The Detroit Lions are the antithesis of the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Lions are well coached, versatile, and division leader at 5-2 overall that’s helmed by the people’s coach Dan Campbell. The Raiders, on the other hand, are disjointed, predictable, are a distant second in their division at 3-4 overall, and led by the people’s ire Josh McDaniels.
Two teams on seemingly different trajectories heading into Week 8 of the NFL season. However, a win or lose by either could change its respective fortunes — for better or worse.
Detroit currently leads the NFC North with the Minnesota Vikings (3-4) in second place. The Vikings have won two-straight with one of those victories an impressive 22-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers this past Monday. The Lions lost to the Baltimore Ravens (38-6 final score) last week and are looking to get back in the win column to maintain their division-leading distance.
Las Vegas, meanwhile, is looking up at the Kansas City Chiefs (6-1) in the AFC West. But the Raiders find themselves looking down at the rest of the downtrodden division. The Los Angeles Chargers (2-4) and Denver Broncos (2-5) are trying to claw their way back up. Thus, it’s equally as crucial for the Silver & Black to get back in the win column to keep the Chiefs within its line of sight.
But here’s the kicker for McDaniels’ marauders: Las Vegas is 1-3 on the road this season. And the 30-12 defeat the Chicago Bears last Sunday was the latest in a string of road woes.
Which brings us the to the primary area of concern
Las Vegas must win on the road, something the team hasn’t done since the season opener at the Broncos. Bears tight end Cole Kmet provided insight on why the Raiders were thoroughly shellacked in Chicago:
Jetlagged and gassed would certainly explain the lapse in mental stamina and execution Raiders coaches and players spoke about this week.
“I think when you watch the tape and you watch us as an offense, you see every position maybe kind of takes a turn in making a mistake or level of execution,” Raiders offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi said in his media session earlier this week. “We have to do a better job overall as a coaching staff and from a player perspective of just not letting one mistake affect other plays, and just moving on and moving forward. And then I would say just executing a play all 11 together. We always talk about it. We’re not independent contractors, we all have to work together as a unit. And if one player messes up a certain aspect of the play, the play’s not going to work.”
Hence “disjointed” being an apt description of the Raiders. The coaching staff is good at identify areas of opportunities, but doesn’t seem well off in instilling the ways to capitalize and overcome obstacles.
“A little bit more strain, a little bit more execution from all 11 guys on a more consistent basis,” Lombardi said. “I think we’re right there and we’ll see a good performance for us as an offense, and where we want to be at least, or improvement.”
Compounding the efforts to right the course are the determined Lions.
Much has been written about Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby, however, the Lions have their own ferocious relentless disruptor on defense in Aidan Hutchinson.
The 6-foot-7, 268-pound Michigan product is in Year 2 and boasts 4.5 sacks and an interception this season, giving him 14 quarterback takedowns and four picks on his young two-year career so far. The second-overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft is proving he can stop the run, rush the passer, and being an effective cover man at or close to the line of scrimmage.
“Hutchinson sums them up as a whole unit — they’re aggressive and they all play with a high motor. They want to get to the football, they take pride in it, they tackle really well,” Lombardi said when asked about Hutchinson and the Lions defense. “You can see they put a lot of stress on fundamentals and effort, and I think that’s what the core belief of their defense is, and you can see it on tape every Sunday. Because they go out there and they try to play hard-nosed football, and they do a good job of it.
“So, to your point, Hutchinson, he does a good job of that. That’s kind of his M.O., and he’s a really good player. He’s a good player on the edge in both the running and passing game. But I would say, he sums them up as a unit in general.”
If the Raiders have any lapses amongst the 11 on the field on offense — which is highly likely considering the mounting evidence showing the team hasn’t done so consistently in their seven games so far — Hutchinson and the Lions will prey on it and feast.
And the third area of concern
Detroit running back David Montgomery missed practice on Thursday (ribs injury) and it isn’t clear if he’ll be available for the Monday night clash against the Raiders. He’s RB1 for the Lions with 385 yard and six touchdowns on 94 carries but rookie Jahmyr Gibbs is a capable and electrifying tailback himself. The Alabama product has churned out 247 yards and a score on 50 carries while hauling in 128 more yards on 23 receptions this season.
And with the way Chicago was able to run roughshod of the Raiders defense last week, defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and his Las Vegas defenders have plenty of work to do in stifling the run under the primetime lights Monday.
“No one’s ever happy when the team is able to run the ball the way they did,” Grahams said of Chicago. “And looking at this week with Detroit, it’s going to be the same thing in terms of how they like to run the ball. They do a good job. Their head coach, just his persona and just his personality, you could tell he’s rooted in the run game and their success is rooted in the run game. So, we got a challenge ahead of us right now, but never want anybody to run the ball successfully. That’s tough for a defense.”