Eight games into the 2020 season, the Las Vegas Raiders are in the thick of an intense playoff push. The AFC is loaded with talented teams, making the pathway to the playoffs a tall task for the Raiders. Add in the fact the reigning Super Bowl champs are a divisional foe and it makes things even more interesting. Moving forward, the Silver and Black should be able to make the postseason for only the second time in seventeen seasons.
Do you remember the 2016 Raiders?
The Raiders riding high at 11-3 entering Week 16 in 2016. At the time, quarterback Derek Carr was a hot topic amidst the MVP conversation. Week in and week out it seemed like ‘Cardiac Carr’ was leading the team to improbable fourth-quarter comeback victories. Unfortunately, Raider Nation knows how the storybook season quickly turned into a nightmare. Their Week 16 victory over the Colts was marred by Carr breaking his leg and the regular-season finale was an ugly loss in Denver. The season ultimately ended in an early wild card round exit courtesy of the Texans.
With Carr helping to lead the charge once again as the Raiders are ready for the playoffs, let’s take a look at how his 2016 season through eight games compares with his 2020 start. When directly comparing the numbers side by side, they in fact are very similar.
Here’s his stat line from 2016: 214-323, 2,321 yards, 7.05 yards per attempt, 17 touchdowns 3 interceptions, 66.2 completion percentage, 99.1 passer rating, and 57.9 QBR.
Carr’s 2020 so far looks like: 180-258, 2,002 yards, 7.8 yards per attempt, 16 touchdowns 2 interceptions, 69.7 completion percentage, 110.0 passer rating, and 77.0 QBR.
The Silver and Black has been more balanced in 2020
The reason some numbers are higher in 2016 was due to the fact the run game was not utilized as frequently. Through eight games in 2020, the Raiders have run the ball 46 more times than 2016. A direct result of this is Carr throwing the ball an average of eight fewer times per game. With an average completion percentage of just under 70 this season, that means Carr in theory could see his average of 250.2 yards per game increase to 293.8 if given eight more chances to throw the ball.
With more attempts in 2016, there are increased yards, one more touchdown, and one more interception which is to be expected. Either way you look at it, the numbers from both seasons are impressive. However, there are two pivotal stats Carr has vastly improved in 2020 and that’s his passer rating and QBR.
Carr’s final passer rating and QBR in 2016 ended up being similar to his eight-game averages of that seeason with a 96.7 passer rating and a 56.1 QBR at seasons end. His passer rating was good enough for eighth in the league while his QBR put him at seventeenth. So far in 2020, his 110.0 passer rating has him fifth among his NFL counterparts and his 77.0 QBR is just inside the top ten at nine.
In 2016 over the final seven games Carr played in, his numbers saw a decline. His completion percentage dropped 5.9 percent while throwing for 705 fewer yards, and 6 fewer touchdowns. Despite his drop in numbers, he led the Raiders to a 6-1 record over that stretch. Even if Carr’s numbers start to take a minor dip as they did in 2016, Raider Nation shouldn’t fret, and here’s why.
Derek Carr can lead the Raiders to success
At the halfway point in the three seasons where the Raiders had 10+ losses with Carr as the quarterback compared to the other four seasons, there are key differences in his production. When comparing the “non-competitive” seasons (2014, 2017, 2018) with the competitive ones (2015, 2016, 2019, 2020) Carr threw for a similar amount of yards with nearly identical numbers of completions and attempts per game. The key difference is Carr’s decision making as a passer when breaking down his career in these two segments.
During the non-competitive seasons eight games in, Carr averaged 11.3 touchdowns and 7.3 interceptions while during the four competitive seasons Carr has an average of 16.7 touchdowns to only 3.7 interceptions.
Simply put, if Carr can continue to showcase smart decision making as a passer, the Raiders will be successful. The current success, however, isn’t solely on Carr’s passing abilities as the running game has been effective. There’s no doubt about it, Gruden loves to ground-n-pound with his backfield, but at the same time, Carr must be ready to shine if the ground attack goes dormant.
Things look good moving forward
One of the frequent complaints about Carr is that rather than bolstering those around him with his talent, it’s the talent around him that lifts his game. Say the run game does dissipate in 2020, Carr can’t revert back to the “non-competitive” seasons where he would fold with pressure in the pocket and throw more head-scratching interceptions. The energy and grit he’s playing with right now is evident, so if things go awry Carr must keep his pedal to the metal to keep the momentum going.
The Raiders have a high chance to win five of their remaining eight games. They are one point underdogs in two of the three contests they could lose, so there’s no reason this team should miss the playoffs. Of course, the Raiders were in a similar situation last year and they went on to lose five of their final six games.
What say you Raider Nation…will Carr keep up this MVP-caliber pace and will he lead the Raiders back to the playoffs?
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Top Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
*Stats using the 2015 season range from weeks 2-9 as Carr was hurt early in Week 1.