The Oakland Raiders play at the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night in a game Oakland clings to playoff hopes.
Week 15 provided the beleaguered Oakland Raiders and their frustrated fans a chance to escape from their reality and focus on the nonsense.
You know, Index-card fueled first downs and game-winning football rolling mercilessly out of the end zone in the waning moments.
The Raiders were plenty salty after a, 20-17, home loss to the Dallas Cowboys which dropped Oakland to 6-8. Some have pointed to the game’s controversial nature (it was nothing compared to what Pittsburgh endured on the same day) as reason why the Raiders’ playoff hopes cling to a thread. The truth, of course, is the Raiders have very much earned this journey to 6-8 after going 12-4 last year.
But as they cling to hope, the Raiders try to keep their postseason hopes (and they need a lot of Christmas even help) with a Christmas night win at Philadelphia. Here are five keys for the Raiders against the Eagles:
5. Throw the ball early and often
Eli Manning threw for 434 yards against the Eagles on Sunday. Philadelphia’s pass defense has been vulnerable lately. The Raiders have a chance to move the ball in the air. But, of course, Oakland has its own demons and the passing game is one of them. Derek Carr has not been in sync with his receivers this season. That must change in this game. Playing without left tackle Donald Penn, who suffered a season-ending foot injury against Dallas, could be an issue for the Raiders. The Eagles have 36 sacks and will come after Carr with his blindside protector out.
4. Get the crowd out of the game
This is the Eagles’ first home game since Carson Wentz was lost for the season with a torn ACL. The crowd is going to be nervous. It is also supposed to be cold and rainy that evening. If the Raiders can take an early lead it will rip the Christmas cheer from the Linc. A fast start would benefit the visitors greatly.
3. Hassle Foles
Wentz’s replacement, Nick Foles, threw four touchdowns against the Giants. Raiders fans remember him for throwing seven touchdown passes against Oakland in 2013 the last time these two teams played. Foles has to be made uncomfortable. He has limitations. If pressured, he can make mistakes. The Raiders have had 14 sacks in the past four games under Pagano, who replaced the fired Ken Norton Jr. as defensive coordinator. The Raiders had 14 sacks in 10 games under Norton. If the Raiders can get to Foles – Khalil Mack has six sacks in the past five games – they can win this game.
2. Contain Ajayi
The Raiders missed Jay Ajayi in November when the Miami Dolphins traded him from the Eagles days before Oakland visited Miami. Now, Ajayi gets a crack at Oakland. And he must be excited. Oakland has been giving up big yardage on the ground lately. If Ajayi can have a big game, the Raiders will have no chance.
1. Try to run the ball
While passing the ball is the Raiders’ biggest avenue to winning this game, they have to have some balance. That could be a problem. The Eagles have the best run defense in the NFL. It is allowing just 71.5 yards per game on the ground. Oakland starting tailback Marshawn Lynch has been better in the second half of the season. He had 76 yards on 16 carries against the Cowboys. If Lynch can put up similar numbers in Philly, the Raiders will take it.