The Las Vegas Raiders are undefeated!
The expectations for Raiders fans coming into 2021 were lofty, but I don’t think the most loyal fan could have predicted these kinds of wins against quality opposition. Every facet of the team is firing on all cylinders for the first time in a long time. The offense is roaring, the defense is winning upfront, and the special teams unit is a strength flying under the radar.
The Raiders know all about special team’s greatness. The legendary Ray Guy. The field-flipper Shane Lechler. The “Polish Powder Keg” Sebastian Janikowski.
This could be the year of Daniel Carlson.
Week 1 – Raiders vs. Ravens
Ask any Vikings fan what it means to have quality kicking. No fanbase has suffered through more snakebitten kickers shanking field goals in big moments than Minnesota.
It doesn’t seem to matter who kicks for them. Blair Walsh missed an easy kick to cost them a playoff game years back. Greg Joseph missed an extra point and a game-winning field goal just last week against the Arizona Cardinals.
Naturally, they’re just the team to give the Raiders their kicker.
Daniel Carlson was cast out from Minnesota but has found new life with the Silver and Black. The Raiders are winning games because of it. It takes a real Raider to assume the mantle from a kicker like Janikowski. Nobody could punch through a 60 yarder like Seabass. Carlson is here to show you he’s the new generation of kicking greatness.
Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens, Carlson was perfect. He made all three of his extra points and went 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts. The second was a critical 55-yard field goal to keep the Raiders alive following a last-minute drive by the Ravens. The Raiders went on to win a classic in overtime.
55 YARDS TO TIE IT.
Daniel Carlson has #RaiderNation going wild!
— NFL (@NFL) September 14, 2021
Justin Tucker, widely regarded as the best active kicker alive, had some competition. In both halves, Carlson kicked his way to three points to close the half. He gives Derek Carr a short field for the patented two-minute offense the Raiders rely on to get some quick points when the defense might be lax at the end of halves.
His dominance carried over into Week 2.
Week 2 – Raiders vs. Steelers
Everyone expected the Raiders to have their hands full with the Steeler’s vicious pass-rush. Points would be at a premium and kicking was critical to securing a victory.
Carlson once again asserted himself on the game. He was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals in a road game that nobody expected the Raiders to win. He added two extra points (you just can’t take those for granted anymore) to account for 14 of the 26 points scored on the day.
The Raiders upset the Steelers, and Carlson is a big reason why. Week 2 victories aren’t always remembered but consider the opponent. With the Browns looking to take the AFC North, the Steelers (and Ravens) both seek to contend for a wild card in the AFC. The Raiders, with the Kansas City Chiefs bearing down, look to do the same. Having the head-to-head tiebreaker against both teams could very well be the difference come January.
The Week 2 Special Teams Player Of The Week is a throwback to Raider greats.
As frustrating as Jon Gruden can be by settling for field goals in red-zone situations, it’s a relief to know that Carlson will pull through. Not just from close range either.
From 40-49 yards, he’s three for three. From 50+ he’s one for one. Four of his six field goals are from beyond 40 yards out; he’s a certified weapon. He’s going to be wildly important heading into November when the weather slows down offensive production.
Check back in around Week 10. It may not surprise anyone to see Carlson posting impressive percentages. Along with him, you might just find the Raiders in the thick of the playoff hunt.
*Top Photo: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press