3 Takeaways from Raiders' Week 16 Win

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 27, 2021

3 Takeaways from Raiders' Week 16 Win

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    The Las Vegas Raiders are still clinging to the playoff dream following back-to-back big wins. Last Monday, the Raiders survived the Cleveland Browns in a game that was postponed. Less than a week later, the Raiders overcame the Denver Broncos despite turning it over three times.

    We're talking about back-to-back wins against non-elite teams, but such is life in the NFL's middle class. The Broncos and Broncos are both in the playoff hunt. Las Vegas now sits above Cleveland and Denver in the AFC wild-card race and can get in if a few things break the Raiders' way.

    In what has been a distraction-filled, up-and-down season, the Raiders are still alive as the 2021 calendar year comes to a close. That's the biggest thing to take away from Week 16—when the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers also lost.

    Here's what else we learned during the Raiders' 17-13 win over Denver.

The Defense Can Be Good Enough to Reach the Postseason

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Raiders defense has not been great this season. It came into Sunday ranked 15th against the run, 13th against the pass, 17th in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed. However, Las Vegas showed over the last couple of weeks that it can play defense well enough to win close games against fellow playoff hopefuls.

    A week after holding Cleveland to 14 points, the Raiders defense smothered the Broncos. Granted, Denver was playing with backup quarterback Drew Lock and never seemed to find a rhythm, but it's not as if the Broncos are completely devoid of offensive talent.

    The Raiders allowed a mere 158 yards of offense Sunday. They allowed just two conversions on 11 third- and fourth-down attempts and surrendered only three points on drives that didn't begin in Raiders territory.

    Quarterback Derek Carr had two turnovers, while running back Josh Jacobs had one. If not for a strong defensive effort, Las Vegas could have easily lost this game. It was a total team effort for the second straight week, and that's precisely what Raiders fans should want to see heading into the final two-week stretch of 2021.

Josh Jacobs Finally Had a Big Game

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    The defense kept Las Vegas within striking distance. Jacobs helped carry the Raiders over the finish line. In what was unquestionably his best effort of the season, Jacobs steamrolled the Broncos to the tune of 129 rushing yards and 4.8 yards per carry.

    It marked Jacobs' first 100-yard game of the season.

    Injuries have hampered Jacobs throughout 2021. He has missed two games and rarely looked like the Pro Bowler he was in 2020. Against the Broncos, though, Jacobs found his form and found enough of a rhythm to dominate.

    "I know when I get into the rhythm because I start making extra little plays," Jacobs said, per Levi Edwards of the team's official website. "Not only that, but everything kind of slows downs for me. I just kind of get in that zone."

    The Broncos have been decent against the run—they came in ranked 11th in rushing yards per game allowed—so Jacobs' performance shouldn't be viewed as a fluke. If it's a sign of things to come and not simply a one-off, Las Vegas will have a legitimate chance to finish the season strong.

The Raiders Will Have to Be Better to Reach 10 Wins

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    Jeff Bottari/Associated Press

    While the Raiders have played well enough to string together a pair of critical wins, they must be better down the stretch. A late Carr interception nearly cost Las Vegas in Cleveland. Three turnovers nearly doomed the Raiders against Denver.

    In the two wins, the Raiders have put up a combined 33 points. Scoring 16 or 17 points won't be enough to overcome miscues against Las Vegas' final two opponents.

    The Raiders face the red-hot Indianapolis Colts in Week 17 before finishing the season against the Chargers. Both teams are fighting for their playoff lives, and neither will be in a generous mood against the Raiders.

    The Colts and the Chargers aren't expected to play backup quarterbacks either, as the Browns and Broncos were forced to do. If Las Vegas is going to reach double-digit wins for the first time since 2016, it will require fast starts, strong finishes and clean football.

    Raiders fans have enjoyed seeing victories over the past week, but what they've seen between the white lines won't be good enough to end the year on a four-game winning streak.