3 Takeaways from Raiders' Week 18 Win

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 10, 2022

3 Takeaways from Raiders' Week 18 Win

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    Ellen Schmidt/Associated Press

    The Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers nearly played to a tie on Sunday night in the final game of the NFL regular season. And if that had happened, both teams would now be heading to the playoffs.

    Instead, the Raiders prevented their AFC West rivals from reaching the postseason, and they helped out the Pittsburgh Steelers in the process.

    Las Vegas secured a 35-32 victory when Daniel Carlson booted a 47-yard field goal as time expired in overtime, clinching the team's spot in the playoffs. If he had missed, the game would have ended in a tie and Pittsburgh (which beat the Baltimore Ravens in overtime earlier in the day) would have been out of the playoffs in favor of Los Angeles.

    With the win, Las Vegas moved up to the No. 5 seed in the AFC, meaning they'll go on the road to face the AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card Round on Saturday. It marks the Raiders' first playoff appearance since the 2016 season.

    Here are three takeaways from Las Vegas' Week 18 win.

Carlson Comes Through Clutch Yet Again

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    The Raiders have only played at Allegiant Stadium since the start of the 2020 season, but Carlson has wasted no time in making it feel like his home.

    The 26-year-old has consistently come through with big kicks there. And not only that, but he's been perfect in Las Vegas.

    Carlson went 5-for-5 on his field-goal attempts on Sunday night, improving to 38-for-38 at Allegiant Stadium. His most recent kick was his biggest yet, though, as his 47-yard field goal at the end of OT pushed the Raiders into the playoffs.

    It's been another impressive season for the Auburn product, who led the NFL with 40 field goals during the regular season while missing only three attempts in 17 games. Not only that, but he also went 9-for-9 on lead-changing FG attempts with less than two minutes to go in regulation or OT, the most in a season in NFL history, according to ESPN's Field Yates.

    Las Vegas would have made it to the playoffs whether Carlson had made that final field-goal attempt or not. But his kick kept his home-field percentage at 100 percent and sent the Raiders to the postseason on a four-game winning streak.

    And if Las Vegas needs a big kick in the playoffs, it can depend on him to come through again.

Jacobs Delivers His Biggest Game at Opportune Time

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    Ellen Schmidt/Associated Press

    Before Carlson's game-winning field goal, Josh Jacobs rushed for 10 yards on a 3rd-and-4 to put the Raiders in position to win the game. That's what the running back did all night, too, as he had no trouble picking up sizable chunks of yards against the Chargers' defense.

    The 23-year-old, who was questionable to play due to a rib injury, delivered the biggest performance of his three-year NFL career. He ran for a career-high 132 yards on 26 carries, and he scored on a one-yard touchdown run that gave Las Vegas a 17-14 lead 37 seconds before halftime.

    When the game went to overtime, Jacobs made it known that he wanted to lead the team to victory.

    "I told them, 'I'm the closer. That’s what y'all brought me here for. Let me close,'" he told reporters.

    The Alabama product did just that, as he finished with more than 100 rushing yards for the second time in three weeks after not reaching that mark previously this season.

    And if Jacobs can keep this momentum going, he could help lead Las Vegas to more success in the playoffs.

Raiders' Turnaround Has Been Incredible

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    The Raiders have overcome a ton of adversity during the 2021 season, and few would have predicted they would be one of the seven AFC teams heading to the playoffs a month ago.

    In October, Jon Gruden resigned as head coach and was replaced by Rich Bisaccia, who is now leading the team on an interim basis. The organization also dealt with numerous other off-the-field incidents, such as when Henry Ruggs III was released after he was involved in a fatal accident that led to him being charged with four felonies.

    Meanwhile, Las Vegas endured some struggles on the field. Coming out of their Week 8 bye, it lost five of six games to fall to 6-7. In Week 14, it was blown out 48-9 by the Kansas City Chiefs, and the season seemed to be trending in the wrong direction.

    Then, the Raiders reeled off four straight wins to reach the playoffs, beating the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Chargers to close the regular season. And with that, the franchise's five-year postseason drought ended.

    The Raiders will now look for their first playoff victory since winning the AFC Championship Game during the 2002 season, as they'll seek to avenge a Week 11 loss to the Bengals.

    And while it may seem unlikely Las Vegas will make a deep postseason run, the team has been proving people wrong all season. Perhaps it will continue to do so.

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