3 Biggest Areas Raiders Must Improve on in Brutal Final Stretch of NFL Schedule

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 8, 2021

3 Biggest Areas Raiders Must Improve on in Brutal Final Stretch of NFL Schedule

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Las Vegas Raiders are just one game back of the final AFC wild-card position entering Week 14, but reaching that spot will be a challenge. 

    The Raiders go on the road to visit the Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts in three of the next four weeks. 

    Las Vegas' other two contests are at home versus the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers, both of whom are in the wild-card race as well. 

    A push up to the No. 7 seed is possible, but the Raiders need to be better offensively. They failed to reach the 20-point mark in four of their five games out of the Week 8 bye.

    If the Raiders improve offensively, they might be in the mix with the Chargers, Colts and others when January rolls around. 

More Production Beneath Hunter Renfrow

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Hunter Renfrow is the only consistent part of the Las Vegas passing attack right now. 

    Renfrow has seven or more catches in five of his last six trips to the gridiron. He produced back-to-back 100-yard games against the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Football Team

    The 2019 fifth-round pick is Derek Carr's most reliable target, but there has not been much production beneath him on the stat chart in the last month.

    Darren Waller's injury woes and the release of Henry Ruggs III opened up opportunities for DeSean Jackson, Zay Jones and Bryan Edwards, but there has not been a consistent No. 2 behind Renfrow.

    Edwards came alive with 88 receiving yards on three catches in Week 10 against Kansas City, but he has four receptions in the three games after that.

    Jackson joined Renfrow in the 100-yard club on Thanksgiving Day against the Cowboys, but he had a single reception on Sunday versus Washington. 

    The lack of consistency at wide receiver is hurting Las Vegas' productivity, and it puts more pressure on Carr and Renfrow to be more perfect on the times they connect through the air. 

    If Las Vegas produces a more consistent aerial approach, it can put up more than two touchdowns per contest. That could go a long way in helping the Raiders compete with the Chargers, Chiefs and others. 

Additional Output from Josh Jacobs

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    Josh Jacobs has two games with more than 60 rushing yards this season. 

    The running back's totals are off of his pace from the 2020 campaign in which he had six performances with 70 or more rushing yards by the Week 13 bye. 

    Las Vegas has just four 100-yard rushing performances as a team. Three of those outputs came in victories, including the Week 12 win over Dallas. 

    The Raiders have 80 or more rushing yards in five of their six wins. The Week 2 triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers was the only instance in which the Raiders did not hit the 80-yard mark in a win. 

    The pressure will be on Jacobs to produce more in the coming weeks since Kenyan Drake suffered a broken ankle in the loss to Washington. Drake had a single-digit rush attempt total in all but one appearance this season. He was an asset in the passing game in addition to spelling Jacobs' carries. 

    A better rushing attack could be the answer to making up for the production behind Renfrow in the passing game. 

    If that happens, the Raiders can hit their last five foes with a more balanced approach—one that could propel them into the postseason. 

Rushing Defense

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The Raiders have not done a great job of containing opposing running backs over the last month.

    Las Vegas allowed three teams to run for more than 100 yards. Two of its four largest ground concessions occurred in November. 

    The AFC West side faces a slew of tough running back matchups to close the season. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, Austin Ekeler and Javonte Williams could all wreak havoc on the Raiders defense. 

    The Chargers produced 168 rushing yards against the Raiders in Week 4 and the Broncos ran for 112 yards in Week 6. Kansas City gained 92 rushing yards in Week 10. 

    Las Vegas needs to contain its divisional foes in order to have a chance of winning those three important contests. 

    Limiting Taylor and Chubb to under 100 rushing yards will be tough as well in games that will affect the Raiders' wild-card tiebreakers. 

    If the run defense is more consistent, the Raiders can hold opponents to around 20 points, which is a manageable total to then allow the offense to win games. 

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