1st Place – AFC West
Last Game: win at home over Indianapolis Colts (7-8) 33-25
Next Game: at Denver Broncos (8-7) Sunday, Jan 2, 4:25 EST
So yes, the sky is falling in Oakland. Or is it? I spent the better part of the past few days having this discussion with myself.
My conclusion is that it is not. This is not good, and Carr’s actual presence and leadership is what hit the players hardest when he was injured. You could tell they love him, and were devastated to lose him. But this team is far more than Derek Carr, even though he is the heart and soul of the team.
The team can still win with Matt McGloin. He’s had big games in the past. Although Coach Jack Del Rio is still feeling him out, the team thought enough of McGloin to put a second-round tender on him in the offseason to protect him as backup.
The Raiders have won recently by running the ball well, creating a balanced attack and playing stifling, timely second-half defense. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin have come alive at the end of games, disrupting QBs and ruining gameplans. Between the two of them they have 18 sacks and 10 forced fumbles this season.
Reggie Nelson has been opportunistic in ending a few games with an interception. T.J Carrie has played well since filling in for injured D.J. Hayden. Mario Edwards Jr. is working back into shape and Karl Joseph may be back soon.
The Raiders have allowed only 38 points in the second half of their last four games, an average of a little over 9 points per game. In the three games prior to the Colts game, they had allowed 20 points — less than 7 per game. They are stepping up when needed.
The question many have had is can the Raiders hang with the Patriots or Steelers offensively without Carr? It’s a legitimate question, but both of those teams have shown offensive vulnerabilities this season.
There is no doubt that the Raiders chances of advancing deep into the playoffs have been weakened with the loss of Carr. But the consistent running of Latavius Murray coupled with the emergence of complimentary backs DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard give them another dimension.
In fact, despite Carr’s excellent play the Raiders running attack is more adept than the passing attack. The Raiders rank #6 in the NFL in overall offense at 383.2 yards per game. They are #5 in rushing at 124.3 yards per game — yet only #9 in passing with 258.9 yards per game.
This means that they can continue to lean on their running game, dynamic backs and all-Pro offensive line to alleviate pressure from McGloin.
Winning this weekend in Denver and gaining a division title and all-important first-round bye is nice for prestige. More practically though, it would help get McGloin more first-team reps which would greatly help in getting him ready for the playoffs.