John Locher / AP
Monday, Oct. 30, 2023 | 2 a.m.
• Who: Raiders (3-4) at Lions (5-2)
• When: 5:15p.m.
• Where: Ford Field
• TV: ABC/ESPN
• Radio: Raider Nation Radio 920 AM, KOMP 92.3 FM
• Betting line: Lions -8.5, over/under 46
Urgency should be heightened for the Las Vegas Raiders and Detroit Lions, who square off in this week’s Monday Night Football contest, considering the humbling results they each received last week. They lost by a combined 50 points in Week 7, with the Lions falling 38-6 at Baltimore and the Raiders suffering a 30-12 defeat at Chicago.
The typical midseason injury spike appeared to hurt both teams. The Raiders’ offense looked particularly limited without starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who was out after being transported to the hospital at halftime of a Week 6 win over the New England Patriots. The Lions didn’t have one huge headliner missing, but the team as a whole was so beaten up that coach Dan Campbell canceled one of their practices leading up to the Ravens game.
The hope is that, with an extra day to prepare, both teams will be healthier this week. Las Vegas needs a better performance to keep pace in the AFC playoff race, while Detroit wants to avoid losing its stranglehold on the NFC North lead.
Favorable matchup: Garoppolo’s return vs. Lions’ zone-heavy defense
On the surface, this isn’t an ideal setup for the Raiders’ passing game to get back on track as the Lions’ defense has improved drastically this season. Detroit rates ninth in the NFL in pass defense per the DVOA ratings. But the Lions have climbed the rankings by flipping their philosophy, going from one of the heaviest man-to-man teams in the league a year ago to one of the most zone-dedicated approaches this season. Garoppolo has fared much better against zone throughout his career, and it’s one of the reasons why the Raiders brought him in through free agency to replace Derek Carr, who was more comfortable attacking one-on-one matchups. Throughout his tenure with the San Francisco 49ers, Garoppolo’s greatest strength was finding windows in opponents’ zones and getting his playmakers the ball with room to operate. Those are the kind of opportunities frustrated Raiders star receiver Davante Adams is pining to get. He should have a chance if Garoppolo is half as effective as Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was last week in picking apart the Lions for 357 yards on 21-for-27 passing.
“The great thing about this league is you get to go against multiple guys who play up to that standard and have that energy and aura about them. Aidan Hutchinson is definitely one of those guys: He’s in the same boat with (the Browns’ Myles Garrett and Crosby) and coming on strong this year.” -Eluemunor on the impending matchup with Hutchinson
“It’s frustrating, but it is what is: You’ve just got to do something about it. You can sit there and cry and complain about this and that, but at the end of the day, that doesn’t make you better as a team, able to come together as team to fix it.” -Adams on the offense’s continued struggles and why he’s taken a more hopeful tone this week and tried to mute his unhappiness
“We’re trying everything we can. We’ve got a group in there that’s willing to do it, go through the hard stuff, go through the growing pains together. That’s what it takes. It’s not going to come easy for us, but we know what we signed up for.” -Garoppolo on turning around the offense
“Everybody was coming up to me (and celebrating). Having been out there the whole drive, I was a little tired.” -Raiders rookie edge rusher, and No. 7 overall draft pick, Tyree Wilson on how it felt to notch his first career sack last week against the Bears
Problematic matchup: Lions’ linemen vs. Raiders’ linemen
The biggest frustration Raiders coach Josh McDaniels shared after the loss to the Bears was the way the team lost control at the line of scrimmage. There’s a strong possibility of a repeat if the Raiders don’t play better in the trenches on both sides of the ball against the Lions. Led by a pair of Pro Bowlers in center Frank Ragnow and left tackle Penei Sewell, Detroit has a mauling offensive line. The unit ranks as the fifth best in the league by Pro Football Focus’ metrics. Take away superstar Maxx Crosby and the Raiders may have the single worst defensive line. On the other side of the ball, the matchup isn’t much rosier. Lions edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson is second in the league in pressures — with 42 to Crosby’s 43 — and should be primarily matched up against the Raiders’ right tackle rotation of Jermaine Eluemunor and Thayer Munford. Hutchinson and Munford have history dating back to their college days at Michigan and Ohio State, respectively, as the former embarrassed the latter in a viral play from the 2021 rivalry. Munford later downplayed Hutchinson’s impact and said he wasn’t one of his toughest one-on-one matchups to add fuel to the situation.
Gamebreaker: Linebacker Luke Masterson
While the Raiders should be closer to full strength on offense against the Lions, that doesn’t look like it’s going to extend to the defense. One of their linchpins and second-leading tackler, linebacker Divine Deablo, is expected to miss the game with an ankle injury he suffered in the second half against the Bears. Filling in fell to second-year former undrafted free agent Luke Masterson, who appeared to play well despite the game being mostly out of reach. Las Vegas’ coaching staff has been high on Masterson dating back to last year when he was a surprise inclusion on the initial roster. He struggled defensively as a rookie but was a valuable contributor on special teams. Masterson seems to have made progress as a defender in limited snaps this year, however, and he’ll need to show it against the Lions. Detroit quarterback Jared Goff likes to target short routes in the middle of the field where linebackers are usually responsible for coverage. Deablo had excelled as a pass defender this year, leaving a high bar for Masterson to clear.
Big Number: 13
That’s the number of missed tackles by the Raiders in last week’s loss to the Bears, where they failed to bring down the ball carrier five more times than they have in any other game this season. Las Vegas’ defense was trending upwards during a two-game winning streak until the Chicago loss where it seemed to shy from contact and show a nonchalance in wrapping up. Chicago power back D’Onta Foreman was who really punished Las Vegas, and the good news is Detroit doesn’t have any running backs as bruising, especially not with David Montgomery nursing an injured rib. But the Lions’ two leaders in receptions, Pro Bowl slot receiver Amon Ra St. Brown and rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, are both known for their strength and ability to run through arm tackles. The Raiders are going to need to tackle better immediately. Fundamentals aren’t typically drilled at practices as much at this point of the season, but Las Vegas defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said there would be a focus on tackling this week.
Best Bet (5-2): Jahmyr Gibbs to score a touchdown
The Lions’ featured running back may not outmuscle the Raiders like the Bears’ Foreman did a week ago, but the rookie out of Alabama should find openings with his speed and shiftiness. Las Vegas has shown occasional flashes of an improved rush defense, but it still ranks in the bottom 10 of the league in allowing 4.4 yards per carry. And that’s not all Gibbs can do. The Lions tried to sell the idea that Gibbs would be just as effective as a receiver upon taking him much higher than expected in the draft, with the 12th overall pick. A glimpse of that was evident last week when Gibbs had nine catches for 58 yards. Whether it’s rushing or receiving, Gibbs should find the end zone somehow against the Raiders for his second NFL touchdown. This bet is available at -120 (i.e. risking $120 to win $100), and that price looks a little short.