So, that happened! Like Ryan Leaf and Coach Urban Meyer, Zack Taylor has discovered one of the only teams he can beat wore red and blue. Meanwhile, Josh Allen had one of the worst weeks of his career, followed by some of the worst six days as the press dragged him to pieces for his four turnovers. In fairness, his first turnover was a bit of savvy play against a good defense as an INT on a futile third and long was better than almost any punt would have been. However by his fourth TO, a fumble, Allen looked simply shook.
The Bills get to even their record vs. the silver and black. The Oakla… no Los Ange… no Oakl…no Las Vegas Raiders defense is nowhere near that of the possibly all-time elite Jets. Sure, they have nightmares about the last time they played Maxx Crosby, but the Bills still won that game, their only matchup in the Josh Allen era. Furthermore, all the dramatic intangibles shift to the Bills side this week, as it’s not only a home game but the opener, and Highmark Stadium portends to be raucous.
If we’re going just off last week’s games, this one is a no-brainer to the Raiders as Jimmy Garoppollo had an efficient two TDs and a 107 rating, while Josh Allen became the meme of his week as he hooked up with Jordan Whitehead thrice. Unfortunately, Whitehead was a Jets safety. That brings us to the first major point: Allen played the stifling Jets defense, while Jimmy G. toppled the Broncos’ meh D.
More importantly, as of now, we still have to call the Allen’s game an outlier. To be fair, workmanlike victories are Jimmy’s jam. Allen had the most TDs of any player in history in his first five seasons. The gap here is still seismic and it favors…
Josh Jacobs came into the league with high expectations, and until 2022 he had been solid enough, but he exploded into one of the best backs in 2022 with over 1600 yards on the ground and 12 TDs. Will he duplicate that this year? So far, no, as the Broncos held him to 2.5ypc (although he did get 2 catches for 23 yards).
James Cook was slightly more efficient last week, but totalled fewer overall yards. And while the Bills have better depth, including former Raider Latavius Murray, you have to go with Jacobs here.
Advantage: Las Vegas
Allen’s nightmare performance, thankfully, did not include a loss of chemistry with Stefon Diggs, media narrative be damned. Diggs hustled for over 100 yards against a Jets defense known for… not letting people do that. The rest of the receivers had pedestrian days at best, although there were no major drops. Gabriel Davis, Deonte Harty, Dawson Knox, and Dalton Kincaid all had scattered catches, but it was not a great day.
Diggs’ counterpart on the Raiders is a fellow top 5 guy at WR, Davante Adams. What more needs to be said? Jakobi Meyers is a perfectly fine WR2, but will not be playing. Hunter Renfrow is one of the better slot receivers in the game and unlike Davis, is not drop prone. At tight end, it’s Austin Hooper who has never quite lived up to his early hype. This is razor close: while the Bills tight end room should easily tip the scales, the 12 offense has yet to thrive. However, the Meyers injury gives ths slightests of edges to…
Uggggh, offensive is the key word at this position group. Outside of O’Cyrus Torrence’s decent debut, the Bills o-line looked not as advertised, but as many suspected. They were absolutely abused by the Jets pass rushers. Many of the problems stemmed from the continued struggles of young right tackle Spencer Brown, although the Bills’ two time Pro Bowl left tackle did not shine either. The only bright spot was that their run blocking looked vastly improved.
The Raiders o-line came into the year ranked among the dregs of the league, but kept the sack line clean last week, although they did allow 3 QB hits. LT Kolton Miller has always been the bright spot, so we’ll see how he handles Gregory Rousseau or Leonard Floyd or whoever shows up there. As hinted at, the run blocking was not as stellar as last year’s leading rusher was held to the aforementioned 2.5ypc.
I’m giving a very generous to the home team…
This unit was the most significant positive for the Bills as Rousseau, Floyd, Ed Oliver, Tim Settle, and Jordan Phillips hassled Rodgers and then Wilson all day to the tune of 3 sacks, 6 TFLs, and 8 QB Hits. Meanwhile, DaQuan Jones effectively manned the middle with his usual no-frills flair. Rousseau may have had the best day of all in spite of his near empty stat sheet of a single tackle (assisted)… he did manage one QB hit.
The Raiders also possess a potent pass rush, although it’s pretty top heavy, but what a top it is. Maxx Crosby has brutalized the Bills o-line in the past, and had a sack last week, leading an assault on the Broncos that was pretty similar to the Bills line. Jerry Tillery has never quite matched his first round grade, but forms a solid center with Bilal Nichols. Fun fact: ex-UB Bull Malcolm Koonce is Crosby’s back-up. Last year’s exciting new piece Chandler Jones has soured on the Raiders and is out.
I’ll balance my generosity to the home team here by extending the same kindness to the visitors here…
Matt Milano was his usual manic self on Monday, bothering the Jets offense from sideline to sideline, including a key INT. Question mark Terrel Bernard continued to be just that, not playing particularly well, but also not being a liability for a Bills defense that likely would have held the Jets out of the end zone if it weren’t for a spectacular Garrett Wilson catch after a short field.
For a no-name linebacking crew, the Raiders have some great names in Divine Deablo, Luke Masterson, and Robert Spillane. That last one really should feature in NFL commercials with boozy broads on his arm, except no he shouldn’t because it’s 2023, not 1983. And that’s all I have to say about the Raiders LBs.
I cannot believe I’m writing this, but …
The Bills defense was not the week 1 problem by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, Poyer took a bad angle on Breece Halls’ lengthy run, but Tre White’s QB allowed was no fault of White, but incredible focus by Wilson. Bills still have an elite defensive backfield. While I thought Christian Benford was getting targeted near the late part of the game, smarter people than I have gushed over his play, so I’ll defer here.
Marcus Peters leads the Raiders DBs which means its gotta be an elite group. Wait, what? It’s not 2018? He’s still a savvy player, however, and Allen should be aware of him. That said, this decision is an easy one as the Raiders secondary was among the worst in football last year, and that was with Rock Ya-Sin, who is gone. They had just six interceptions last year.
Both teams have great kickers, punters who aren’t liabilities, and solid return men. But Bills have a former Pro Bowler in Harty and the Raiders committed a roughing the kicker penalty last week, the dumbest of all penalties, so I’m gonna give it to the home town team.
Yes, I picked the Bills last week and it did not go well. I will likely be picking the Bills most weeks as this is a Buffalo publication, plus as of now, last week was an anomaly. If the Bills cannot comfortably beat a middle-of-the-pack Raiders team with a porous defense at home, then we’ll know something is rotten in the city of Orchard Park.
My Prediction: Bills 34, Raiders 17