The Raiders (2-10) fell to the Chiefs in a Week 13 shootout which included Carr’s best game of 2018. In Week 14 to start the fantasy playoffs the Silver and Black take on one of their most hated rivals: the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers (7-4-1) enter the black hole looking to win and hold on to their division lead.
Tale of the Tape
Points per game
Passing yards per game
Rushing yards per game
Points allowed per game
23.5 ( 16th
Pass yards allowed per game
Rush yards allowed per game
Derek Carr and the Raiders look to carry over the momentum from last week’s offensive explosion into the upcoming matchup against the Steelers. Carr is coming off his best game of the season, throwing 29 completions on 38 attempts for 285 yards and 3 touchdowns. His offensive line - led by pro bowl caliber center Rodney Hudson - performed adequately against the Chiefs, only allowing 3 sacks and minimal pressure. They will face a stronger defensive unit when Pittsburgh rolls in on Sunday. The team has totaled 41 sacks this season, led by linebacker T.J. Watt (10), the same number the entire Raiders team has on the year.
The Raiders running back committee is led by Doug Martin, who carried the ball 18 times for 65 yards and a score in losing effort against the Chiefs. He was diagnosed with a knee injury, which led the team to sign former Bronco and Panther C.J. Anderson. The Raiders “backup” Jalen Richard would get the first crack at a start if Martin would miss any time. Richard led the Raiders backfield with 95 yards on only six carries and added 3 receptions for 31 yards; he also coughed up a fumble. DeAndre Washington rounds out the running back by committee but will not add any real impact on the game Sunday.
The Raiders may not have a stud running back, but the group of players in the rotation have not been the reason the Raiders can’t produce on offense. The disastrous wide receiver group has held the Raiders back all year - along with the team wanting to lose on purpose - the group has done the zero favors in helping the club win games. Carr’s number one receiver will be Jordy Nelson; the pair connected on 10 out of 11 targets for 97 yards against the Chiefs, but due to Nelson’s poor health and overall poor play from quarterback it's hard to think this stat line was not just a product of game script and being matched up against the worst secondary in the league. While rookie Marcell Ateman cashed in his first career touchdown and ] his recent emergence helps him gain real-time game experience, it will be hard to put any real trust in the rookie until he plays a bit more. This means Carr’s favorite option again this week should be tight end Jared Cook. He has been top tier at his position all year and enters week 14 on a three-game touchdown streak. The Raiders offense aren’t playing the Chiefs, they face the 8th best passing defense and the 8th best rushing defense. They are vulnerable in the red zone where Cook will make his home in once again.
The Steelers offense has been quite the opposite of the Raiders; they’re effective. The Steelers boast the 4th best offense in the NFL led by veteran “Big Ben” Roethlisberger. He’s having one of his best seasons yet at the prime age of 36, as he's thrown for just under 4000 yards and added 26 passing touchdowns. His success comes from a soundly structured offensive line which provides him ample protection to create opportunities for his elite play-making receivers. Wide receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster have been dominating secondaries all year, and the Raiders will be another notch on the belt of a potential title contender.
The offense will be without stud running back James Conner for the first time since he took over for Le’Veon Bell. By their average rushing yards per game over the year, you’d assume the Steelers struggled on the ground. However, Conner has been one of the most effective running backs this year and his shoes will not be easily filled. Rookie running back Jaylen Samuels will attempt to do just that, and this matchup will certainly help him ease into the mix as the Raiders have allowed the 2nd most rushing yards per game to opponents. Stevan Ridley appears to be in the mix for carries again but it’s still unknown to what degree of an effect he will have in the offense.
The Raiders rosters zero run stopping threats at the linebacker level; in fact, they have only one defender who continues to make a mark. Cornerback Gareon Conley has severely increased his level of playing after riding the pine at the midway point of this season. Since he returned from the doghouse he’s a changed player. Conley has only allowed just 15 yards in the last 3 games on two receptions. He also added an interception and three pass breakups. He will certainly have his hands full with two of the premier threats in the league. The Steelers have been unable to fill a tight end role for more than a few weeks due to injury and inconsistent play. The tandem of Vance McDonald and Jesse James have been enough to be moderately successful, but the pair will look like superstars this Sunday.
Start or Sit
V. McDonald/J. James
Carr - Week 13 was the last week you would feel comfortable starting him, although he will have plenty of time to throw and accrue points. He will spend most of his time on his butt.
Roethlisberger - Enters the fantasy playoff against the 8th worst team against the quarterback position. Top 5 potential.
Martin - Continues to receive upwards of 15 carries a game. The game script will most likely favor Richard later on, but Martin will be a vital part in the Raiders offense early. Barring missing the game due to injury, a flex option.
Richard - other than Jared Cook, he will lead the team in receiving yards as the Raiders pretend to play to win. They will surely be down in the 4th quarter.
Samuels - The waiver wire darling of this week looks to fill the shoes of James Conner. As a prospect I'm not overly excited about Samuels. He will share carries with Stevan Ridley in an RBBC. In addition to that, his pass catching volume is stunted due to the Steelers having their way early and often there won't be a need to rely on his pass catching. He has RB1 upside in this matchup
Ridley - merely a backup who will receive more carries than normal.
Nelson - Labelled as a sit not because he doesn't have the ability to score, so in the playoffs you won’t have the confidence to roll him out there. Could be a sneaky WR2.
Ateman - His playing time is more of a real-life football move the Raiders are making to see what they have in their rookie. Big sit.
Brown/Smith-Schuster - Both elite talents. Both have WR1 upside this week.
Cook - After lighting the last three weeks on fire he will face a tougher challenge. He’s still a must-start in the current tight end market.
McDonald/James - It’s fair to assume against the Raiders, the tight end will be utilized in the red zone. The question is, can you start either with any confidence? Although Vance is returning from injury, he has been the more productive option this year. Jesse James gets my nod of approval this week.
Raiders - No chance.
Steelers - the Steelers should be good for a few sacks and at least one turnover. The Raiders have been inconsistent on offense. While they are able to get yards they just cannot get into the end zone. Steelers are a good start this week.