The Philadelphia Eagles and Oakland Raiders are set to play each other this Monday at Lincoln Financial Field. In order to preview the Eagles’ Week 16 game against the Rrrrrrrrrraiders, I reached out to our enemies at Silver And Black Pride. Levi Damien took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming game. Let's take a look at the answers. (Also don't forget to check out my Q&A exchange at SABP.)
1 - After going 12-4 in 2016, the Raiders are now 6-8 and virtually eliminated from the playoffs with two games left to play. What’s wrong with this year’s team?
That's quite a question. But I'll try my best to sum it up. It's a team that was carried by it's offense last season. It didn't see any major changes/additions on defense, so when the offense stumbled, everything fell apart. They had the 26th ranked defense, but didn't add anyone in free agency, saw their top two picks miss basically the entire season with injury, and get no production from any other draft pick. They had the 6th ranked offense and changed offensive coordinators. This should be in the handbook on how to destroy a promising team.
2 - What’s the Raiders’ biggest strength at this point?
It might be odd to say this about a team that is 22nd in the league in sacks, but it's probably the pass rush. Early in the season, they were looking worse than last year, which is saying a lot considering they were the worst pass rushing team in the league with just 25 sacks. But since Ken Norton Jr was fired and John Pagano took over as the defensive play caller, Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, and Denico Autry have caught fire. They have 13.0 sacks between them over the past four games under Pagano. With the sack from NaVorro Bowman, the Raiders have half their season total (28) sacks in the past four games alone. Had they been putting up those numbers all season, they'd have the second most sacks in the league (49) right now.
3 - I noticed the Raiders’ defense ranks 32nd overall in DVOA. What are the issues there? How have teams been exploiting Oakland?
Mostly through the air. The coaches will tell you everything is connected, and there is some truth to that. They played timid early in the season. Like they were so afraid to give up the big play, they would give up everything else instead (and the big play too on occasion). They were getting dinked and dunked to death. Jay Cutler completed his first 16 passes against them. Tom Brady completed his first 12 passes. Those were consecutive games. And the team set a new record for games to start a season without an interception (10). They beat the only record by FOUR GAMES. That's when Norton was fired. Since then they have four interceptions in four games. And as mentioned above, the pass rush has come alive. It's really amazing how impotent this defense was. That's not to say it's great now -- it still has it's issues to be certain -- but at least now they are making plays and giving the offense a chance.
4 - Which one Eagles player would you steal if you could have them on the Raiders? If you were FORCED to help Philly, which best Raiders player (besides Khalil Mack) would you put on the Eagles?
Earlier in the season I would have said Mychal Kendricks. He's a Cal guy and an inside linebacker which the Raiders didn't have. But since they signed NaVorro Bowman midseason, he has shown he is the answer there. So, I'm gonna go with Fletcher Cox. Such a beast on that interior defensive line. Last season the Raiders were the worst pass rushing team from the interior defensive line. They keep hoping Mario Edwards Jr will be the answer there, but he's inconsistent and injury prone. In fact, they have selected an interior pass rushing defensive lineman on day two of their last three drafts and have failed to find the answer. With the force Khalil Mack (and at times Bruce Irvin as well) is from the outside, having someone on the inside getting pressure as well would be something.
5 - Who wins this game and why? Score prediction?
Eagles win it. That defense is for real. And it's in Philly too. In December. I expect Mack to get to Nick Foles a couple times, but Foles will still have a fairly good day. The Raiders secondary can't keep anyone down. Eagles 27, Raiders 13