Raiders Preview: East Coast Trip To Face Falcons Could Be A Trap
Derek Carr, Raiders
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West coast teams traveling east for 10 a.m. PT games is never ideal. For years, it meant the Las Vegas Raiders could be comfortably penciled in as “losers” due to the jet lag, early wake up time and everything else that comes with cross-country travel. And yet, maybe this year is different?

Week 1’s win against Carolina was an early morning East Coast road game, and the Raiders survived 34-30. On the flip side, the Raiders’ worst loss this season — a 36-20 dud against the New England Patriots — was also a 10 a.m. game as well.

The one major difference between those two games is this: the Raiders won the game they were supposed to win (they were 3-point favorites in Carolina) and lost the one they were expected to lose (they were 7-point underdogs in New England). This week? The Raiders are 3-point favorites against the 3-7 Atlanta Falcons.

Three Observations

1) Week after week I tell you I like the over — and, well, it’s with good reason: the Raiders are 7-2-1 against the over. This week, however, I’m going to change my tune a bit. This game has the second-highest total of the week (53.5), and after reports came out saying the Raiders were more “mad” than “sad” after last week’s collapse, I think this one gets ugly fast and the Falcons roll over.

2) If you’re looking for one reason I may be wrong about my “under” prediction, it’s that on paper this looks like a good matchup for Matt Ryan and Co. They boast the third-best passing offense in the league, while the Raiders boast the fifth-worst passing defense. The key for Las Vegas will be whether they can get to Ryan, who has been sacked four times a game for the last three weeks, which is the second-worst mark in the league.

3) One more note about these offenses: the second half has been the deciding factor. The Raiders rank fourth in the league, averaging 14.8 points after halftime each week — while the Falcons are 25th at 10.6 points in the second half per week. Over the last three weeks that gap is even more prounounced, as the Raiders are second in the league (19.3) while Atlanta is 30th (7.7).

Two Predictions

1) I’m going with a really solid performance from the Raider defense as a whole. They know they let the team down last week (even if it was one guy more than others), and I think a positive pass rush will disrupt the Atlanta gameplan completely. Plus, Todd Gurley has already been ruled out and Julio Jones may miss the game as well.

Prediction: I think the Raiders hold the Falcons under 20 points on Sunday behind three sacks and two turnovers

2) The East Coast thing really does scare me, especially against a team that’s 3-7 and could easily be overlooked. That said, the Raiders need to get the bad taste out of their mouth with a win, and I think they do it comfortably.

Prediction: Raiders 31, Falcons 17