After back-to-back wins, the Raiders are sitting at .500. Before casting our eyes on the Chicago Bears, let's take a look back at the 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots and the observations that stood out during my film review. Here are some thoughts:
Maxx Crosby closes the show again!
The Pro Bowl defensive end seemingly makes my list weekly due to his remarkable feats as a playmaker on the edge. Crosby tops the list again after closing out the Patriots game with a sack-safety (with Bilal Nichols) to seal the game with 1:47 left in the fourth quarter.
While Raider Nation has always appreciated No. 98's effort, energy and passion, the football world should admire his skills as a technician. Crosby displays an array of pass-rushing maneuvers that have made him nearly impossible to contain as a disruptive playmaker. Utilizing a combination of bull rushes, power swipe maneuvers and speed-to-power flurries, he has tallied at least a half sack in the last four games (4.5).
The constant harassment and disruption have keyed a defensive surge, resulting in the Raiders holding their last four opponents to 24 or fewer points (19.25) with a 2-2 mark during a span that includes back-to-back wins. As a one-man show accounting for nearly 50 percent of the team's sack production (5.5 of 13 total sacks) and almost one-third of their tackles for losses (8 of 29 tackles for loss), Crosby has become an unstoppable force that few envisioned when he entered the league as a lightly regarded fourth-round pick (No. 106 overall) out of Eastern Michigan in 2019.
Given his steady production and improved performance over five years, it is time for the Pro Bowl defender to enter the conversation as one of the elite players at his position.
Who is the best option as the substitute QB: Brian Hoyer or Aidan O'Connell?
The potential loss of Jimmy Garoppolo to a back injury forces Josh McDaniels into a difficult decision at quarterback. The Hoyer vs. O'Connell debate pits a scrappy veteran against an inexperienced quarterback with superior talent and impressive intangibles. Though the veteran took the ball against the New England Patriots due to his readiness to play with limited reps, the Raiders would be wise to give the former Purdue standout a chance to run the offense as the temporary QB1 if Garoppolo is sidelined.
Despite a disappointing result against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 4, O'Connell has shown promise as a developmental prospect since joining the team as the 135th overall pick in the 2023 draft. As a classic drop-back passer with significant collegiate experience, he quickly deciphers coverage and throws with the anticipation and awareness of a veteran player. With the rookie also displaying the ability to make full-field reads and execute complex schemes, the Raiders should give him the ball to see if he can grow into the role.
Daniel Carlson is a difference maker
The football world loves to poke fun at kickers, but coaches and executives appreciate a consistent point scorer. Carlson is one of the special ones at the position with an accurate short game and "boom" potential from distance. The veteran has converted 87.9 percent of his field goal attempts throughout his career, with a 90.1 percent conversion rate on attempts of 49 yards or fewer.
As one of only six kickers in NFL history with 150 field goals in his first 84 career games, Carlson gives McDaniels point certainty when the Raiders cross the 35-yard line. The coach knows he has points in his pocket due to his kicker's range and accuracy, which can positively impact his play-calling in the high red zone area.
Moreover, the confidence that Carlson can nail 50-yarders changes how the Raiders approach end-of-half and late-game situations. Though the Raiders did not need Carlson's late-game heroics to knock off the Patriots, the veteran's second-half field goals set the team up with a two-score lead that proved to be too much for the opponent to overcome.
View director of photography Michael Clemens' top picks of black and white photos from the Raiders' Week 6 victory against the New England Patriots at Allegiant Stadium.