Khalil Mack is primed and ready to carry the Oakland Raiders on a playoff run, beginning to build his legacy as an all-time great in the process.
In Week 16, the Oakland Raiders took a significant blow when quarterback Derek Carr suffered a broken fibula. As Khalil Mack walked alongside Carr as he hobbled off the field, Raider Nation’s collective hearts fell to their stomachs. The expected recovery time could range anywhere from 6-8 weeks and is currently a long-shot to play in the Super Bowl if the Raiders were to make it.
Most teams at this point would fold like a lawn chair and call the season quits. The Raiders will not be one of those teams.
The Raiders still have something to play for in Week 17 as they will head to Mile-High to take on the Denver Broncos. Oakland can clinch a first-round bye with a win Sunday, and if the New England Patriots were to lose to the Miami Dolphins, the Raiders would clinch the #1 overall seed in the AFC playoffs.
From here on out, the Raiders will need to get better and more consistent production out of the defense. But, there is one person now the Raiders need to lean on from Week 17 up until a potential Super Bowl Run.
Mack has had a ‘Defensive Player of the Year’ type of season. He is currently tied for 7th in the NFL in sacks with 11, to go along with 68 total tackles, a career high 5 forced fumbles, and also his first first career interception in which he returned for a touchdown. Khalil has also received plenty of love from Pro Football Focus, grading out as the top-graded edge defender in the NFL with a grade of 93.8.
All the stars have aligned for Mack to have a ‘Von Miller’ type of playoff performance. Khalil has all the tools, physical ability and capability to carve out his own historic playoff performance. With the addition of Mario Edwards Jr. along with Bruce Irvin playing his best football in December, Mack now has the supporting cast he needs.
Khalil has a great chance to be impactful, starting in Denver. The Broncos offensive line is average at best, and let’s not forget the last time Mack went to Denver, he came away from 5 sacks and had arguably the best single-game performance in Raiders history.
This Sunday’s game has the potential to be a great momentum builder heading into the playoffs. It is up to the Raiders’ defense as to whether they want to capitalize, or if they want to get rolled over on like they have by multiple teams this season.
The Raiders’ total defense is currently ranked 28th, giving up nearly 377 yards per game. In terms of scoring defense, the Raiders are ranked 19th, giving up 24.1 points per game. Although these are not ideal numbers for a Super Bowl defense, the Raiders do rank 1st in turnover differential with a +18 margin, as well as outscoring opponents 42-3 within the final three minutes of the game.
Being able to take the ball away and not give the ball back will be a telling story for this Raiders team going forward. Most media outlets are talking about Matt McGloin and the offense, when in the end they should be focusing on Khalil Mack and realize he could be on the verge of doing something very special in this years playoffs.