The Las Vegas Raiders are experiencing a revival under interim coach Antonio Pierce. Now they might need another gear for a visit to tackle the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in Miami Gardens, Fla.
The Raiders (5-5) are 2-0 since firing Josh McDaniels and handing the keys to Pierce, who has quickly energized the squad.
The visit to Miami is the only road contest during a six-game stretch for the Raiders.
“We were fortunate that my first two games were at home,” Pierce said of the shift since he replaced McDaniels. “Now we are on the road. It’s good to go through adversity. (Miami) is a good football team.”
While Las Vegas is in second place in the AFC West, the Dolphins (6-3) lead the AFC East by 1 1/2 games over the Buffalo Bills and have outscored opponents by averaging 31.7 points per game. The Raiders average 17.2 points this season.
Miami dropped two of its past three games, but the setbacks were to last season’s Super Bowl teams (Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles).
The Dolphins enter off their bye week and are eyeing an AFC East title.
“The goal is to win the division,” Miami coach Mike McDaniel said. “That’s the only way you ensure that you’re in the playoffs and you set yourself up for a journey, not a game. … It’s very important to us to win the AFC East.”
McDaniel is wary of the Raiders, who have defeated the New York Giants and New York Jets since Pierce’s promotion.
“I’d love to know the statistics behind teams that make a coaching change in-season,” McDaniel said, referencing the two wins. “It’s not the first time that it’s ever happened. I think the thing that I always notice when it does occur, when you have a coaching change and then have immediate success followed by another game of success, is that the locker room feels some energy. It galvanizes people.”
Raiders star running back Josh Jacobs is flourishing since the coaching change.
Jacobs led the NFL in rushing (1,653) and scrimmage yards (2,053) last season but had just 408 rushing yards and a paltry 3.1 average when McDaniels was canned after Las Vegas’ eighth game.
Jacobs rushed for a then-season-best 98 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-6 win over the Giants in Pierce’s coaching debut and another season high with 116 yards in last Sunday’s 16-12 win over the Jets.
Jacobs and star receiver Davante Adams are known threats, but Las Vegas ranks 27th in scoring offense (17.2 points per game) and 31st in total offense (275.4). But Jacobs said the offensive production is about to rise significantly.
“We know what type of team we have here,” Jacobs said. “This is not a fluke. The work that we put in, I feel like it’s going to pay off.”
Adams has just three receiving touchdowns to go with 57 catches for 659 yards.
Miami’s Tyreek Hill is having a huge season. Hill leads the NFL in receiving yardage (1,076) and touchdown catches (eight) and is tied for fourth with 69 receptions.
The Dolphins lead the NFL in scoring offense and total offense (435.3) and will get rookie standout De’Von Achane (knee) back after a four-game absence. Miami activated Achane from injured reserve on Saturday.
Achane has scored seven touchdowns (five rushing, two receiving) in four games and has rushed for 460 yards with a sparkling 12.1 per carry.
Achane’s 21-day practice window began Monday, and he was a limited participant in practice all week before being initially listed as questionable Friday.
The Dolphins ruled out guards Robert Hunt (hamstring) and Robert Jones (knee) and wide receiver Chase Claypool (knee). Tight end Durham Smythe (ankle), wide receiver Braxton Berrios (hamstring) and running back Alec Ingold (foot) are questionable.
Offensive tackle Terron Armstead (knee) and running back Raheem Mostert (ankle/knee) will play after being limited in every practice this week. Mostert is tied for the NFL lead with 13 total touchdowns.
The Raiders listed tackle Kolton Miller (shoulder), guard Dylan Parham (calf) and safety Roderic Teamer (hamstring) as questionable. Star defensive end Maxx Crosby (knee) and cornerback Marcus Peters (knee) are cleared to play.