Oakland Raiders Still Have High Hopes in Playoffs
Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) is helped off the field during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at the Oakland Coliseum. The Oakland Raiders defeated the Indianapolis Colts 33-25. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Hold up on closing the book on the Oakland Raiders!
When Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg last Saturday, you could hear a pin drop in the Oakland Coliseum. All the energy in the stadium was vacuumed out in one play. All the fans’ hopes and dreams of a Super Bowl or deep playoff run were dashed.
From the moment Carr first took the field in his rookie year in 2014, he gave Raider Nation hope. Whatever “it” is, he has and no moment is too big for him. And Raider Nation sensed it, which is why they packed the stadium when Carr started out 0-10.
It was easy to see that he would lead Raider Nation to the promised land one day. All the organization had to do was surround him with talent and he would make it happen. Now in 2016, Raider Nation is excited because it looked like this could be the year.
I had my own fantasy about the Raiders facing the New England Patriots for the AFC Championship in Foxboro. It’s only fitting that they end the dynasty they started on the field they started it on. But right after the injury, it didn’t see that as possible anymore.
But after thinking about it, it still is.
Turn the page to see why.
Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin (14) passes the ball against the Indianapolis Colts during the fourth quarter at the Oakland Coliseum. The Oakland Raiders defeated the Indianapolis Colts 33-25. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
When I first thought about Matt McGloin being the starter, I had very little hope going forward. I thought back to 2015 when he went in for an injured Carr and stunk the joint up. But then I thought about the fact that he didn’t have any reps that week.
A starting quarterback doesn’t want to give away any of his reps, especially throwing the ball. So McGloin went in cold, not knowing the team around him very well. It’s different throwing to Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree than the rest of the team.
Some of it was on McGloin himself not being mentally ready to come in and do work. But he worked on that and was ready when he had to go in for Carr Saturday. He made a couple of key throws that actually put the game on ice.
And this time, he’ll have all the reps with the ones to develop that timing and chemistry. Looking at him on tape, it doesn’t look easy to him but he as a good arm and accuracy. He’s also smart so he can get the job done in the next game, the one that sets the Raiders up.
Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back DeAndre Washington (33) carries the ball on a 22-yard touchdown run in the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts during a NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Running Game
The running game is coming along as the big, powerful O-line opens the lanes. DeAndre Washington has been inactive for much of the season but he looks good now. There wasn’t any consistency with Latavius Murray and Jalen Richard.
Richard is a slower scat-back type the runs well in space and out of the spread. Murray is an I-back that runs well going into the line of scrimmage but doesn’t run well in the open field. He makes all the wrong moves in the secondary and gets tripped up.
Washington seems to have it all, running out of the I and the spread. He has great vision, runs well through contact and will put the shakes on you in the open field. He also has the best hands of all the backs, especially Richard, who has had quite a few drops.
So this combination of talents may be the one that does it for the Raiders offense. Or he could have just been the hottest one against a bad Colts run defense. I believe his talents bode well for tough defenses too but either way, he’ll help.
USP NFL: OAKLAND RAIDERS AT DENVER BRONCOS S FBN USA CO
With this running game, the Raiders should be able to go into Denver and get the win. In Week 9, the Raiders ran the same play 10 times in a row on them and drove down the field. McGloin taking snaps from under center will help the running game too.
This is actually the perfect situation to have McGloin start out in because the Raiders will run a lot. Actually, the Raiders own the Denver Broncos now as they’ve taken two of the last three. They would have won all three if it weren’t for receiver Seth Roberts.
He ran the wrong route,causing an INT at the end of their first game in 2015. In their second game last year, Khalil Mack had five sacks in a15-12 win in Denver. It’s generally hard to win in Denver but the Raiders have Mack and the running game.
A win there Sunday gives the Raiders the AFC West, a 1st-round bye and a home game in the playoffs. Combine that with a New England Patriots’ loss and the Raiders are home throughout. But don’t go crazy, depending on the Miami Dolphins to beat the Patriots.
Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) carries the ball in the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts during a NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Don’t Count Carr Out
Doctors, people that play one on TV and others are saying there’s no way he plays again this season. The earliest I’ve heard he could be back is just in time to miss the Super Bowl. However, the Raiders tried to originally have the surgery on Christmas morning.
That’s because they wanted to see just how fast he could heal in order to play in the playoffs. That may sound crazy to you but people heal at different speeds and the God he worships has no limits. Sunday will make almost a week after breaking that fibula.
And with a the bye-week after beating the Broncos it will be about three weeks. I’m not saying this is likely at all but it is possible for him to get back by the first playoff game (three weeks). Raiders legend Charles Woodson did it back in 1999.
And Woodson had to run, change directions, come off a cut-block and tackle. After surgery, it was reported that the bone was already healing itself back into place. So it might not be likely but it is not impossible for him to come back during the playoffs.
November 27, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) grabs the football on a fumble by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1, not pictured) during the fourth quarter at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Panthers 35-32. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Because of the beginning of the season, the Raiders defense looks ugly in the statistical rankings. Right now, they’re No. 27 in yards allowed (377 ypg) and No. 19 in points allowed (24 ppg). But that is no indication of how they’ve been playing lately.
Over the last seven games, their 341 ypg would be good for No. 11 and 19.7 ppg would be No. 8. The Raiders are also No. 2 in the NFL behind the Kansas City Chiefs in total turnovers. Combine that with very little turnovers on offense and they have the best turnover ratio in the NFL.
The best thing about the defense now is it’s just starting to get healthy up front. Of course, Mack and Bruce Irvin have been around all year, making plays. But Mario Edward Jr. the 2nd-best defensive player on the team, will be require double-teams again.
And Stacey McGee, who was disruptive before his ankle injury, is practicing. McGee is underrated, leading the Raiders in sacks before the injury and he will also require double-teams. Like Edwards, he is good against the run and pass so the Raiders defense will be ready.
Dec 24, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes (18) and quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrate after a touchdown in the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts during a NFL football game at Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
With a win Sunday, the Raiders would be set up very well for the playoffs. It is still entirely possible for them to make the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. That 1st-round bye opens up the door for a miracle in their first playoff game.
If not, it’s it’s even more possible for him to see the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. That is when the Raiders need them the most as they’ll likely have a home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I can’t see the Kansas City Chiefs stopping Le’Veon Bell.
The hope would then be McGloin, the running game and the defense getting the Raiders through one home playoff game. The defense held the Indianapolis Colts to 22 points after they scored 34 on the No. 2 Minnesota Vikings defense. And that defense is still improving.
So there is still a good chance the Raiders can get to that AFC Championship Game. Once they get there, anything can happen but I never did think past that. I would give the Raiders a good shot if they could somehow get Carr back.
But it all starts with Sunday!
And you never know, the Dolphins play the Patriots tough at home!
More from With the First Pick