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Raiders At Jaguars: Three Critical Matchups For Week Nine

After a terrible performance losing 24-0 to the New Orleans Saints, the Las Vegas Raiders travel to Jacksonville to try and get right against a struggling Jaguars team. The Jags have lost five straight after starting the season 2-1, so this could be an opportunity for the Raiders to get rolling if they want to have any hope of making the playoffs. The situation that the 2-5 Raiders are in dictates that this is now the biggest game of the year. A few matchups will be critical in deciding whether the Raiders can mount a playoff run or if it will be time to pack it in and focus on 2023.

Raiders Third Down Defense Vs. Jaguars Third Down Offense

One of the biggest reasons why the Raiders have struggled this year is that their defense is not getting off the field on third down. The Raiders are 29th in the NFL in stopping third downs, allowing opponents to convert 46.0% of the time. They need to improve that number against Jacksonville, who is converting 41.2% of their third downs and is in the top third of the league in that category—containing Jags breakout running back Travis Etienne on first and second down is going to be crucial to getting into good defensive situations on third down.

When they find themselves in third and medium or better, the Raiders defense will need to put more pressure on Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Defensive End Maxx Crosby has been outstanding, registering six sacks in seven games, but he is the only one putting pressure on the quarterback. The highly-touted free-agent signing of Chandler Jones has backfired to this point in the year. Jones only has one half-sack and 15 tackles and has not lived up to the three-year, $51 million contract he signed this offseason. With Crosby receiving most of the opponent’s attention, someone else will have to step up along the defensive front.

Raiders Front Seven Vs. Jaguars Running Back Travis Etienne

Although the Raiders defense has issues as a unit, they have been stout against the run. They have allowed 108.6 rushing yards per game which puts them tenth in the league. The most significant issues come when the running backs are utilized in the passing game. Even though the Raiders defense held Alvin Kamara to under 3.5 yards per carry last week, Kamara was able to catch nine passes for 96 yards and two scores. The Saints took advantage of an apparent mismatch, and the Raiders could not adjust.

Jags running back Travis Etienne is more than capable of inflicting similar damage on the Raiders defense. Even though Etienne does not have a receiving touchdown on the year, he has still caught 17 passes for 157 yards. Etienne has been running wild after Jacksonville traded his backfield mate James Robinson to the New York Jets. He has four straight games of over 100 all-purpose yards and is coming off of a game where he had 162 total yards and a touchdown against a Denver defense that has been outstanding. The Raiders need to contain Etienne, or else he could duplicate Kamara’s performance from last week.

Raiders Quarterback Derek Carr Vs. Jaguars Quarterback Trevor Lawrence

The starting quarterbacks in this matchup have had incredibly similar seasons to this point in the year. Carr has nine touchdown passes to Lawrence’s ten. They are separated by 1.6 passing yards per game, .2 passing yards per attempt, and .4% in completion percentage. They are inconsistent in their performances, having multiple games of 300 yards passing and multiple games under 200. They are both coming off of their worst games of the year. Carr threw for only 101 yards and an interception against New Orleans, and Lawrence had only 133 yards and two picks against Denver.

The most significant difference between the two is the turnovers. Carr has only turned the ball over five times and has not lost a fumble this season. Lawrence has six picks and a whopping four lost fumbles through eight games. The key here will be whether or not Carr can protect the football against a Jaguars defense tied for sixth in the NFL with eight interceptions. If good Derek Carr shows up in Jacksonville, then Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow will have plenty of opportunities to make plays against the Jags secondary. If bad Derek Carr comes to play instead, it will be a long day at the office for the Raiders offense.

The Final Word

Despite vastly differing expectations, the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars come into this game in similar situations with only two wins apiece on the year. The Raiders had aspirations of improving off of their ten-win playoff season from last year with the acquisitions of wide receiver Davante Adams and head coach Josh McDaniels. Those high expectations remain far from being met, but there is still time to turn the season around for the Silver And Black. That turnaround will have to start this Sunday in Jacksonville, or it will be time to start looking toward 2023 in earnest.

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