Our Interview with the Enemy series continues this week with Matt Holder from Silver and Black Pride. Matt joins us to answer a few quick questions before the Las Vegas Raiders face the New Orleans Saints at home in Caesars Superdome on Sunday.
TH: The Raiders came off of their bye week, to defeat the Houston Texans in one of their most complete games of this season. Even though they are sitting at 2-4, they have lost those 4 games by only 14 combined points. Do you think this was the start of the Raiders turnaround for the season, and if not, what do they need to do to finishing games?
MH: I’m not going to put too much weight into a win against a, let’s be honest, terrible Texans team, but the Raiders’ victory last week was encouraging for exactly what you pointed out. They finished the game. Sure, it would have been nice to see them blow Houston out from the start of the game but that’s just not how things go in the NFL. It was back and forth for three quarters until Las Vegas buckled down on defense and the offense was able to stay balanced instead of having to throw every down because they were playing from behind. They were able to keep Josh Jacobs involved in the offense and let him close out the game, while a pick-six from safety Duron Harmon slammed the door shut. It was probably the first time all season that they played complementary football and didn’t beat themselves.
TH: RB Josh Jacobs has been an absolute stud, rushing for over 140 yards per game, for 3 weeks straight. What will the Saints defense have to do in order to stop him from having another career high game?
MH: Load the box and tackle. Jacobs makes defenses account for every single gap in the run game because he’s patient in the backfield, has good vision and can jump-cut from gap to gap at the last minute. He’s great at pressing the line of scrimmage to get linebackers to come downhill and commit to a gap and then moving right before hitting the hole to make the backer wrong. The best way to stop that is to bring an extra defender into the box and have someone sitting there waiting for him when he cuts, but that likely means Davante Adams will get more one-on-one matchups in the passing game so there’s a big trade-off.
The other aspect of Jacobs’ game that has been on full display this year is his ability to force missed tackles. He’s one of the league leaders in missed tackles forced and yards after contact this season. He’s made a few explosive plays out of absolutely nothing this year like the one below.
TH: Is there a Raiders player who was not anyone’s radar, that has really stood out to you so far this season and why?
MH: Safety Duron Harmon. After struggling last year with the Falcons, he signed for the veteran’s minimum to play for a lot of his old coaches with the Patriots and has been the Raiders’ best safety, partially because he’s been one of the few defensive backs who has been able to stay healthy. Harmon’s also made a handful of impact plays with two of the team’s three interceptions, including the pick-six I mentioned above.
TH: What is the biggest obstacle that the Raiders will face in order defeat the Saints on Sunday?
MH: I don’t mean this to sound disrespectful, but the Raiders’ biggest obstacle is to just avoid beating themselves. As you mentioned above, they’ve been competitive in every game this season, they’ve just struggled to avoid shooting themselves in the foot. Whether it was Hunter Renfrow fumbling in overtime against the Cardinals, Darren Waller dropping a pass in the end zone for an interception against the Titans, or Renfrow and Adams colliding on fourth down against the Chiefs, a lot of self-inflicted errors led to Vegas’ 1-4 start. They held firm against the Texans, but this week is certainly a bigger test.
TH: According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Raiders are currently 1.5-point favorites. Do you think they cover the spread and what is your final score prediction?
MH: Call me a homer but yes, I think the Raiders cover and win 28-20. To me, they have the more complete roster and New Orleans has a lot of instability going on between injuries and figuring out the quarterback situation. I’m also 1-5 when picking their games this year, so what the hell do I know?
Thank you again to Matt for taking the time to answer our questions. You can check out his work @SilverBlakPride
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