Finally, the Las Vegas Raiders defense might be able to take a little bit of a break.
After back-to-back games against offenses that are among the league’s best, this Thursday’s prime-time game features a unit on the other side of the rankings. Yes — the Rams — Sean McVay’s group, the defending Super Bowl champions, are hosting the Raiders, and it’s the defense who is taking a breath.
How quickly things can change in the NFL.
Of course, injuries play a large part in how this season has played out for the Rams. Cooper Kupp, Matthew Stafford and Allen Robinson are all out — as are tackles Joe Noteboom, AJ Jackson, Chandler Brewer. On the other side of the ball, Los Angeles is expected to be without Aaron Donald (among others), who would be missing his second consecutive game.
For the Raiders, there’s a chance that their injured list is actually getting a bit lighter this week. Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller are both eligible to return from IR, so their status is worth monitoring as the week goes on.
Los Angeles: 31st in yards per game, 32nd in yards per play, 2nd in opponent red zone scoring percentage (TD), 4th in opponent yards per rush
In a way, these offensive stats might actually be under-selling how pitiful the Rams offense should be on Thursday. With Stafford out, backup John Wolford has played off-and-on over the past couple of weeks, but due to his own injuries, he is not expected to play on Thursday. That leaves Bryce Perkins, who is 19/34 for 161 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions so far this season.
Las Vegas: 23rd in third down conversion rate, 28th in red zone scoring percentage (TD), 28th in opponent red zone scoring percentage (TD)
When you look at how the Raiders offense stacks up against the rest of the league, the numbers are really favorable. They’re in the top 10 in points and yards, but the two numbers that stand out are third downs and what they’ve done inside the red zone.
As it stands, the Raiders have a very outside chance at making a playoff run — but if they’re going to, the margins are very slim. And yet, those margins are going to depend a lot on whether or not they can improve on third downs and once they get inside the red zone. This week against a beaten-down Rams team is a great opportunity to start trending those numbers in the right direction.
Los Angeles: Bobby Wagner
The long-time Seahawk is coming off of his best game of the season last week against his former team — logging 7 tackles, two sacks, two stuffs and an interception in the last-minute loss. I’ll be curious to see how he follows that up for a few reasons…
First is the emotional letdown after playing his former team on Sunday, and second is how his 32-year-old body responds to the Thursday night turnaround. If the Rams have any hope of containing Josh Jacobs, Wagner will need to be firing on all cylinders.
Las Vegas: Davante Adams
On the season, Adams is fifth in receptions, fourth in yards and tied for first in touchdowns. In the last five weeks, however, he has been even better, averaging over 8 catches, 120 yards and one touchdown per game.
This Sunday, though? Jalen Ramsey will be lined up opposite of him. These two have faced off before, and in an honest moment, Ramsey would probably say Adams got the better of him. According to Next Gen Stats, when these two lined up against each other a year ago, Adams caught all five targets for 41 yards. It was the most receptions Ramsey had allowed in more than a year and a half.
Raiders 31, Rams 17
Enough with these one-score games already. The Rams are banged up everywhere, something that will be even more magnified on a short week like this. On the other side, the Raiders have won three in a row and are probably starting to believe their season isn’t over after all. Add in the fact that this will be a defacto home game for the Raiders, and I think they cruise in this one pretty comfortably.