After going down four straight times to end the first half of the season, can Washington turn around and win four consecutive games immediately after their bye week? That is a unique question, how many teams in the NFL have produced a losing streak of at least four games and matched it with a winning streak of at least four games? Either way, Washington will have their opportunity this upcoming Sunday against Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders, who are 6-5 on the year.
Washington is heading into this game a bit banged up, with essential players like Safety Landon Collins, Guard Ereck Flowers Sr., and Guard/Center Wes Schweitzer not participating in their Thursday practice. However, Thursday practices are key to identifying who’s most likely to play on a Sunday game, barring an unforeseen setback.
WFT-Raiders injury report. DNP for DeSean Jackson. He plays for the other team. pic.twitter.com/M7b9F1piTw— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) December 2, 2021
With playoff hopes on the line for both teams, Washington can’t afford to let any injury excuses seep into their approach; this is that “next man up” situation they are facing. So, let’s take a look at three key matchups to watch in Sunday’s matchup with the Raiders.
Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne vs. Raiders Interior Offensive Line
Before week two, the Raiders lost both of their starting guards Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good, leaving their IOL in flux for the entire season. According to ESPN’s pass-block win rate, the Raiders are 22nd in the NFL in pass protection. The interior line of the Raiders has been shuffled around the entire season and have now converted their rookie right tackle Alex Leatherwood to guard to put a bandaid on the leaks.
Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne have to dominate this matchup. But when I say Allen and Payne have to dominate, I mean Payne has to help Allen out. Allen has produced each game to date, so it’s hard to believe that his effort and impact would not be felt versus the Raiders offensive line; however, the issue with Washington this season has been their inability to dirty up opposing quarterbacks. Derek Carr is a very efficient quarterback and ten times better when he has time in the pocket. With pressure in his face, though, Carr tends to force passes into areas in which he shouldn’t. With an explosive passing offense, the Raiders, who rank second in both yards per game and yards per attempt, the pass-rush would need to help out the secondary more than ever this week.
Kam Curl and Danny Johnson vs. Hunter Renfrow
With the status of Darren Waller being up in the air for this Sunday’s game, Hunter Renfrow, assuming that Waller is out, will be the biggest threat for Washington when the Raiders offense is on the field. As Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia would say during a recent news conference, “He’s like Gumby; he’s untouchable in a phone booth.”
Not sure what the status of what #RaiderNation Waller will be by gameday, but for #WashingtonFootball , it’s important to neutralize Hunter Renfrow.— Jamual (@LetMualTellit) December 2, 2021
- 1st in rec’s (64), 2nd in targets (82), highest catch % on the team.
- High level awareness
- Carr’s go-to pic.twitter.com/N9OXMt1CuU
As you can see in the tweet above, the Raiders have targeted Renfrow second-most but he leads the team in catches and catch percentage. Safety Kam Curl will have some opportunities in man coverage to defend against the savvy route runner whenever wide receiver DeSean Jackson is off the field. Still, Curl, who has good coverage abilities, will need to focus more on tackling and mitigating the damage that Renfrow can do on any given down.
Johnson has emerged as a competent slot cornerback for Washington and has the full-time role, at least for now. The opposite of Curl, Johnson’s responsibility will be to limit his targets completely. This begins in their film study. The Raiders have a lot of plays specifically designed to get Renfrow the football at or near the line of scrimmage, and Johnson will need to trust what he’s seen on film and take away those specific opportunities for Renfrow.
Charles Leno Jr. and Cornelius Lucas vs. Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby
This week, Washington’s offensive line will have their hands full against the Raiders, specifically against edge rushers Ngakoue and Crosby. Ngakoue has eight sacks on the season, Crosby has five, but both are equally effective at creating pressure with top-tier bursts off the line of scrimmage.
Maxx Crosby (@CrosbyMaxx) goes speed bull rush & drives the 318 lb Terence Steele right into Prescott. Don’t sleep on Crosby’s power! @RealSkipBayless them #raiders are for real! #passrush #speedtopower pic.twitter.com/SuJbS7Vo38— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) November 27, 2021
Yannick Ngakoue (55 QB pressures) & Maxx Crosby (53) further distanced themselves from the rest of the league's pass rushers in total QB pressures.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 26, 2021
Maxx Crosby: 5 QBP on 44 pass rushes (11.4%)
Yannick Ngakoue: 4 QBP on 38 pass rushes (10.5%)#LVvsDAL | #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/BRHZjmf3kh
To further solidify how productive Ngakoue is, he now has six straight seasons of at least eight sacks in the NFL. With a lowly performance against the Dallas Cowboys, expect a motivated performance from Ngakoue this week. The edge rushers versus Washington will be the star matchup of the game. Washington is in significant trouble if Heincke is under pressure most of the game. Heincke’s highly-elusive skillset won’t work much, if at all, against this Raiders pass-rush.
What are your key matchups to watch in this Sunday’s game? Will Washington win their fourth-straight game, too?