Raiders

Aspuria’s Assertion: Outcome of tonight’s game changes the Raiders’ trajectory, for better or worse

Fans are experiencing the full-range of emotions with the Las Vegas Raiders slated to engage in a win-and-get-in regular season finale.

“We’re two days away from the biggest game in years, please shut up about head coaching rumors.”

Boo, fucking, hoo. 

The Raiders overcame Jon Gruden taking his ball and going home, the Henry Ruggs III incident, and a myriad of other things to get to 9-7 and win-and-get-in. Head coaching rumors are nothing. And if they are, and the Raiders fall, a head coach change is ideal.

Good on Vegas for treating the Sunday night primetime regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers as just another game.

“Everyone wants to keep talking about one game, but if we lost any of these other ones, we wouldn’t be talking about this one,” quarterback Derek Carr said during his mid-week media availability. “No one likes that because it doesn’t sound good, but it’s just the truth.”

Ditto for veteran linebacker K.J. Wright, who has seen it all during his lengthy career.

“Don’t make this game bigger than what it is,” Wright noted. “Obviously, it’s a very important game, but don’t get so outside of yourself to where, ‘Oh, this moment’s too big for me.’ This is a really cool moment. It’s a moment that you’re going to remember for a long time once we seal the deal. Just keep it simple, trust your teammates, trust the call, just do the little things right and just do it with a nasty attitude. If we do that, we’ll get the results that we want.”

Playoffs or Bust!

The result is that the Raiders and an antsy Raider Nation want the playoffs. Sure, there are some other wild scenarios that could play out, but let’s stick to the tried-and-true method of winning and getting in. A Raiders win gets them to 10-7 and a playoff berth, two accomplishments that seemed impossible after the team was trampled by the Kansas City Chiefs 48-9 (for the second time in the season, mind you) in Week 14. Since then, Vegas has rattled off three-straight wins to get to this contest with Los Angeles.

The atmosphere within Allegiant Stadium tonight should be electric. Anything less would be anticlimactic, really. The Bolts walk into the game knowing they’ve toppled the Raiders already this season (28-14 in Week 4) and have snapped a previous Vegas three-game win streak. Los Angeles also boasts an impressive young quarterback who leads a high-octane offense. Herbert has fired 35 touchdown passes this season (ranking third in the league) but has misfired with 14 interceptions (tied for fifth). But he’s made more big plays than big mistakes, and Gus Bradley’s Raiders defense has its work cut out for them. Time to prove the three-game performance streak wasn’t a fluke and they can contain or even dominate a division foe.

“We’re going to have to do a good job plastering downfield because he does lengthen the play with his legs,” Bradley said of Herbert. “And it’s not just to run, but to look for throws downfield or even across the field.”

Flip it to Carr and it’s a proving ground game where the quarterback can cement his Raiders legacy. He finally answers the call and leads the Silver and Black to the promised land of the playoffs, or he can’t get the team there and adds another chapter to the Raiders’ impressive collection of sadness. Raiders owner Mark Davis made it known that the 2021 campaign was all about the postseason and anything less would be a failure.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s hard because you care as a person, we’re human, right?” Carr said. “But at the end of day, one thing that we know is if we don’t take care of business, it doesn’t matter. And so that’s kind of how we look at it. Everything will take care of itself for everyone in our building. Myself included. Everything always works out for my good, man, I’ll always be good.”

“Once the whole thing with coach Gruden happened and all that, I just had a real appreciation for this season and each day that I get to be an NFL quarterback. It’s hard enough making it to this league, and sticking around for a while is even harder. I’m just so thankful. I’m so grateful to represent this franchise. And I know that the guys in the building with me feel the exact same way.”

Win and the Raiders can stay the course and prepare themselves for the playoffs. Lose, and Davis is going to chart a new course for his team. The Jim Harbaugh rumors will only get louder. That smoke of the Michigan football head coach returning to the NFL will get heavier until we all see flames associated with the billowing cloud.

Fortune favors the brave. And the Raiders must be both bold, brave and aggressive. From interim head coach Rich Bisaccia on down, the pussyfoot nature the team exhibited in 2021 must not occur in tonight’s clash. He who hesitates, loses.

Carr wears the shooting sleeve on his arm in tribute to the late-great Kobe Bryant. And the Black Mamba was renowned for an uncanny killer instinct. The Raiders must exhibit that against the Chargers. Or they’ll get zapped by the Bolts — again.

Vegas pass rusher Maxx Crosby provided his best “job not finished” impression that Kobe famously delivered.

“We’re not there yet,” Crosby said earlier this week. “That’s what I keep reminding myself every day I come into meetings, practice, everything: that we’re not there yet. We do have a feel-good story and everyone’s talking about us, and we’ve gone through a lot and things like that, but if we lose, a lot of people are going to forget about it.”

A loss will result in a lot of forgetting, no doubt. Maybe even Davis “forgetting” to comply with the Rooney Rule and hiring Harbaugh straight away.

But win, and who knows.

The choice is yours, Raiders.

*Top Photo: Matt Aguirre/Las Vegas Raiders

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