"Get on the Good Foot" by James Brown – what a banger.
For anyone not familiar with the greatness of the Godfather of Soul, that's exactly what the Las Vegas Raiders did last Sunday. Coming off two straight losses, the Silver and Black dominated the Denver Broncos on the road. With the win, they moved to 4-2 – tied for first in the AFC West – and have all of their goals ahead of them with the Philadelphia Eagles on the horizon.
The Eagles will be hungry for a win in Allegiant Stadium after falling to 2-4 this season in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. People should not be fooled with their record though, as the Eagles have a young, talented team that can compete with anyone in the league. The strength of the Eagles revolves around second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts and a staunch defense led by Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham.
It's a bit difficult to just slim it down to a few key matchups in what should be a great game, but here's what I've got.
Casey Hayward Jr. vs. DeVonta Smith
All-Pro cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. has kept it locked down this season. Philadelphia Eagles rookie DeVonta Smith leads his team in catches and receiving yards.
This matchup isn't too hard to evaluate.
Hayward, 32, has been playing like the veteran superstar the Raiders secondary have desperately needed. The Raiders have surrendered the 12th-least amount of passing yards this season, in comparison to giving up the seven-most last season. Hayward has played a big factor in that improvement and has yet to surrender a touchdown in coverage this season. But this week "The Slim Reaper" will be coming for him.
The Heisman-winning Smith currently leads his team in receiving yards (345) and receptions (27) – one of four rookies to be leading their team in receiving yards and one of three rookies to be leading their team in catches.
In my opinion, this will be the most intriguing matchup to look out for this Sunday. Hayward could potentially give Smith a "Welcome to the NFL" moment in Allegiant Stadium.
Denzel Perryman vs. Jalen Hurts
Quarterback Jalen Hurts likes to run with the football. Raiders linebacker Denzel Perryman likes to hit people who have the football.
Once again, not too much to overanalyze on this one.
Hurts has injected life into the Eagles offense since becoming their starting quarterback towards the end of last season. The Eagles may have a dual-threat franchise quarterback in their possession, with his throwing power, ability to run and great size being his top attributes.
"Certainly, he's extremely talented," Interim Head Coach Rich Bisaccia said of the QB. "He has the ability to extend plays not only on third down, but on first down, whether he drops back or he's running quarterback runs or quarterback reads. He's an emerging player in this league."
What are Denzel Perryman's best attributes? He hits hard. And with Hurts' 6-foot-1, 223-pound frame, Perryman will have to put a little more power behind his hits.
Perryman leads the league in tackles and while he excels in coverage for a linebacker, his main assignment against the Eagles could be to play quarterback spy on Hurts. The Eagles QB currently leads his team in rushing yards (300) and rushing touchdowns (five). Last week, he ran in two touchdowns on the Buccaneers and almost led Philadelphia to a comeback over the Super Bowl champs.
So it should be a surprise to no one that when the Eagles' pocket breaks down, Hurts is going to run. Perryman just needs to make sure he's in the right position to make him rethink running the ball down the stretch.
Darius Slay taking on all comers
The Raiders may have the most underrated group of dangerous playmakers in the NFL. And Darius Slay will probably spend a lot of time trying to cover all of them.
Slay is one of the clear-cut stars of the Eagles secondary – currently leading the team in interceptions, and tied for second on the team in pass deflections. The Eagles have also allowed the fifth-least amount of yards per game this season. The three-time Pro Bowl cornerback is an exceptional talent, but he'll have his hands full with the likes of Darren Waller, Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards and Hunter Renfrow – not to mention running back Kenyan Drake, who has become more involved in the passing game as the season has progressed.
The Raiders have accumulated the third-most passing yards in the league this season, with Derek Carr coming off a 341-yard, two touchdown game. Carr has shown that he isn't scared to sling the ball around, no matter what defense he's going against, but he noted the Silver and Black will have to be careful around the elite cornerback.
"He's a good dude who I've gotten to know a little bit over the years, but he's an even better football player," Carr said. "Man-to-man, zone, he knows how to read routes. He's very smart. He's one of the fastest corners in the NFL, that guy can still fly. He's really unbelievable. ... He always presents a challenge no matter what scheme he's playing."
Even for Slay, who led the league in interceptions in 2017, the Raiders' passing offense will be extremely hard to contain.