It might sound a little strange, but the Oakland Raiders don’t have to rush wide receiver Amari Cooper back on to the field versus the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Oakland Raiders will play one of their most important games of the season when they take on the arch rival Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Oakland and Kansas City are in a three-way tie with the Los Angeles Chargers for first place in the AFC West at 6-6. This is a must win game for the Raiders, but does that mean No. 1 wide receiver Amari Cooper will be available?
Cooper was one of 10 Raiders that were held out of Raiders practice on Wednesday. He suffered both a concussion and an ankle injury back in Week 12 versus another division rival in the Denver Broncos. Cooper had to exit the game after that hit by Broncos safety Darian Stewart. He was unable to play last week versus the New York Giants at home.
Though the Chiefs and the Raiders are tied atop the division, this is a situation where the Raiders need to take precaution and not force Cooper back out on to the field. There are several reasons for this, so let’s get to them.
Though Cooper had by far and away his best game of the season for the Raiders versus the Chiefs back in Week 7 (11 catches, 210 yards, two touchdowns), he has not been a productive player for the Raiders for much of 2017. He has had his issues with drops and only has 31 catches for 289 yards and three touchdowns in his 10 other games this season. In short, his high-end impact has been overstated in a frustrating year for the guy.
Another reason to not force Cooper out there if he’s not close to 100 percent is that the Raiders have had other players be productive for them on offense of late. Running back Marshawn Lynch and quarterback Derek Carr are playing their best ball of the season.
Tight ends Jared Cook and Clive Walford have stepped up in big moments. If healthy, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is good for a big gain per game. Let’s not forget that Michael Crabtree will be back after serving his one-game suspension for fighting Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib in the Denver game two weeks ago.
The last two reasons to not put Cooper out there with a bum ankle have to do with Kansas City’s self-inflicted issues. Kansas City has lost six of its last seven games. Right now, the only teams in the AFC playing worse football than the Chiefs are the Broncos, losers of eight in a row, and the Cleveland Browns, a winless mess in the AFC North at 0-12.
Lastly, a struggling Kansas City secondary will be down yet another guy on Sunday. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has suspended his best cornerback in Marcus Peters for his antics in Week 13’s road loss to the New York Jets. Without Peters and injured safety Eric Berry, the Chiefs will have no luck in the secondary stopping the Raiders passing game. Cooper doesn’t have to play for the Raiders to move the sticks on Sunday.
It sounds a bit odd, but the Chiefs game on Sunday is the easiest of the four remaining games on the Raiders’ slate. Oakland will host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football in Week 15. Though the Cowboys will be without running back Ezekiel Elliott for the sixth game in a row, Dallas is very much alive in the NFC wild card race.
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Week 16 features potentially a nightmare of a game for the Raiders. They will have to play the Philadelphia Eagles on the road Christmas night on Monday Night Football. This is the same Eagles fan base that once booed Santa Claus. Come on! Philadelphia could have the NFC East wrapped up by that point, but still needs to fight for home-field advantage.
The last game of the Raiders’ season will be on the road versus the Chargers at the StubHub Center in Carson on New Year’s Eve. This game could be for all the marbles in the AFC West. Los Angeles is playing very well. Could this be the year Philip Rivers gets to a Super Bowl? We’ll see.
In short, if there is a game to which the Raiders can afford to not have Cooper, it’s Sunday at Arrowhead. Kansas City has been a total train wreck the last two months. So there’s no reason to force Cooper out there with a bad ankle so he can hurt it again in an early start time versus Kansas City.
Oakland will need him back to take two of three versus Dallas, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. If Cooper is 100 percent for the Chiefs, then that’s awesome. If not, let’s keep him out one more week to get ready for the Cowboys at home in primetime.