In week one of the regular season, the Oakland Raiders will take a on a Los Angeles Rams team that capped off their 2017 season by going 11-5 before adding seemingly every star player around the league during the offseason. The Rams added stars Brandin Cooks, Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib leading many to label them Super Bowl favorites.
The Silver and Black come into 2018 as a complete unknown after disappointing heavily in 2017, finishing 6-10 and firing Head Coach Jack Del Rio. Mark Davis, unhappy with the results broke the bank to bring back legendary Raiders coach Jon Gruden. Gruden has been out of coaching for roughly a decade but spent those years with a mind to return to coaching honing those skills from the broadcast booth.
Week 1 has the feel of a David vs Goliath matchup that the Raiders are not favored to win by almost anyone. In fact most are already chalking this up as a loss for Oakland before the season has even started, but what if it’s not?
Oakland has a real shot to upset the favored Rams by doing what they did best last year without knowing it: Run the ball with power. Lynch and Co. averaged 7.3 Yds/A on power runs in 2017 but Todd Downing was well out of his depth and only ran with power 23 times total for the season.
Enter Jon Gruden and his reported return to power football.
The Rams were a dominant team in 2017 but not against the run, where they tied for or ranked worse than 27th in every major run category. To make the rankings even worse the Rams defense had the 11th fewest attempts to rush the ball against them. They were flat out not good against the run and while Suh will help here none of their other acquisitions will.
Running the ball with success will allow the Raiders to control the clock and tempo of the game. More than that it will allow the Raiders to avoid a ferocious pass rush and ball hawk DB’s on the Rams from taking over. If Oakland can run to set up the pass they will be able to neutralize many of those big name acquisitions.