into an offseason where a lot of change is expected.
So, that’s the primary focus of this week’s three key matchups.
Jack Jones vs. Rashee Rice
When these teams met back in Week 12, Rashee Rice had a breakout performance with eight catches, 107 yards and a touchdown. The eight grabs were the rookie’s season-high at the time—he had nine catches last Sunday—and his yardage total still stands as a personal best.
Over the last month, Rice has logged 32 catches for 333 yards and three scores which rank second, fourth and tied for fourth, respectively, among wide receivers. He’s also earned the sixth-highest receiving grade (85.6) from Pro Football Focus during that timeframe as he’s starting to emerge as a legitimate weapon in the NFL.
But on the other side of the ball, Jack Jones is coming off of the best performance of his career.
Jones put together an outstanding game against the Chargers as he was targeted three times and surrendered just one reception for two yards with a pick-six thrown in the mix. That resulted in a 2.8 passer rating when targeted and an elite 94.2 from PFF.
Now, the second-year pro needs to stack good outings on top of each other as he attempts to prove that he’s worthy of a starting spot next season. One of the best ways to do that is by stopping one of the hottest receivers in the league right now.
Rice was able to come down with two catches on two targets for 19 yards and a first down against Jones last time, but both players’ stock has risen since then so they will likely have more one-on-one battles this time around.
Patrick Graham vs. Andy Reid/Matt Nagy
Patrick Graham deserves a ton of credit for what he’s done with the Raiders defense this season. Despite a low investment in the unit, Las Vegas is tied for ninth with just 20.0 points surrendered per game. Also, he’s been hot lately as the team has allowed more than 21 points once in their last six games.
However, that lone outing came against this week’s opponent and Graham has struggled against Andy Reid and the Chiefs in the three games he’s faced them as the Silver and Black’s defensive coordinator with Kansas City scoring 30 points or more in each outing.
Reid and Matt Nagy had Graham’s number last time around as the Chiefs’ passing attack consistently exploited the open areas of the field to the point where it almost seemed as if they were in the Raiders’ huddle.
So, this Monday will be about retribution for the defensive coordinator as he simultaneously looks to build his case to stick around for the future.
Tre Tucker vs. Trent McDuffie
Tre Tucker is another young Raider who is coming off of a strong performance with three catches for 59 yards and two touchdowns. All of those figures were season highs and he recorded his first NFL touchdown against the Chargers.
Over the last three weeks, Las Vegas has been putting Tucker in the slot more often as that’s where the majority of his production came from last week. So, he’ll likely draw a handful of matchups with another ascending player, Trent McDuffie.
This one-on-one battle will be a matter of who gives in first as McDuffie has been good at rallying and tackling this year with 14 defensive stops (tackles that result in a “failure” for the offense) in coverage, per PFF, which is tied for ninth among cornerbacks. However, he is susceptible to getting beat deep with an average of 10.8 yards per reception allowed, and he’s surrendered at least one catch of 20 yards or more in six games this year.
So, Tucker could have an opportunity to make an explosive play on Monday as he attempts to build some momentum heading into his second season.