With the Bye Week over, Raider Nation anxiously awaits Sunday as the Raiders currently stand at 4-5 thru their first nine contests.
There’s been some successful and uplifting moments as well as some startling disappointments that ultimately have the Oakland Raiders facing critical circumstances to keep their playoffs chances alive.
Keeping a theme with Raiders Las Vegas stadium construction officially breaking ground, let’s see what the Raiders can do to hit “lucky 7’s” in their pursuit of victory in their last seven games.
Parlay for The Patriots
This matchup presents a long list of troubling issues for the Raiders. The feel of this game would’ve been more exhilarating had the Raiders not surrendered another home game to Mexico City in consecutive seasons. If Oakland would’ve hosted this game while potentially being Tom Brady’s last trip to “the town”, the game day environment would’ve been legendary.
After making Jay Cutler look elite before the bye week, the Raiders secondary could be heading towards oblivion. Take your pick of the injuries, inexperience, bad free agents or schemes but the personnel in the secondary might be one of the worst units that Brady has ever faced in his entire career. The pass rush concepts aren’t doing the secondary any favors either; the outcome of this game ultimately falls on Derek Carr and the offense lighting up the scoreboard and keeping Brady on the sidelines. They’ll need to “parlay” a few different special teams and defensive plays together to earn a huge AFC victory.
Double-Down on Denver
It’s hard to imagine the Raiders’ first matchup with the Broncos showcased Carr being sidelined with a back injury and EJ Manuel trying to create a dramatic 4th quarter win that had game-winning dropped touchdown passes to Jared Cook. Let’s not forget a controversial fake-punt called by Jack Del Rio that ultimately handed away the rivalry win to Denver. Yes, that was this same season. Now we’re looking at a Denver team that is completely reeling at the quarterback position and hanging their talented defense out to dry.
Double-Down you say? Yes. The Raiders have favorable matchups to entertain this victory at home on both sides of the ball. On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders need to take advantage of the shaky quarterback play and inefficient offensive line of the Broncos. The defense might find success in forcing third-and-long situations and at this point, they still might be looking for their first defensive interception of the season.
The offense can take advantage of the Broncos’ interior pass coverage avoiding the strong cornerback play on the outside. This could be done using the very productive play of Cook and the newly found success of Amari Cooper in the slot.
Play The Hand You’re Dealt vs. The Giants
The N.Y. Giants are far and away the most favorable game left on the Raiders schedule. The Giants organization has been thinking NFL draft for quite some time now. This is a game the Raiders can play within themselves at home, hence to victory without taking risks, as I said, “play the hand you’re dealt.” Assuming the Raiders are still in the hunt for the wild card at this time, it could allow the team to lower some of the starters snap counts for the younger depth to gain some much-needed experience for the future.
Crapshoot vs. The Chiefs
To be practical, the Kansas City Chiefs should still be in first place in the AFC West during this matchup. It didn’t help that the Raiders started their AFC West matchups losing two of their first three, hopefully by now, they’re reversing the trend looking to be 3-2 in the AFC West this week. The Chiefs were embarrassed on a dramatic untimed victory touchdown on a national stage during the Thursday Night Football matchup earlier this season with the Raiders.
I’m sure the Chiefs are anxious to host the Raiders for revenge in this late season bout. It’s quite a crapshoot knowing Carr’s struggles at Arrowhead Stadium, something that will certainly be tested in the frigid unfavorable weather this time of year.
Cash-In on The Cowboys
When the Raiders schedule dropped, this late-season game in Oakland had the potential to be an early Super Bowl matchup. Right now in Week 9, that’s hardly even a possibility. Both respective offensive lines were praised for being some of the best in the NFL, yet their respective offenses have struggled this season.
These teams share injury concerns that might be the deciding factor in this game as well as star Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott serving a suspension. Time for the Raiders to cash in on a team that’s had similar struggles in 2017.
All-In vs. The Eagles
It’s not hard to put it past anyone right now that the Eagles are a complete football team with realistic Super Bowl aspirations. What makes it even a tougher matchup is playing away from home in Philadelphia on Christmas Day. This nationally televised Monday Night Football game will draw huge ratings while family rooms across the country will be packed with gathering crowds enjoying the holiday.
To win this game, the Raiders must have a superb performance from every facet of the game. If the Raiders are narrowly aligned to steal an AFC Wild Card spot with two games left in the season at this point then they must go “all in.”
The best Christmas present Raider Nation could ask for is that the Eagles will already have a first-round playoff bye and home-field advantage already locked-up, and in turn gifting the Raiders an easy win. Merry Christmas!
The Final Table vs. The Chargers
Yes, the Raiders will play on both Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve; hopefully, the holiday season spreads some victory joy into the win column.
The first Chargers matchup of the season was perhaps the most frustrating outcome. After missing a PAT and losing on a late game walk-off field goal at home in Oakland, that will certainly resonate in the locker room that week. It’s time to return the favor in front of what will surely be an “away” game full of Silver & Black, much like the Raiders enjoyed versus the Chargers during their tenure in San Diego.
The Chargers might be thinking draft order at this time and the Raiders would be happy to benefit from that, entertaining a wild card berth. It’s hard to imagine Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers to ever not be excited to play the Raiders. Rivers would love the spoiler role and this game will be a hot-ticket in the Los Angeles market. Let’s hope it isn’t “The Final Table” of the season for the Raiders, as they look to take the whole pot home in the playoffs.