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Raiders versus Titans: What you need to know

For months, I’ve circled this as a trap game on the Raiders schedule. The Titans are trending in the same direction that the Raiders were a year ago. Tennessee is a young team on the rise and their looking for a statement win early. Meanwhile, the Raiders have a ton of pressure on them from an offseason filled with hype.

As a matter of fact, I actually picked against my favorite team. It should come as a surprise given that Oakland barely beat the TItans in 2015 and 2016. Not to mention, the Raiders still have the same questions, at all levels of their defense, as they did in each of those seasons. Obi Melifonwu was expected to help with some of the liability in the secondary but he is headed to IR. Gareon Conley could make his debut but it is unclear how effective he will be after missing most of the offseason.

All that pessimism aside, let’s see how Raider Nation can come home with a win. Here are the Raiders keys to a victory in Tennessee.

Defensive Tackle Play

Once again, the Raiders defense will be determined by their inside interior linemen. Especially for this game, the Raiders DTs, NTs, and DEs will need to push the pocket to create pressure on Marcus Mariota. If they can do this, Mariota will be forced to the outside which will allow Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin to finish the young stud QB. This also keeps the Raiders from having to blitz every play. Oakland will need extra help in coverage as the Titans employ Delanie Walker as one of the best TEs in the league. The Raiders are notoriously bad at covering the tight end so hopefully you have Walker in your DFS this week.

Otherwise, Mariota can step into the pocket and create himself running and passing lanes. Added time means the Raiders secondaries and corners could get beat by the likes of Corey Davis.

Moreover, the Raiders DTs will also be critical for protecting the inside backers. Derrick Henry and DeMarcco Murray might combine for the scariest backfield in the NFL. Their offensive line is just as scary and dominate as any other group in the league. Thus, the defensive line is in for a physical battle.

Depending who you ask, this defensive tackle group is either young or unproven. Between Jihad Ward, Mario Edwards Jr. Denico Autry, Treyvon Hester, Jihad Ward, Jelly Ellis, Darius Latham and Eddie Vanderdoes it is unclear if any player is ready to dominate. It remains to be seen if any of those players will ever become consistent NFL starters. Either way, they have a big opportunity this week.

Pound the Football

Much of the talk is about Murray and Henry. However, the Raiders have their own slate of backs. We finally get to see Marshawn Lynch in full Beast Mode. Much of the offseason talked about him returning home. Raiders fans finally get to see their hometown hero full speed versus another team.

Added, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington should see some run too. They will be critical to spelling Lynch and keeping the defense on their toes. Both men are great pass catchers, they’re hard to tackle and they can take it to the endzone on any touch. Washington and Richard should keep Lynch fresh. We should see a heavy dose of both until one man runs away with the second RB job.

Ultimately, expect the Raiders to pound the football. Their offensive line and running backs are too good not to run the ball 60 percent of the time in this game. This will be critical to neutralizing the Titans plethora of zone blitzes and edge rushers.

Live up to the Moment

The Raiders are in a new position. Oakland is many people’s Super Bowl pick. They have a Pro Bowl quarterback and a bunch of skills players on people’s fantasy teams. The Silver and Black will have the entire mainstream watching them as they start a quest for a Lombardi Trophy with the cloud of relocation hanging over the great city of Oakland. Can the Raiders live up to the hype?

Oakland can not run from the big moments in this game or the rest of the season. Things will go wrong in this game but the Raiders have been their before. They must play like they are a Super Bowl contender from the opening kick off versus Tennessee. The Raiders need to set the tone by playing full speed even when adversity hits on the road versus the Titans.

I don’t expect this will be a problem for them. Oakland has Jack Del Rio at head coach and Derek Carr at QB. Players will run through walls for either of those great leaders. Not to mention, that duo has already lead some great comebacks over the past two seasons. Now, they must dominate games as the favorite. They got to beat the Titans like it is no competition.

The Raiders will always be underdogs, yes. Just last week CBS Sports ranked the Chargers over the Raiders. Either way, we embrace the underdog image as Raiders fans. However, this year the Silver and Black must learn to function in the spot light. This game against the playoff contending Titans is the first step in that process.

 

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Raiders Rants: Marshawn Lynch Sitting and Derek Carr’s Trolling

It’s Week Two of the Preseason and here are some Raiders Rants on this week’s stories.

Marshawn Lynch

These days, it seems like everyone gave their take on the latest NFL protests happening across the league. Hue Jackson discouraged his players from doing it. Raiders legend Tim Brown questioned why Marshawn Lynch is bringing this attention to himself. Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said if it were him he would stand for the National Anthem.

Nonetheless, Marshawn Lynch sat during the National Anthem of the Raiders first preseason game. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if not for similar protests made by Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett.

In fact, Lynch himself downplayed it. He said it is something he has done over his entire career.

Either way, Lynch is from Oakland and he is playing there now. Oakland is historically one of the most socially conscious cities in the world. Thus, Lynch has every right to make whatever statement he wants.

As for old heads discouraging the behavior and encouraging players to stand for the national anthem… it is hard to blame them. These people came up during a different time than us. They lived in a time that was a lot less open to the human experience and less tolerant of different views. They stood in line and stayed in their lane so that this younger generation could say what they want on social media and continue to protest how we see fit.

Then again, who am I to say anything about how someone else might take offense to protestors or how old heads might see protestors. People of my shade aren’t getting brutally murdered… at least not at the same rate.

Derek Carr

On a lighter note, Derek Carr released a hilarious teaser of a music video. It came with a full site and photo shoot of what looked to be some sort of album or EP.

Carr later said it was all a joke but the internet ran with it. Players and media entertained the tweet. Don’t be surprised if you see the Raiders QB in a meme very soon.

Either way, this is one of the reasons why Carr is the perfect face to the Raiders franchise. Besides being a great player, leader, husband and father, he does not take himself too seriously. He isn’t above trolling the internet with some well-done and harmless fun.

Cash Carr: Derek is worth the fat extension

Forget the yards per attempt. Forget the happy feet in the pocket and the leg injury. Derek Carr is worth every penny and he hasn’t won the Raiders a championship or NFL MVP, yet. Carr and the Raiders seemed poised for both until Trent Cole sacked the Raiders QB and ended hopes for either.

But this 5-year, $125 million extension isn’t about Carr’s past. It isn’t about Carr being the Raiders most stable quarterback since Rich Gannon or the most promising prospect since Kenny Stabler. It isn’t about Carr’s comeback wins or low interception rates. It isn’t even about the viable comparisons to Aaron Rodgers.

This extension is about Carr’s future as the unquestioned face of the Raiders franchise. I know he will share that title with Khalil Mack for most of their careers, but Carr plays the position that touches the ball the most. He will be a Raider until 2022 which means he will lead the team to their relocation to Las Vegas.

Carr is already renowned for his community work as well as sharing his beautiful family on social media. Just look at all the respect he got from opposing players and coaches. Todd Gurley and Kyle Long both congratulated him. This is because the California native is the face of the modern Raiders era. He understands what it takes to be an NFL quarterback because he watched his brother flame out but he also understands what it means to be a Raider on the field and the community.

For Raiders fans, we’ve witnessed Andrew Walters, Aaron Brooks, Dante Culpepper, Jamarcus Russell and so many other QBs who were not worthy of the Silver and Black. On countless Sundays, we watched the most important position let us down. For decades, we cringed as QBs couldn’t keep us in games or bring us back. Therefore, you can’t put a price on the intangibles that Derek Carr brings.

Many people have called this one of the best days in Raiders history. Many have broken down the contract and found that it is a fair deal for many. In fact, Carr might not even be the highest paid player for much longer if Kirk Cousins cashes out.

Either way, Carr is worth every penny. You can dive into the stats like everyone else. However, every Raiders fan can tell you he is worth it. You can’t put a price on feeling like your team has a chance against anyone. You can’t put a pricetag on knowing that your team is never really out of a game. This is the effect that Carr has on the Raiders and it is a wonder that he fell into the second-round.

Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie understands how lucky he was that  Carr turned out alright on and off the field. Like Raiders fans, he does not take that for granted. He locked up Carr and now it is time for the Raiders QB to deliver on his side of the bargain with an NFL MVP and Super Bowl.

Nonetheless, props to McKenzie and Carr for getting the deal done before we all sweated about it into the season. This is how contract negotiations should go on both sides. Teams should play their players and good players should want to stay with great franchises. Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised. Carr has been a textbook franchise quarterback since he landed in Oakland.

God Bless DC and the Raiders. Just Spend Baby!

 

Raiders Rants: Aldon Smith returns? Plus, Results from the AP Awards

Raiders fans could not ask for better news on Super Bowl Sunday. Finally, it could be time to Free Aldon!

NFL Insider Ian Rapaport reported that the NFL will reinstate edge Aldon Smith in March, as long as he does not suffer another drug test setback.
Obviously, this is huge for a Raiders defense that ranked in the bottom half in most statistical categories.

Ironically, many Raiders writers said it was time for Oakland to move on from their troubled pass rusher.

I couldn’t disagree more. Smith’s reinstatement means he’ll have an entire offseason to integrate himself back into the team. 

Smith should secure the starting edge role opposite Khalil Mack. That means young tackles Jihad Ward and Mario Edwards can concentrate on playing inside defensive tackle as three or five shades. Bruce Irvin can also concentrate on full-time linebacker duties again. Irvin can also be utilized as a situational blitzer.

This gives Oakland more flexibility in the NFL Draft and free agency. They can focus on strengthening the interior of their defense via the nose tackles and inside linebackers positions.

Besides a natural ability to rush the passer, Smith brings an intensity and versatility the Raiders lacked last season. He should be utilized as a stand up rushing linebacker like his days as a 49er. Smith can also play a more traditional end role due to his length.

Not to mention, Smith can teach young players like Ward and Shilique Calhoun how to bend and use their length to defend the run and pass.

Plus, an improved Raiders pass rush means that Oakland secondary should improve as opposing quarterbacks will have less time to pass.

Raiders Awards

In other Raiders news, Khalil Mack won DPOY from the AP. Mack stole the award from Broncos rusher Von Miller. Funny, cause Mack is often compared to him.

Mack mostly wins the award thanks to his 11 sacks and five forces fumbles. However, I wouldn’t have given him the award due to his slow start and finish to the season. Mack had zero sacks when the Raiders needed it most for the playoff stretch.

Either way, congrats to Mack. He deserves it as a hard worker and stand up guy.

Meanwhile, Jack Del Rio and Derek Carr got snubbed for awards on the same night. Del Rio finished fourth for Coach of the Year despite helping his team earn their first playoff berth in more than a decade.

As for Carr, he was a long shot for the award when he broke his leg in week 16. Still, we all saw his impact on the Raiders by his absence in the Raiders’ final two games. Nonetheless, he finished tied for third for the NFL MVP award.

All in all, it’s a great time for Raider Nation!

Oakland Raiders Regular Season Awards

The Oakland Raiders regular season ended way earlier than any of us had hoped.

We would all rather watch our team in the AFC Championship. Unfortunately, that did not happen.

Instead, we’re forced to review the regular season. Here is my take on the key players for the Raiders season, as well as a bonus award.

MVP

Derek Carr is the MVP and it is not even close. Oakland’s score in the combined two games without Carr did not surpass the Raiders’ per game total.

Added, he was the emotional leader of this team via multiple fourth quarter comebacks. Carr may also have a claim to the league’s version of this award. He is also the obvious choice for Offensive Player of the Year too.

DPOY

Khalil Mack was one of the lone bright spots for a Raiders defense that ranked towards the bottom in most categories. Mack graded as the best defensive player per Pro Football Focus. He also registered 11 sacks and four turnovers.

Rookie of the year

Jalen  Richard wins this award for his contributions to the running game and return game. He provided sparks for this offense in the playoff game via a return and during a touchodown that occured on his first professional carry.

Moreover, Richard started the year behind fellow rookie DeAndre Washington but Richard finished the season with more rushing yards.

Best Newcomer

Kelechi Osemele came over from the Baltimore Ravens. He brought a nastiness to the guard position and the entire offensive line. Osemele is the one of the biggest reasons the Raiders had a top offense. He should anchor one of the best lines for a while.

Reggie Nelson and Bruce Irvin also contributed as newcomers. However, Osemele completely changed the culture of the offensive line. This earns him the row. Not to mention, the offense was superior than the defense.

Biggest Flop

Dan Williams deserves this award, despite being one of the best character guys on the team. Williams was one of the Raiders most consistent players in 2015. This year, he entered the season as a backup behind Justin Ellis. Williams eventually got his spot back, but he was not a gamechanger.

The Raiders cycled through multiple players at defensive tackle all season. A lot of that was Williams’ inconsistency. The Raiders struggled generating rush and stopping the run. Williams deserves a lot of the blame.

I published a similar version of this article on Inquisitr. You can read more about the Raiders awards on the website.

 

 

Oakland Raiders: Why the Silver and Black should keep defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

It is pretty easy to list off the reasons why the Oakland Raiders should not keep defensive coördinator Ken Norton Jr. A recent Just Blog Baby article makes a compelling argument for firing Norton Jr.

Additionally, head coach Jack Del Rio called out the defense it in his closing press conference.

“There were far too many explosive plays allowed this year, whether it be run or pass,” Del Rio said. “That’s, you know, that’s an area that must be addressed. That might be the number one thing that we must do better going into 2017.”

Not to mention, the Raiders gave up the most yards per play in the league. They also gave up the 13th most points per game. Oakland ranked No. 4 in penalty yards for defense. The Raiders also gave up the No. 10 most rushing yards per game and the 9th most passing yards per game. They also finished last in the league with 25 sacks.

All that said, Ken Norton Jr. deserves to keep his job for another season.

Placing the blame on him for the poor defensive play is irresponsible. Norton Jr. is merely the figurehead, coordinator and collaborator. He is not out there to execute plays, although he did once roam NFL fields.

Now, let’s look at why Ken Norton Jr. should stay another season in Oakland.

Defense played well in stretches

We all remember the horrible outings versus the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons. It has also been cited that the Raiders gave up more points than any other team during the third quarter.

However, the Raiders played well in stretches. Quarterback Derek Carr led many fourth quarter comebacks but the defense put him in a position to do that. The defense clinched victories versus the Baltimore Ravens, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans.

Not to mention, the team led the league in turnover differential. That is precisely the culture Norton Jr. was supposed to bring with him from the Seattle Seahawks.

It is not all Ken Norton Jr.’s fault

Ken Norton Jr. earned some criticism for his play calling this season. There were times where he needed to blitz and didn’t. There were other times he made questionable coverage calls.

However, Norton was not out there missing tackles on big plays. He was not out there holding receivers and committing pass interference. That is execution.

Something all the Raiders defenders could have done better.

Not to mention, Jack Del Rio is a defensive mind. Therefore, I’d put some blame on him too. I’m sure Del Rio hired Norton Jr. as a first-time coordinator so the defensive head coach could still have some say in the day-to-day operations of the defense.

I don’t want to overlook the Raiders terrible defensive standings. However, let’s remember this team played with a ton of defensive linemen and linebackers. On-field adjustments are difficult when you go through three starting middle linebackers and play callers via Ben Heeney, Cory James and Pat Riley Jr.

It is hard to do anything when your interior players are either true defensive ends or out of shape. Denico Autry, Jihad Ward, Mario Edwards Jr., Dan Williams, Justin Ellis, Darius Latham, and Stacy McGee all took turns playing injured and inconsistent.

As for coverage, the Raiders lost their nickel corner to injured reserve and went through three starting strong safeties. You can blame play calling for poor coverage assignments, but corners David Amerson and Sean Smith are paid well enough. They should cover anyone via any scheme.

I’m not saying Ken Norton Jr. doesn’t deserve any blame, but he does not deserve all of it. This team featured new starters at both safeties, corner, two linebackers spots and two defensive line positions. Give Norton Jr. a break. These guys should improve with playoff experience and another year in the scheme.

There is no better replacement

Don’t give me your Wade Phillips rumors. No disrespect to him, he is a great football mind.. However, the Raiders need a coördinator who is more connected with their players like Norton Jr.

The only name that might be better is Gus Bradley, who also has a Seahawks pedigree.

Remember, Del Rio has maintained that he is building a winning culture. Part of that culture includes updating the facilities and playing music at practice. Another part of it is winning.

Phillips may know about defense and winning, but they do not know about this new Raiders culture. Del Rio does not need the old heads stepping on his toes.

Further, Norton Jr. and Del Rio played and coached together. Entering a third season with the Raiders, the duo will develop more chemistry and make better adjustments next season.

The team could roll the dice on an internal candidate, but you’re still talking about a team adjusting to a new leader and play caller. Let the defense continue to develop under Norton Jr. in 2017.

The defense will improve in 2017

I get the frustration. The defense did not make a sack in the last three games. They failed to rise to the occasion in the last regular season game versus the Denver Broncos and against the Texans.They also did not recover a couple of fumbles versus Houston.

Plus, the defense did not grow enough in year two of Norton Jr. This is especially true when you factor in offseason additions like draft picks Jihad Ward, Karl Joseph and Cory James and free agents Bruce Irvin, Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson.

Still, championships are not won in free agency. The Raiders should finally address the middle of their defense with the No. 24 pick in the NFL Draft.

Expect them to take a linebacker and/or defensive tackle with the first couple of picks, like I’ve said for three seasons.

Del Rio even admitted that the team did not get enough push in the middle via ESPN. He called out the whole defensive tackle group for not being factors this season.

Therefore, this team will get better when they get some consistency at middle backer and defensive tackle.

Plus, the Raiders should see Aldon Smith finally reinstated. That could allow Bruce Irvin or Khalil Mack to concentrate more on linebacker duties.

Further, Smith’s presence on the edge may slide Jihad Ward or Mario Edwards Jr. into full-time defensive tackle play. Both players could use some bulk to better anchor against the run, but they both have the god-given traits to terrorize guards in a pass rush situation.

Additionally, I expect Joseph and James to improve with another year in the system.

In the end, I believe Ken Norton Jr. deserves some blame for the poor defensive play. However, firing Norton Jr. will not solve all the Raiders problems. Give him one more season so this unit can develop together.

Good teams do not fire their defensive coordinators. The Raiders are finally a perennial playoff team and firing Norton would only set them back.

Oakland Raiders: There are no moral victories after 2016

“We want more,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said at his final press conference of the season. “As an organization, our goals are higher. So, that’s not going to change.”

Del Rio continued to talk about his teams’ good accomplishments. The fact that the team won 12 games, six-games in a row, and  made the playoffs.

However, the Raiders leader is right. This team should not be satisified. They were a broken leg to Derek Carr away from at least playing in the divisional round of the playoffs.

So when we look back at the 2016 season, there are no moral victories.

It doesn’t matter that the team averaged more points per game than they have in a decade. It doesn’t matter that Derek Carr was an MVP candidate and his offensive line gave up the least amount of sacks. It doesn’t matter that Marquette King led the league in punts of more than 50 yards, or that the team lead the league in turnover differntial.

All that matters is that this team got bounced in the first round. All that matters is that this team lost a tie for the AFC West due to head to head losses via the Kansas City Chiefs.

Sure, the Raiders have a lot to be proud of. However, they also have a lot to improve. The 2016 season was merely a series of lessons to learn from.

Carr said it himself. The whole team has to work to be better next year. That is the only way they can take the next step as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

If the Wild Card loss to the Texans showed us anything, it proved how valuable a single playoff experience can be to a team. Last season, Houston got spanked by Kansas City in the same round.

Hence, Oakland will benefit from their own whooping on ESPN.

Therefore, I don’t want to hear about brightsides or silver linings. The Raiders are building a winning culture and they can not be satisified with moral victories or advanced statistics.

What is tangible is that the Raiders will be sitting at home next week. They need to remember that and come back for more next season.

Forget, the moral lessons and sports cliches. Oakland must move forward and prepare to win more next season.

Further, it is time for us to expect more from our Raiders. It is time for the Raiders to expect more from themselves.

Only winning matters. No moral victories.

 

Oakland Raiders: Midseason Awards

The Oakland Raiders (7-2) entered their bye week with a first place spot in the AFC West, fresh off a win over their AFC West rival the Denver Broncos.

It was a long week for Raiders Nation. Besides not having a game last week, they watched as the Kansas City Chiefs and Broncos both escaped with narrow victories.

Nonetheless, the Raiders have a lot to celebrate over the first half of their season. Headed into a Monday Night Football game versus the Houston Texans in Mexico City, it is time to hand out some awards.

Unlike other Midseason Awards, I will not keep this team specific. The Raiders are on the national stage and their players deserve consideration for NFL recognition.

MVP: Derek Carr

The Raiders are tied for the best record in the AFC West, and Derek Carr deserves a lot of credit. He led game-winning drives against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints. He also helped the team close out games versus the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens. He’s thrown 17 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. Carr is also on pace to throw for more than 4,500 yards in the season.

Candidates Ezekiel Elliott, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan all get consideration for this award. However, Brady missed four games. Elliott plays behind a dominant offensive line and Ryan could drop off in the second half of the season. Carr has a case for midseason MVP, and it should not be that close.

Offensive Player of Midseason: Derek Carr

Clearly, Carr is a candidate for the offensive player of the year award if he is an option for overall MVP.

Granted, Amari Cooper is having a great year. The Raiders defense would not be the same without him.

However, Cooper and Crabtree should both surpass 1,000 receiving yards. That is due to Carr.

The Raiders quarterback also shattered a franchise record for passing attempts and yards. He’s won AFC Player of the Week twice.

Even if you give the MVP of midseason to another player in the league, you must make Carr the offensive player of the year. He leads a Raiders offense that ranks No. 5 in yards per game and No. 6 in total points. Carr also owns one of the best touchdowns to interceptions ratio in the NFL.

Defensive Player of Midseason: Khalil Mack

Khalil Mack turned his season around by registering six sacks in four games. That puts him on pace for 14 this season. PFF ranks Mack as one of the best edge players this season.

Von Miller is also in the conversation. Aaron Donald may be as well. Both of those players may have a better argument because their defensive units rank better than the Raiders in most categories.

Thus far, Miller has 9.5 sacks and Donald has five sacks. Donald faces a disadvantage for the award because he plays inside, where he gets fewer opportunities to sack the quarterback. Also, Donald’s Rams seem most unlikely to make the playoffs.

Therefore, Mack’s shot at this award lies with the entire defense. Currently, Oakland ranks 16th in total points and fifth in most defensive yards per game. If Mack wants to win the NFL DPOY award, he must help turn those stats around. Taking the AFC West from the Broncos could also help Mack claim the award from Miller’s hands.

Rookie of the Year: Karl Joseph

Rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott make it hard for Joseph to win this award on a national scale.

Joey Bosa’s four sacks and Leonard Floyd’s five sacks make it hard for Joseph to win the defensive edition too. Also, Deion Jones also has a couple of interceptions, a touchdown and a gang of tackles.

Joseph’s best argument centers around his one interception and holding the second highest tackles mark on the team. Joseph did not start the first three games of the season, but he can easily win this award with a few interceptions.

Coach of the Year: Jack Del Rio

Listen, I don’t care what Jason Garrett is doing with his rookies. I don’t care how many times Bill Belichick can win this award. I don’t care what Gus Bradley is doing in his own franchise turnaround.

Jack Del Rio deserves this award, especially if he ends the Raiders 14-year playoff drought. Del Rio turned around the losing culture in Oakland. He brought them back into the national spotlight with some of his gambling playcalls.

Del Rio’s biggest obstacle for this award revolves around that struggling defense. Afterall, Del Rio is a defensive coach.

Biggest Disappointment: Clive Walford

Sean Smith has made enough plays to get himself out of this conversation. Instead, we can award it to our second-year tight end. Fantasy football experts hyped him up as our third passing target. Unfortunately, he only has one touchdown catch and is barely on pace to eclipse his rookie totals for catches and yards.

You could add some players like Dan Williams or Menelik Watson into this list. That is partly because they have not commanded the roles of full-time starters. Williams for his condition and Watson for the nagging injuries.

However, Walford was suppossed to become elite. He’s barely progressing.

Remember, they do call this the Not-For-Long league. Therefore, I gotta imagine there is a bigger bust somewhere in the league.

Oakland Raiders’ keys to beating the Denver Broncos

When was the last time the Oakland Raiders played a meaningful game in primetime? When was the last time the Raiders had a legitimate chance to win said game?

Oakland will face the Denver Broncos for this week’s Sunday Night Football action. The Raiders have a real shot at defeating the reigning Super Bowl champions this Sunday. Don’t forget Oakland defeated the Broncos one time last year.

There is a lot of hype surrounding this game. Beyond the typical AFC West rivalry hype, both teams are 6-2. The winner gains access to the driver seat in the division. Here is how the Raiders can live up to their hype.

Control the line of scrimmage

The Raiders top rusher only averages about 46 yards per game. The runner by committee contributes to that mediocrity. However, Oakland needs a big performance from a running back… cough… Latavius Murray.

Oakland needs to control the ball at home. They need to pound away at the Broncos defense. An effective running attack gives Derek Carr managable third downs.

Otherwise, Von Miller as a pass rusher versus the Raiders revolving door at right tackle is too much. Plus, Denver’s starting corners – if Aquib Talib is healthy – are too much for Oakland to throw the ball 60 times.

Not to mention, the Raiders defense ranks towards the bottom in most categories. Therefore, Oakland needs to run the ball so their defense stays off the field.

Start the Carr

Derek Carr is for sure the best quarterback in this game. He may just be the best player on the entire field.

All of this MVP talk is warranted. He’s thrown 17 touchdowns and 3 interceptions with a 66 percent completion rate. Not to mention, every Raiders fan has seen Carr lead momentous drives versus the Saints, Buccaneers, Ravens, and every other win.

Carr will need to get the offense started again. He needs a breakout game under the prime lights. That does not necessarily mean he needs to throw for 50 times like he did versus Tampa Bay. However, he needs to throw curcial big plays. He needs to keep drives alive by hitting the check downs. He needs to keep his feet accurate on routine passes and screens. He may also need to scramble for a necessary gain.

Basically, Derek Carr needs to continue his growth as a franchise quarterback versus the Broncos.

Create Turnovers

Oakland has a top five offense and a bottom five defense. The only way they’ve been able to win games is by creating turnovers.

Last season, neither team scored more than twenty points in either game. Therefore, defense will be critical again.

The Broncos will be without C.J. Anderson. Hence, the Raiders should improve at stopping the run.

That means the Broncos are going to gamble more on longer second and third downs. This translates to more pass rushing opportunities for Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack. It should result for more picks via the secondary.

Ultimately, we know the Broncos can create turnovers. We know their defense is No. 1 against the pass. Can the Raiders hold their own by creating turnovers at home?

P.S. The Raiders are leading the league in penalties by a lot. They’ve been able to win in spite of that. Can the Raiders keep it up? Or will those yards and points left on the field hurt Oakland?

Oakland Raiders Quarter Season Awards for 2016

Four games down and 12 remaining for the Oakland Raiders. Look at the good and bad from the Silver and Black’s 2016 season, with a quarter completed.

MVP: Derek Carr

Nine touchdowns and one interception. Don’t forget the game winning drives in the fourth quarter versus the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. Quarterback Derek Carr has lead the team to their best start since 2002, the same year quarterback Rich Gannon won league MVP.

It is no coincidence. He earned his ranking as the top-rated quarterback according to Pro Football Focus. FurtherCarr is taking that next step as he is finishing drives in the endzone and he has become reliable in the clutch.

As long as the Raiders have Carr, they can finally compete with the best teams in the league. He is a natural athlete and leader, which make this MVP campaign real.

Comeback Player: D.J. Hayden

It is not often that a player who started the year before wins comeback player of the year. Considering he ended last season in the coaches’ and fans’ doghouse, corner D.J. Hayden deserves whatever extra credit he can win.

Yes, he has gotten beat. Yes, he has not been perfect. However, he has made plays that he did not in prior years. Hayden has shown ability as a pure tackler in the slot. He even broke up some passes last week.

Head coach Jack Del Rio has complimented his play multiple times in the season. David Amerson has said the sky is the limit for the young player. Hayden himself expects to continue building on the first quarter via CSN Bay AreaLook for Hayden to keep getting better with the entire team. The 2013 first round pick already climbed into the top 50 corners via PFF.

Best Newcomer: Cory James 

The Raiders are relying on lots of newcomers this season. We will limit it to rookies considering the high-profile free agents signed by Oakland.

Rookie runners DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have both sparked the ground game. Vandal Alexander has filled in nicely at tackle. Korey Joseph has made plays in the secondary.

Nonetheless, linebacker Cory James wins the award after coming out of nowhere. Dude was selected as a glorified special teams player but has made two starts, recorded 23 tackles and a forced fumble. He’s been all over the field and has helped the team communicate.

James is far from perfect, but he is playing better than Ben Heeney. Even his defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said the team would be better if they had a bunch of players like him. Imagine where Oakland would be without him.

Best Playmaker: Michael Crabtree

Receiver Michael Crabtree has four touchdown receptions. He put the team on his back last week with three touchdowns. The receiver is on pace for 1236 yards and sixteen touchdowns. Crabtree also caught the game-winning, two-point conversion in Week 1.

Consistently, Carr looks for Crabtree in clutch third downs and in the redzone. The two players have developed chemistry in their second year. Yes, Amari Cooper is the x-factor thanks to his big plays. However, Crabtree is the player we need to keep drives alive.

Added, Bruce Irvin could claim this award. He has two strip sacks that changed the momentum versus the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens. Unfortunately, we can’t reward a player that on one of the league’s worst defenses.

Biggest Bust: Dan Williams

Speaking of the defense, it gave up historically bad numbers in the first two weeks. Some may say it was because Dan Williams did not play. He only played 24 percent of last week’s snaps too.

Remember, Williams came into training camp out of shape. Last season, he was one of the better players on defense. Still, the team has not stopped the run and that starts at the nose tackle position. Their 5.1 yards per carry is the worst in the league, and their 134.5 yards per game is the second worst. Even with Williams on the field, the team is not playing much better. Nor has he earned more time thanks to his pass rushing ability.

It pains me to say it because Williams’ story about joining the Raiders is one of my favorite. Either way, he can and needs to play better.

All of these awards could easily change, because there are a ton of games remaining. Keep watching to see how the Raiders do.