The Eagles can secure home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win over the Raiders. The last time most Eagles fans saw Oakland, Nick Foles threw seven touchdowns on a sunny day in November 2013. That was a much different team, however, and the Raiders will present the Eagles with a number of challenges on both sides of the ball come Christmas night.
Defensively, the Raiders' strength is up front. The numbers do not paint a pretty picture, but on film, the personnel and the scheme display a much different persona. This team is aggressive and very talented. Khalil Mack is the star of the show, and rightfully so, but it's more than just him. Bruce Irvin, the starting strongside linebacker, is an explosive edge rusher who can consistently win with speed.
Rookie Eddie Vanderdoes is very disruptive on the inside, as is starting nose tackle Justin Ellis (who has light feet for a big man). Second-year defensive lineman Jihad Ward is a personal favorite and he flashes whenever he sees the field with his combination of size, athleticism, and competitiveness. Lineman Denico Autry has been disruptive whenever he's been on the field. James Cowser is a young pass rusher who uses his hands really well. It's a deep, talented group that comes at you in waves. Still, the Eagles have to stop their sack leader Khalil Mack.
Shot 1 - Khalil Mack is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL thanks to his combination of size, power and athleticism. The #Eagles will have to account for him, but he's made a killing against extra attention all year long. #Raiders pic.twitter.com/zNsmnwcTeD — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 22, 2017
Shot 2 - Some of Mack's best plays don't necessarily end in sacks, however. Extremely disruptive player who the #Raiders move around the formation. Can win in so many ways both high-side and low-side as a pass rusher. pic.twitter.com/4S7mcJSIrW — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 22, 2017
Whether he's racking up sacks or just dismantling tackles and forcing early pressures on the quarterback, Mack is an extremely disruptive pass rusher who can win in a number of ways. The Eagles have to account for him and certainly plan to dedicate running backs and tight ends in protection to help chip him before releasing out into their routes. He can, however, still beat double teams as the shots above show. The tackles, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Lane Johnson, have to be at the top of their game when they line up against him on Monday night.
Shot 3 - The #Raiders are one of the most effective defenses in the NFL when it comes to running 'games' up front on the d-line. Lots of two-man stunts, and what they do to play off of those stunts is really impressive as well #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/7Ng8OEA4Vr — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 22, 2017
Schematically, the Raiders are a team that loves to create confusion for opposing offensive lines. They like to blitz with defenders from all three levels, but they also are one of the higher-volume stunt teams I've watched this season. The Eagles have had some issues blocking up stunts this year, so I expect them to see plenty of them in this matchup. The Raiders also do a good job of PRETENDING to run stunts as well, so the linemen need to be on their toes in this game.
Offensively, the Raiders engineer a downfield passing attack that wants to push the ball vertically. They have a few pass catchers who they rely on to win one-on-one down the field. Quarterback Derek Carr can make every throw, and with the probable return of wide receiver Amari Cooper this week, this offense will be firing on all cylinders.
Shot 4 - When you watch the #Raiders on offense, the first thing that stands out is how much they want to attack defenses vertically, and they expect their pass catchers to win 1-on-1 more often than not pic.twitter.com/vEh96OXnTb — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 22, 2017
The Raiders want players like Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and Jared Cook to win downfield on isolation routes. They are matchup players who have the ability to win with technique at the top of a route to create separation in all areas of the field. The Eagles have been very good all year long at limiting the big plays in the vertical passing game, but they will be tested in that realm in this game.
Shot 5 - The #Raiders boast one of the best RZ offenses in the NFL. When you have a guy like Marshawn Lynch and a matchup player like Jared Cook that goes a long way. Another big factor is the ability to separate from Amari Cooper / Michael Crabtree. #Eagles must bend, not break pic.twitter.com/7c8r7TqaLO — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 22, 2017
The Raiders are one of the best teams in the NFL at turning red zone trips into touchdowns. Players like Marshawn Lynch certainly become a factor close to the goal line, as does tight end Jared Cook. One of the biggest reasons, in my mind, is the combination of Cooper and Crabtree. Both players are really slippery off press coverage and are such savvy route runners. The Eagles' corners have to work hard to stay in the hip pocket of these receivers early in the down because Carr will pull the trigger near the goal line on throws to these two weapons on the outside.
Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices and opponents.