Buffalo Bills Game Preview Week 4: Las Vegas Raiders

The Buffalo Bills look to hit a 4-0 jackpot in Sin City, as they battle the Raiders in a Sunday late afternoon showdown.

What: Buffalo Bills at Las Vegas Raiders
Where: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas NV
When: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Watch: CBS

Las Vegas has a way of ending streaks of good luck. The Buffalo Bills certainly hope that isn’t the case when they make a visit on Sunday.

The Bills (3-0) look to keep the good times rolling in America’s Playground, as they prepare to do battle with the Las Vegas Raiders. Buffalo is one of seven undefeated teams left in the NFL.

That streak was kept alive by a gutsy 35-32 win over the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday. The Bills earned a 28-3 lead by the middle stages of the third quarter, but Los Angeles fought back to take the lead in the fourth. Buffalo would avert disaster by embarking on an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Josh Allen’s three-yard game-winner to Tyler Kroft. It was the last of Allen’s 311 yards and four touchdowns, while Kroft earned his second score of the day.

On the other side, Las Vegas (2-1) battles its second consecutive AFC East opponent after falling 36-20 to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium last weekend. Derek Carr threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns in defeat. The Raiders return to Allegiant Stadium for the first time since their nationally televised win over New Orleans in Week 2 that opened the 65,000-seat facility.

The Series

This will mark the first time that the Bills will face the “Las Vegas” Raiders. They were 14-17 against the Oakland incarnation, and the Raiders lead the all-time set 21-20. Buffalo fell in their most recent visit to the Raiders’ organization in 2016 but won the last overall meeting when the then-Oakland Raiders visited Orchard Park a year later. LeSean McCoy picked up 151 yards and a score as the Bills earned a 34-14 decision.

History Happens: 1994

The last time the Bills played a Raiders team that wasn’t in Oakland came in the 1993-94 AFC playoffs. Down 17-6 to the Los Angeles Raiders in the late stages of the divisional round’s first half, the Bills enjoyed a touchdown from Thurman Thomas in the final minute. Despite a Bill Brooks touchdown from Jim Kelly and Steve Christie field goal in the third, the Raider took a lead into the final frame on an 86-yard connection between Jeff Hostetler and Tim Brown.

Brooks, however, came up big once more, earning another scoring grab from Kelly in the early stanzas of the fourth. Buffalo ran out the final six minutes on a lengthy final drive mostly sustained through runs from Kenneth Davis. Bruce Smith also became the all-time sack leader in NFL playoff history, passing Richard Dent. The Bills used the momentum from the triumph over Los Angeles to top Kansas City a week later before falling to Dallas in Super Bowl XXVIII.

They Said It

“Offensively, I think (Josh Allen) has a good grasp of what we do. We try to tailor things to his strengths as best we can, as a coaching staff. But he’s got other pieces that are helping. It’s a group effort.”-Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll on the offense, per Chris Brown

“The quarterback is eye-opening. He is a fun guy to watch, man. He can really throw the ball. He’s got a great playing style. He’s got a lot of John Elway playing style. He can scramble, he’s strong, he’s tough. He’s a big-time player. And they’ve got an arsenal around him.”-Raiders head Jon Gruden on Josh Allen, per Josh Dubow

Matchup to Watch

WR Stefon Diggs vs. CB Trayvon Mullen 

Stefon Diggs was brought in to give Allen a big-play target. For all intents and purposes, the trade and taking on of Diggs’ big contract has been well worth it.

Through three weeks, Diggs ranks fourth in the league in receiving yardage (288), becoming the gamechanger the Buffalo offense was missing. Allen has an experienced, reliable catcher with a knack for coming through in big situations. It’s admirable what Allen and company have down with homegrown talent and journeymen, but Diggs is proving himself to be the missing piece that was keeping Buffalo from true contention amongst the NFL elite.

Meanwhile, Las Vegas will be without first-round rookie Damon Arnette for the foreseeable future, having undergone thumb surgery, Trayvon Mullen will take over a good share of secondary responsibility. The sophomore corner has been impressing in the Raiders’ resurgence, topping Pro Football Focus’ grades in pass coverage. He’ll likely be matched up against Diggs on Sunday, as each team faces a major opportunity to establish position in the AFC playoff chase at the quarter-mark.

“It’s going to be a challenge this week,” Mullen said of the showdown with Diggs in a report from Case Keefer of the Las Vegas Sun. “I know he’s top five in receiving yards right now, which makes me more excited to go against him. It’s going to be a competitive matchup. I’m excited and ready for it.”

The Bills Will Win If…

They don’t try to get too fancy.

The Bills are in rare territory where they have a chance to be 4-0 for only the ninth time in franchise history. Their strategy has been working. There’s no need to change for a game that has taken on increased importance. With the game between New England and Kansas City postponed at the very least, a brighter spotlight will be cast upon a game of two teams seeking football redemption. Las Vegas, after all, is known as the “Capital of Second Chances” by some.

Doubt still follows the Bills, but winning against an equally hungry team two time zones away would certainly send a strong message to the rest of the league, one that would eliminate more doubters. Buffalo also needs to acquire as many wins as they can, as a scary stretch of the schedule awaits. An October 25 reprieve against the Jets notwithstanding and depending on how the COVID testing processes work out, the Bills’ next games come against the Titans, Chiefs, Patriots, Seahawks, and Cardinals. As long as they don’t get caught looking ahead, that desperation should fuel them against the Raiders.

The Raiders Will Win If…

They shut down the Bills’ weapons.

Diggs has been making his catches. A 4-0 start is on the line. If he earns another 300-yard, two-touchdown game, he’ll forever go down in the same sentence as Steve Young and Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks to earn four consecutive such games. They did so against New Orleans, limiting an aging Drew Brees to short throws underneath and only one touchdown. The Week 1 matchup against Carolina even saw them limit to Christian McCaffrey to 97 yards on 23 carries, his longest carry going only 15 yards.

Buffalo has struck the next level in their development thanks to the arrival of Diggs and Allen reaching the next level of his development ahead of schedule. If Las Vegas can put even the briefest pause in those steps, they’ll be able to earn a big win of their own.

Prediction

The Bills are in a good place to reach the rare air of 4-0. A visit to Las Vegas provides several trap opportunities, but the sense of desperation with elite competition on the way could fuel them further as they work their way to the dangerous middle portion of their schedule. Additionally, the Raiders are still in a position where topping an undefeated squad is just a little too much to ask for at this point.

This matchup should be one of the more intriguing sights on Sunday with several other high-profile tilts postponed. A win here could be the difference between a division title and a wild-card berth. Right now, the marginal experience the Bills have in the big game department and their modern desperation could well serve as a vital difference in a game filled with implications beyond October.

Bills 27, Raiders 21

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Could the New York Giants Trade Down With the Las Vegas Raiders?

New York Giants, Kaden Smith

The concept of the New York Giants trading down in this year’s draft has been present for months now. Plenty of mock drafts have suggested the Giants trading out of their No. 4 slot and acquiring more picks to help them build for the future. The majority of these mocks have had one thing in common – Big Blue making the trade with a quarterback-needy team. The two teams that appear most likely to pull off the trade are the Miami Dolphins and LA Chargers, but there’s another team that could pull off a blockbuster deal – the newly relocated Las Vegas Raiders. A few things would have to happen before the trade could even be pondered, but come April, anything is possible.

Could the New York Giants Trade Down With the Las Vegas Raiders?

The Derek Carr situation in Vegas

The first, and perhaps most unlikely, part of this scenario is the Raiders moving on from QB Derek Carr. Carr has been with the team since 2014 and made the pro bowl every season from 2015-17. But since Head Coach John Gruden took over in 2018, things have not been as positive. The Raiders have won just eleven games, and Carr’s numbers have dipped drastically. But there is a major issue preventing Vegas from simply trading Derek Carr and finding their QB of the future – Carr’s contract.

Back in 2017, Derek Carr signed a 5-year, $125 million deal. The deal was, at the time, the biggest in NFL history. Finding a team willing to take on a huge contract that doesn’t expire until the end of the 2022 season would be almost impossible. But there is one team reportedly that might have an interest, and is working to clear cap space – the Chicago Bears. Chicago recently cut cornerback Prince Amukamara and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel in order to save $13.5 million in cap space.

Before Chicago could acquire Carr though, they would have to move on from former No. 2 overall pick, Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky has been a sub-par player in each of his first three seasons and has shown very little development. The Bears could either cut him and eat up the money he is due for 2020, or look for a possible trade partner. If all of this falls into place, a path for Derek Carr to the Bears could appear.

The Raiders would need a QB

If Vegas were to pull the trigger on a Carr trade, they would need to find his replacement. Luckily for them, the Giants are sitting at No. 4 listening to offers. Besides the projected number one pick Joe Burrow, the Raiders would get to choose from every top QB prospect. And what makes this scenario even more possible is how much draft capital the Raiders possess.

Las Vegas is one of just three teams in this year’s draft to have multiple first-round draft picks. They own the No. 12 pick, as well as the No. 19 pick, which they acquired from the Chicago Bears back in 2018. Possibly obtaining two first-round picks would be very enticing for Giants GM Dave Gettleman. Vegas has the draft capital to make the trade happen and it would be very smart of the Giants to consider the idea of trading out of the top five.

Who the Giants could draft at No.’s 12 & 19

While the premier, well-known prospects may be off the board come picks 12 and 19, elite talent will still be there. A name that has been tied to the Giants this offseason is edge rusher A.J. Epenesa out of Iowa. Epenesa has been widely regarded as the second-best edge rusher in the entire draft, and most mock drafts have him going in the middle of the first round.

Say the Giants pick Epenesa at No. 12, they could go in a number of different directions. They could look to fix the offensive line by selecting center Cesar Ruiz out of Michigan, considered by many to be the best center in this year’s draft. Or they could choose to continue rebuilding their defense by selecting linebacker Kenneth Murray out of Oklahoma, a player with excellent athleticism and great tackling ability.

Those are just a few names that are projected to be stars at the next level that will still be available if the Giants trade down with the Raiders. A lot of pieces of the puzzle would have to fall into place for any of this to happen, but it’s possible. New York could greatly improve their rebuild if they reached a deal with Las Vegas.

What Should The New York Giants Do At Quarterback In 2019?

Eli Manning may have just pulled off his 36th career game-winning drive in San Francisco on Monday night, but there are a few undeniable truths that the Giants fan-base and organization need to recognize and consider:

  1. Manning is 37 years old and will be 38 at the start of the 2019-2020 season.
  2. Manning’s quality of play has declined over the past few seasons.
  3. The Giants are 5-20 over the past two seasons.
  4. Cutting Eli Manning this offseason will save the Giants $17 million in cap space, according to Over the Cap.
  5. The Giants do not have an heir apparent at the quarterback position.

With that being said, what options do the Giants have?

Current New York Giants Quarterbacks:

Eli Manning: Despite his declining and consistently lackluster play over the past two seasons, there are a few reasons why the Giants might want to keep Eli Manning in 2019. For one, he is a Giants legend and they may fear facing fan-base backlash from cutting him, similar to the back lash they faced when benching him last season. Letting him play an extra year gives him the chance to retire and go out with a season long send-off.

Furthermore, if they do decide to draft a quarterback this year, they could sit him behind Manning for a year and let him learn from the veteran, similar to what Kansas City did with Patrick Mahomes. In addition to this, it can be argued that Manning is not playing as bad as the media says he is.

Manning’s completion percentage this season is the highest it has ever been at 67.6 percent, he is ninth in the league in passing yards so far this season, and he has been sacked a league high 32 times. These statistics can draw a few key conclusions.

First off, the Giants have an awful offensive line and it would be difficult for any quarterback to play behind it. Secondly, Manning has shown that he is capable of playing well when given time in the pocket. Finally, Eli’s 11 touchdowns in 9 games but 2,565 yards demonstrates that he and the Giants offense are good until they get into the red zone. This can be attributed to player execution and even coach Shurmur’s play calling.

Kyle Lauletta: Giants fans are eager to see what the team has in the 4th round rookie out of Richmond, but he has yet to even be activated for a regular season game. Coach Shurmur should definitely look to see what the team has in Lauletta sometime this season with some regular season playing time. However, his recent arrest and Eli’s magical win against the 49ers might delay the Kyle Lauletta show.

If he gets to play this season, the team can assess him and plan ahead accordingly. Best case scenario: they hit big-time on a 4th round quarterback and found their heir apparent. Worst case scenario: Lauletta has a maximum potential that most would expect out of a 4th round quarterback and he ends up being a backup for the future. The only way for the Giants to know the answer is to give Lauletta a chance in the 2018 season.

Current NFL, Non-Giants Quarterbacks:

Teddy Bridgewater: The 2014 first round pick out of Louisville for the Minnesota Vikings has had a rocky career. In his rookie season, Bridgewater showed great potential and won the Pepsi Rookie of the Year award. In his sophomore season, Bridgewater progressed further and was selected to his first pro bowl. At this point, it looked like there was a promising career ahead for the young quarterback, until he suffered a devastating knee injury that would sideline him all of 2016.

In 2017, Bridgewater still was not healthy enough to be a starter again, but he managed to remain on the roster. In the 2018 offseason, Bridgewater signed a one-year deal with the New York Jets, played well in the preseason (one might even say well enough to start for another franchise with a 73.7% completion percentage and 104.7 QBR), but was then traded to the New Orleans Saints to backup Drew Brees.

Teddy Bridgewater will be a free agent again this offseason, and he is expected to draw interest from around the league if he is not retained by New Orleans. Being that he is a former Minnesota quarterback, Bridgewater has a connection with Giants head coach Pat Shurmur, former offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings. Shurmur is familiar with Bridgewater and knows his potential.

If the Giants are willing to cut ties with Manning, Bridgewater could be a great developmental option for the Giants if they feel like they can maximize his potential. Additionally, signing Bridgewater does not mean that he needs to be the future of the Giants. Theoretically, they could sign him the same way that the Jets did, if he agrees to it. The Giants could try to get Bridgewater on a one-year deal and draft a quarterback, just like the Jets did.

Derek Carr: Raiders coach Jon Gruden began a fire sale in Oakland during the 2018 season, trading away Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. According to Oakland’s general manager, Reggie McKenzie, no one is untouchable. That would seemingly include Carr. Derek Carr has been selected to a pro bowl each of the last three seasons and he lead his team to a 12-3 season before breaking his leg in 2016, a season in which he was an MVP candidate.

However, this season Carr has looked like somewhat of a shell of his former self. The former gunslinger now settles for countless check downs, as documented by NFL Next Gen Stats’s passing charts, and has a 10 to 8 touchdown to interception ratio through nine games.

This begs the question: what happened to Derek Carr in 2018? These issues could be attributed to his putrid offensive line, a lack of weapons, a fear of reinjuring himself, or the new coaching staff. These issues could potentially all be solved with a change of scenery for Carr, and that could just bring him back to his 2016 playing level.

If the Raiders end up with the first pick and decide to move on from Carr, they could select Herbert and put Carr on the trading block. If that happens, the Giants would need to consider trading for Carr, since Herbert would no longer be an option. The trade would be costly (potentially one first, one second, or maybe even two first round draft picks) but if the Giants are confident they could get Carr back to playing to his full potential, they should make the move and acquire the three time pro-bowler.

College Quarterbacks

2019 Draft Class: Last year’s draft class was considerably loaded. This upcoming year’s class? Not so much. The consensus for the top signal-caller of the 2019 class is Oregon’s Justin Herbert (and there are rumors that he might not even declare this year).

It is also well-documented that the Giants are heavily interested in Herbert. They have attended six of his ten games so far this season. He’s a big body, strong arm quarterback with a good personality. He’s had a good, but inconsistent junior year, thus far. He has games with a completion percentage as high as 78% and as low as 47%, so there is still much work to be done with consistency if he wants to be a star in this league. His 25 touchdowns and 2,621 passing yards in ten games are impressive, however, his accuracy can be inconsistent (as displayed in the Oregon vs. Arizona game in October).

Even with his high ceiling, when compared to the 2018 class, it would be hard to rank Herbert inside the top three prospects. Mayfield, Darnold, and Rosen would likely all rank higher than Herbert if they were a part of the same draft class. That being said, he could be a franchise quarterback with some development, but he’s not as close to a “sure-thing” as anyone in the 2018 draft class.

Other notable quarterbacks in the 2019 draft class include Will Grier (West Virginia), Drew Lock (Missouri), Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State), and Daniel Jones (Duke). All of these players have potential to be first and second round quarterbacks and, with the right development, maybe even starting quarterbacks in the NFL. However, none of these guys are considered to have the same potential as the 2018 draft class by sources such as Pro Football Focus and Bleacher Report.

2020 Draft Class:

A lot of fans believe that Monday night’s win has ruined New York’s chances at the top pick in 2019 and, subsequently, their chances at drafting Justin Herbert. If that is the case and the Giants are unable to secure the Oregon quarterback, they might look to trade back, accumulate more picks, and draft someone from the 2020 draft class. 2019 Heisman candidate Tua Tagovailoa has been lighting it up in his sophomore year for Alabama, drawing comparisons to Russel Wilson. He will be every quarterback-needy team’s dream choice in 2020 and, with an accumulation of picks from trading down in 2019, the Giants could possibly have the first pick, or enough draft capital to move up to the first pick and select Tua Tagovailoa.

The Giants have tons of options for their future at quarterback. Being that they have so many options, it is too soon to say that passing on a quarterback for Saquon Barkley in 2018 was a mistake. After all, Saquon Barkley truly has hall of fame potential. Could this have been New York’s plan all along? Draft Barkley and secure a quarterback the following season? Possibly. Time will only tell. The New York Giants need to make the right decision this offseason in order to avoid what general manager Dave Gettleman would consider to be “quarterback hell.”

New York Giants: Derek Carr Among Quarterback Options For 2019

New York Giants, Pat Shurmur

After Derek Carr’s first three years in Oakland, few would have thought that there would be speculation about the quarterback being traded. That, however, seems to be the case right now. The New York Giants are one of the teams that may be in the running, and as the chances of the Giants making a move for a quarterback grow higher and higher, the more realistic a move for the Raiders starter seems.

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports is one of the ones that believes a trade can happen. “Ultimately what’s the point of keeping Derek Carr? And if you have all this draft capital and you get a one plus something else for Derek Carr, which I think he can. I’ll call it right now, Derek Carr to the New York Giants, at the combine,” La Canfora said on the Pick Six Podcast.

A trade at the combine likely assumes that the Giants aren’t confident in getting Oregon’s Justin Herbert, who could easily be the top pick. It seems like they could be on pace for that, but there’s still many games left to be played, and getting three or four wins could throw off the team’s chances of landing this year’s consensus top quarterback.

But one advantage that Carr provides that Herbert doesn’t is experience. In 2019, Carr will enter the sixth year of his career. In each of the past four seasons, Carr has thrown for more than 20 touchdowns, but the Raiders aren’t doing so well this year and have the same record as the Giants at 1-5. With both teams rebuilding, big name players changing hands isn’t such a crazy idea.

“I think that’s what they do and they plug him right in there with Barkley, Odell and Shepard and [Evan Engram] and they try to keep that thing going,” La Canfora continued.

It still remains to be seen, however, what the Giants would have to give up in a trade for Derek Carr. It likely won’t be a first round pick, and Carr’s contract also complicates things and means that the move might come with some kind of other roster change. Will it happen? It’s too early to tell.

But options are always good, especially when it seems almost certain that, for better or worse, the team will make a change in 2019.