The Raiders are still getting used to their shiny new home just off the Strip.
Now they want to start establishing Allegiant Stadium as an intimidating environment for road teams, a tall task when there are no fans in the stands.
“It’s easier to do it with the fans, the atmosphere,” quarterback Derek Carr said of the process of establishing a true home-field advantage. “Right now it’s more of an even playing field.”
The Raiders have taken advantage of that to go 4-1 on the road. But they have been victimized by it at home, going just 1-2, although a lot of that can be attributed to a difficult home slate.
Buffalo, Tampa Bay and New Orleans, the teams that have played at Allegiant Stadium so far, have a combined record of 19-7. Only the Saints left with a loss.
Coach Jon Gruden believes he has found a scapegoat in director of team security Bob Stiriti.
“He’s our only fan,” Gruden joked. “We have to get Bob Stiriti fired up to make some noise. That’s been a real problem. … It sickens us that we can’t play in front of our fans, but we have to do better. To have a little fun during these tough times, we blame Bob for all of our lapses at home.”
Here are three keys as the Raiders host the Denver Broncos at 1:05 p.m. Sunday.
Protect the house
Carr believes in the importance of making Allegiant Stadium a place visiting teams don’t believe they can go into and come away with a win.
It’s a lesson he learned back in college at Fresno State.
“One thing we always talked about is protecting our home turf,” he said. “I think my last two years of college, I don’t think we lost at home. It was a point of emphasis. But that’s easier said than done.
“Obviously, we played some good football teams at home this year, and we haven’t done our job well enough.”
The Raiders have a chance to change that as they get a bit of a break in the schedule, at least on paper.
This will mark the first time the Raiders have been favored in a game at Allegiant Stadium. In fact, they are a 4-point favorite over the Broncos, marking the first time they have been favored since the opener at Carolina.
That makes Sunday a great opportunity to make sure there’s no welcome mat for opponents entering Allegiant Stadium.
“It’s very important that we take care of business at home because we want to protect that place,” Carr said. “We want to make that place special, where when people are like, ‘Man, we’ve got to go play the Raiders.’ there is a feeling in their stomach like, ‘Ah, dang.’ So, that’s not going to happen unless we earn that, and we got to earn that right by winning some football games at home.”
Even without the injured Von Miller, the Broncos’ defensive front could give the Raiders’ makeshift offensive line fits.
A great deal of the attention will be on blocking one man in particular.
“Bradley Chubb is one of the premier rushers in this league,” Carr said. “He’s someone that we have to be aware of. He’s someone that we have to be ready for because he can wreck a game. He’s a great player. He’s tough. He’ hard-nosed, old school. Loves to run through people. He’s a really good football player.”
Chubb has 5.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hits on the season.
Get them to the ground
Tackling has been one of the biggest problems for the defebse.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Raiders have missed 69 tackles, the fifth-most in the league.
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said his unit, which rarely tackles in practice once the season starts, needs to get back to basics.
“We just have to keep making sure they’re in the right position in practice, knees bent, those type of things, tracking to the near hip,” Guenther said. “We grade those things every day in practice, every week in the game. … We just have to keep harping on the fundamentals of the things we’re doing and hopefully they’ll keep improving.”