The Las Vegas Raiders are off to another 2-0 start to the season, the third consecutive year Jon Gruden's team has won their first two games. Despite the good starts, Vegas has failed to make the playoffs both times -- even though the vibe around the team feels different this time.
Derek Carr is off to a MVP-type start, completing 66.7% of his passes for 917 yards with four touchdowns to one interception, leading the Raiders to consecutive victories against AFC North opponents. If Carr throws for 383 yards Sunday, he will become the fourth player with at least 1,200 passing yards through his team's first three games of a season in NFL history -- joining Tom Brady (2011), Ryan Fitzpatrick (2018) and Kurt Warner (2000). Vegas also has an improved defense that ranks 10th in points allowed and 16th in yards allowed, a significant improvement from the bottom 10 defense the Raiders had in 2020.
The Dolphins are coming off an embarrassing 35-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills and won't have Tua Tagovailoa (ribs) for Sunday's matchup. Jacoby Brissett will get the start, leading an offense that averages just 237.5 yards per game (31st in NFL), and 8.5 points per game (worst in NFL). The Dolphins have won seven of the last eight matchups against the Raiders, including a thrilling Week 16 victory last season -- thanks to this miracle pass by Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Raiders will be seeking revenge against the Dolphins in Week 3, as they seek their first 3-0 start since 2002. NFL on CBS analyst Charles Davis discussed the matchup in a preview of the Week 3 showdown between to potential playoff teams in the AFC.
All NFL odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
How to watch
Derek Carr vs. Xavien Howard
Howard deserves the accolades as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. The Dolphins cornerback has 19 interceptions since the start of the 2018 season, tied with J.C. Jackson for the most in the league (Howard is the first player since 2007 to have double-digit interceptions in a season). Howard's excellence has continued in 2021 as he's the only player to record an interception, forced fumble, and a fumble recovery on the year. Howard has allowed just six catches for 73 yards and a touchdowns through two games as opposing quarterbacks have compiled a 76.3 passer rating when targeting him.
Carr has performed at a MVP level through two games this season, but it remains to be seen if he'll test Howard -- no matter which receiver is on him. NFL on CBS analyst Charles Davis says it won't matter with Carr's confidence.
"I think we're all a year late on Derek Carr," Davis said. "He is locked in on everything he's doing. Derek is not going to tell us this, but when he looks in the mirror and says 'I'm the best quarterback in the NFL.' And he's playing to that level right now. What he's done in these two weeks have been nothing short of sensational."
Dolphins offensive line vs. Maxx Crosby
The Dolphins are already mixing up their offensive line through two games after allowing six sacks and 25 pressures in last week's loss to Buffalo. Liam Eichenberg is entering the lineup at left guard in place of Solomon Kindley and more changes could be coming. Miami also considered moving right guard Robert Hurt to right tackle (where he spent most of last year, which would have led to the Dolphins putting Eichenberg at right tackle and Jesse Davis at left guard. Austin Jackson will stay at left tackle despite the changes.
The revamped offensive line will certainly face a tough task in Crosby, who leads the league in quarterback hits (10) and pressures (13) through two weeks. Crosby has two sacks on the year and 19 through 34 games -- one more than Khalil Mack in that same stretch with the Raiders (Crosby will play his 35th game with the team on Sunday).
"He plays with an all-out motor, we know that," Davis said. "Last year he played with a torn labrum and a broken hand, and still had seven sacks. Guys like Maxx Crosby get damned with the praise 'Oh my God, the guy is the energizer bunny, he never stops.' You know what we don't give him credit for? Being a heck of an athlete and supreme technician.
"I'm not going to say he's a Bosa technician. Crosby is very good with his hands. You watch him with the swipe moves and arm overs, but you couple that athletic ability to get off the speed and quickness -- you got one of the best pass rushers in the league."
Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue usually rotate, so Jackson and Davis will have their hands full throughout the afternoon. The edge goes to Crosby unless Eichenberg makes a major impact now that the rookie second-round pick is in the lineup.
Caesars Sportsbook has Vegas as 4-point favorites with an over/under of 44, a matchup that screams a low-scoring total thanks to how inept the Dolphins offense has been. Miami is 32nd in the NFL in points scored and is 31st in total yards through two weeks. The Dolphins running game -- 27th in yards and 26th in yards per carry -- has to establish itself in order to keep Vegas' offense off the field.
Whether the Raiders have Josh Jacobs or not will determine the game plan, as Vegas will ride Jacobs if he's available -- no matter how well Carr's playing. If Jacobs can't go, Carr will test a Dolphins pass defense that has playmakers in Howard and Byron Jones, aided by the 27 pressures up front (eighth in the NFL). Whether the Dolphins can get to Carr will be the challenge, especially since they only have two sacks and the Raiders offensive line has allowed the quarterback to be pressured 32.3 percent of the time (17th in the NFL). Carr has 2.64 seconds to throw (22nd in the league), but gets rid of the ball fast.
The Dolphins may just not put up enough points to compete with the Raiders. If Vegas can get 23 points, that may be more than enough to get to 3-0. Miami is an unknown with Brissett as well. Let's see how he fares with a full week working with the first-team offense.
Raiders 24, Dolphins 16
Check out CBSSports.com for even more predictions on this game and the rest of Week 3.