Closing out the season with five wins in a row is never an easy task, but when the remaining schedule consists of two backup quarterbacks and a pair of signal callers struggling to make noise, the job is much more manageable; the Las Vegas Raiders and Derek Carr have that to be thankful for, at least.
Things are looking up for Derek Carr, finally.
The Raiders dug themselves a hole with a 2-7 start to the 2022 season. Losing wasn’t an option if the team wanted to stay in postseason contention, and three weeks later, it still isn’t. That’s the bad news. The good news is that not only have the Raiders managed to win three straight games since that point, but Las Vegas has nothing but favorable quarterback matchups ahead of them.
A football team stringing together wins on their last life for the second year in a row just to fight for a playoff spot against all odds. Now that’s must-see TV. And, as fate would have it, the Silver and Black are entering a stretch of three primetime games in a row.
The Raiders will do battle with the reigning Super Bowl champions in Los Angeles this week on Thursday Night Football, but this isn’t the same Rams team that tore through opponents last season. Not only does L.A. have the poorest record in the NFL (3-9 through 13 weeks), but Matthew Stafford, the Rams’ starting quarterback, is out for the season with a spinal injury. This leaves 2018 UDFA quarterback John Wolford set to go head-to-head with Carr as the 27-year-old prepares for his second start across five days.
Wolford has thrown one touchdown and three interceptions in his two starts this season for Los Angeles, averaging under 200 passing yards per contest.
Getting reacquainted with the New England Patriots
Bill Belichick and Mac Jones will come to town afterwards for a Sunday Night Football showdown. Currently, New England has a 6-6 record on the season, but with Mac Jones under center, the team’s record is 4-5. The first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft has struggled often throughout his sophomore campaign, having seven touchdowns to his name with the same number of interceptions thrown. Against Buffalo this past Thursday, Jones failed to reach 200 passing yards on 30+ attempts for the third time this season.
For their third of three consecutive primetime contests, Las Vegas will be in Pittsburgh to face off against rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett.
With their first-round draft pick as QB1, the Steelers have put together a record of 4-5. In this timeframe, Pickett has recorded four passing touchdowns while being picked off eight times. In six of nine contests this season, or 66 percent of games, the 24-year-old finished with under 200 yards through the air. Pickett is a threat with his legs, though, totaling 209 rushing yards with an additional three touchdowns.
Derek Carr and the Raiders will face Mr. Irrelevant
After three weeks of national television, the Raiders will head back home to face the final selection of the 2022 NFL Draft, Brock Purdy.
Purdy started off as the San Francisco 49ers’ QB3, but after season-ending injuries to both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, “Mr. Irrelevant” is the next man up. The Iowa State alum made history when he took over for an injured Garoppolo on Sunday, becoming the first final pick in the history of the annual NFL Draft to throw a touchdown pass. Purdy finished the game with 210 yards through the air, along with a pair of scores and an interception. More importantly, the rookie quarterback earned a big win for his team against the red-hot Miami Dolphins.
If the Raiders manage to win each of these four contests, they’ll sit pretty with a 9-7 record, hoping to cap off the season with a big win in Week 18 to hit double-digit victories. Unfortunately, their final opposing quarterback couldn’t be any more difficult.
After a month of playing football against not-so-quality quarterbacks, Las Vegas will close their ’22 campaign by going toe-to-toe with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefsâ€”or will they?
What about Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs?
Derek Carr played excellent football against his division rivals from Missouri earlier in the season; this time, there’s a chance the 2018 MVP won’t be under center on the other side. To accomplish this, the Chiefs must win each of their next four games while Buffalo loses at least three times during the same time period. This would guarantee Kansas City the top seed in the AFC ahead of Week 18, likely resulting in a battle that doesn’t feature Patrick Mahomes.
The Chiefs will play Denver, Houston, Seattle, and Denver once more. In the meantime, Buffalo will go up against the Jets, Dolphins, Bears, and Bengals, three of which have winning records.
If this doesn’t come to pass and Mahomes plays, the run isn’t over just yet. When these two clubs met up in October, Carr logged 241 yards with two touchdowns in a 29â€“30 loss that came down to the wire. If the Raiders get that same stat line from their signal caller, a victory is well within the realm of realism. Of course, Las Vegas will have to win their four previous contests for this matchup to hold much weight in the first place.
*Top Photo: Chris Unger/Getty Images