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“GRADES: The Raiders With Another Stirring 2nd Half Comeback; Looking Ahead to Kansas City”

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders

Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Buffalo Bills; Week 13:

Buffalo Bills  24 (6-6)

Oakland Raiders 38 (10-2)

In another fun day in Oakland, the Raiders came back and beat a tough Buffalo Bills team 38-24.  In a game that was up and down; a lot like most Raider games this year; the Raiders now will go onto key road games in the AFC West.  The Bills have beaten only one team with a winning record and that was against a 3rd string QB against the Patriots during Tom Brady’s suspension.

Co-MVP’s: 

I like Derek Carr.  In fact I watched him twice in person when he was at Fresno St. and I lauded his draft pick before Raider fans even knew who he was.  But the Raiders pattern of winning; and their winning in general is lead by someone else.

The co-MVP of the NFL this year is the Raiders and Dallas Cowboys OL.  College fans remember Dak Prescott with some pretty bad epic fails for MSU late in games in the SEC.  He had a rep for it.  But behind that OL in Dallas; the best in the NFL; and one of the best running games in the NFL and they give Dak all day to throw and succeed.

There is a saying; give an average QB time to throw and he will be good.  Give a very good QB time and he will be great.  Prescott & Carr are loving it.  They’ve played great all year. The Raiders OL is wearing out teams in the second half.  Do you think it’s a coincidence that the Raiders offense starts to get going in the mid to the end of the third quarter?  No it’s not.  The Raiders huge, physical OL is wearing teams out over time.  Opponents get some pressure on Carr in the first half; Carr and the offense struggles; and then they go off in the second half with Carr having all day to throw.  NOT a coincidence.

Media Blowing it Big Time:

Where is the outrage at another failed season by media darling Rex Ryan?  After the Bills got the 2 TD lead what does Ryan do?  He goes Wildcat!  How genius.  Your team is making almost 8 yards a run and you now become one dimensional bringing up the Raiders safeties.  Then in the next 10 plays after getting their 15 point lead, they use one of the worst passing QB’s in the NFL; Tyrod Taylor; passing 6 out of the next 10 plays.  Are you kidding me?  Too many ex-jocks who are analysts who don’t want to make waves.

I’m sorry; but if Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan were my coaches, I would need counseling.  Buffalo has no QB but because Taylor can run and is athletic, the media like him.  Buffalo’s front 7 on D and run game are really good but they are going nowhere with their QB and head coach leading the way.

Quarterback:

Carr had another great second half.  His throws were crisp and on target.  Derek Carr didn’t have all day to throw in the first half and the Raiders offense struggled at times.  He had all day to throw in the second half and he torched the Bills ordinary secondary.  Again; NOT a coincidence.  Carr is playing at a high level but his level is higher when he’s not touched.

GRADE:  A-

Slow start, fast finish.  Carr is on fire!

Running Backs:

The Raiders running backs ran for 139 yards at a 4.3 clip.  Another solid if not spectacular game by a good group.  Jalen Richard is now the #2 back for sure getting 9 carries.

Grade B +

A good, solid game by this group.  What is impressive is their ability to pick up blitzes.  Their pass blocking is unnoticed by everyone but Carr and the coaches.  Excellent job.

Offensive Line:

Same stuff different day.  They are physically wearing teams out into submission.  Another half of dominance.  Carr had no one near him in the second half.  Only Dallas has a better group.

Grade A

Donald Penn STILL has not given up a sack all year.  That is unreal.  These guys are the key to the success of the Raiders.

Wide Receivers:

Amari Cooper, Seth Roberts and Michael Crabtree had drops.  They redeemed themselves in the second half and had another excellent finish. Tight End Mychal Rivera had another solid game, catching 3 passes for 57 yards and Clive Walford added another for 18 yards.  The Raiders have to use their Tight Ends if they are going to do any damage in the playoffs.

GRADE:  B +

Carr has a lot of solid weapons and he used all of them against a game Bills squad.  A good day all around for the receiving core.

Defensive Line:

A tale of two cities.  First the bad.  That was the worst run defensive performance in the NFL this year.  The Raiders gave up 212 yards at 7.1 yards a carry.  Those are high school numbers.  I’m still not getting Jihad Ward.  He was not a factor in the run game.  He did have one sack but even that one wasn’t all on him.  Not counting the sack he had no other tackles.  It’s not just him; this DL doesn’t get penetration in the run game.

On the pass rushing side, with the offense staying on the field, a rested group came after the QB with abandon.  They ended up with 4 sacks and 2 key plays from Kahlil Mack who’s slow start is forgotten.  Mack is on fire right now and has 10 sacks on the year.  He did get fooled on 2 read option plays but otherwise he had a great game.

Grade: C+

The run defense was a joke.  The pass rush though played well in the second half.  I’m in a generous mood I guess because of the holidays.

Linebackers:

Watching tape of this game was hard.  I’ve never seen a group make so many tackles 5-10 yards downfield against the run.  Malcolm Smith was pancake blocked twice and Jihad Ward was pushed around.  Perry Riley Jr. was active and made a lot of tackles but few were really productive.  The Raiders only had 4 tackles for loss all game and 3 were sacks.  Not good.

Grade D+

The LB’s were physically beat up this game.

Defensive Backs:

It was funny watching Bills WR Sammy Watkins frustration yesterday.  On three occasions he threw up his hands when Bills QB Tyrod Taylor missed him on pass plays.  He was open for big plays twice but the passes weren’t near him.  Taylor is not a good passer and it’s hard to know if it was the defense or Taylor that limited the Bills passing game.  Probably both.  TJ Carrie played better as the game went on, regaining the confidence that had left him.  Amerson was beaten for moderately long passes twice but Taylor missed badly on both.  Amerson is good in short to mid range passes and struggles against fast WR that can go deep.  Tough game to judge.

Grade B  

Not a bad day by this unit, but it was against a bad QB.

Coaching:

It’s not hard to out coach Rex Ryan but the only thing that stood out was the Raiders running read option plays with Carr.  Carr is not particularly fast and even though his pinky situation is beyond overly dramatic (I’ve had that happen to me twice in basketball games; many have had it happen; I never missed any time) if a team in the NFL loses their starting QB, there goes the season.  Carr should NOT be running the ball unless it’s while being rushed.

Grade B-

Don’t run Carr.

Special Teams:

Sebastian Janikowski had a solid day.  The Raiders didn’t have many opportunities in the return game.  Marquette King had a good day punting with 2 inside the 20 including one late in the game.  King seems like a nice guy but his need for attention is getting to be a bit much.  I guess if you are a young Raider fan you love the flag routine but getting a penalty isn’t what you want from your punter.  What’s next, an onfield selfie while planking or doing the mannequin and cinnamon challenge?  Not getting it Marquette.

Grade A-

Solid game all around.

Conclusion:

The Raiders OL wears down another opponent; gives the defense lots of rest time late, and they get another win.  The Bills are near out of the playoff picture now and to be honest with that coaching staff and QB they are not going anywhere anytime soon anyways.

Kansas City Chiefs:

Ah the winter months.  The Raiders will play Thursday night in Kansas City.  Snow is predicted for Wednesday, and Thursday nights prediction is for a high of 27 and a low of 13.  Some forecasters say the snow may linger into Thursday and it may get into single digits.  Predicting weather for cold states is a crap shoot but if you are a fan traveling to Arrowhead, prepare for cold and lots of it.  (For fans going, the Chiefs have announced they are opening the parking lots at noon).

Now the fun starts.  The Raiders will play 3 of 4 on the road.  The Raiders are winning but they still have holes big time on defense.  Let’s be real though.  EVERY NFL team has holes.  The days of the 1970’s super teams are definitely over with the salary cap era.

The Chiefs have owned the Raiders in recent years.  Their QB Alex Smith has a 6-1 record as a QB against the Raiders.  Their pass rush and blitzing dominated the Raiders early in the season.  Carr struggled mightily in maybe his worst game of the year 26-10.  What’s worse is now star pass rusher Justin Houston is back and he’s getting healthier and better every day he plays.  Add new pass rusher Dee Ford who is tied with Kahlil Mack with 10 sacks, and an aging Tamba Hali, and one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL now is one of the better ones.  Eric Berry had 2 huge interceptions including a return of a missed 2 point conversion which won the game for the Chiefs.  They too have had a magical season.  The Chiefs have given up a lot of yards this year but their D tightens up in the red zone.

Last week against Atlanta, coach Andy Reid played very aggressively.  Fake punts, throwing deep; it was way out of his nature.  In the the last months though, Alex Smith has struggled.  The Ichabod Crane of the NFL has thrown 2 interceptions in the last 4 weeks.  If you are going to play scared and conservative to not turn the ball over, then don’t turn the ball over.  Smiths play will dictate a lot of the game.  The often injured Jeremy Maclin is questionable against the Raiders but lightning fast Tyreek Hill has been a huge weapon alongside steady WR Albert Wilson.  Add one of the best TE in the game in Travis Kelce alongside a capable rushing attack and the Chiefs on offense can do some damage.

Look for both teams to try and establish a running game in the cold weather, and if by chance it snows, FG kicking will play a big part in this one with both teams have solid kicking games.

Outlook:

I know the fans are excited and that is fun to see, but this is the game that really is going to show where the Raiders are.  Beating bad to average teams like Carolina and Buffalo with stirring comebacks is fun and exciting but it isn’t exactly championship stuff.  Beating the Chiefs and Broncos on the road in the cold is though.  Will the Raiders take control of the division or will they be swept by KC?  This game will go a long way to seeing how the Raider season may end up.  If they win, a division title is almost certain.

“Grades in Raiders Big win v.s. Ravens; How Do the Raiders Match-Up With the Chargers”

crabtree2

 

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Baltimore Ravens; Week 4:

Baltimore Ravens  27 (3-1)

Oakland Raiders  28 (3-1)

On Sunday the Raiders came back and beat the Baltimore Ravens 28-27 in an exciting game.  The Raiders are now 3-1 heading home for a game with the Chargers.

Reggie McKenzie:

I’ve been very honest about Reggie McKenzie.  Here’s my article on his tenure with the Raiders.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/how-reggie-mckenzie-turned-around-the-oakland-raiders-what-lies-ahead/

Some bash him when the Raiders lose but in reality SIX of the 7 2016 NFL draft picks played a significant role in the Ravens game, and in the entire year.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr saved his best for last. The Ravens have a solid defense and they held the Raiders to only 13 first downs, 3 for 12 on third down, and 0 net yards in the 3rd quarter. Not his best performance; only threw for 199 yards; but a gritty win on the road with clutch throws in the end.

GRADE: B

Carr came through in the 4th quarter but he did have his struggles. He had a costly delay of the game penalty and was a little rattled at times early with the pass rush. Those should be fixed and look for a big game next week against the Chargers.  Carr looks forward to a juicy match-up against the weak Charger pass defense.

Running Backs:

The Raiders RB by committee has worked wonders this year but it just wasn’t their day. Latavius Murray was ineffective and DeAndre Washington had a big fumble. Carr’s passes to him didn’t have much touch on them but Jalen Richard dropped a couple of passes that I’m sure he regrets. Washington had a really nice run of 28 yards but if you take that away, the RB’s had only 18 carries for 34 yards. Sometimes it’s just not your day.

Grade C

The Ravens made a point of stopping the run and they did loading the box at times. Better days ahead for this group after 3 excellent weeks.   RB’s pass blocking was pretty good.

Offensive Line:

After the first couple of drives Carr again had lots of time to throw. Rarely did the Ravens get to him. Baltimore had a good game plan to shut down the running game but the Raiders OL and RB’s picked up the blitz well. Due to injuries, Vadal Alexander was thrown to the wolves at tackle and the media were on him. He had 3 holding calls and 1 false start but Baltimore was putting Terrell Suggs on his side much of the time. Suggs is not the monster he used to be but he’s still solid. Alexander was tough and at times got no help against Suggs but he helped in the final TD drives protecting Carr.

Grade B-

The Raiders running offense struggled but the passing game and protection excelled. Alexander is a project but he was made to start and he gave a gutsy performance that will be a learning experience.

Wide Receivers:

NOW people know why I was touting Michael Crabtree when he came out for the NFL draft. At Texas Tech and San Francisco he was a huge talent when healthy. He’s the best possession WR in the NFL right now and a top 6 WR. The Carr to Crabtree connection is on top of their game.   Crabtree’s route running is fun to watch. Seth Roberts with a nice TD catch was also a plus. Teams continue to keep Amari Cooper from going deep and that is opening up the middle of the field. Still would like more TE throws; the Raiders had injuries at TE which may have helped limit that.

GRADE: B

It was quality over quantity. The Raiders offense struggled but when they needed to pass, they did a good job. The stupid call by John Harbaugh to take the penalty allowing a 3rd and long changed the game and allowed the Raiders to take a 2 score lead.

Defensive Line:

The Ravens averaged only 19 points a game in the first 3 games versus 1-8 teams. As I said, Joe Flacco and the rest of the offense is not that good and the Ravens were very overrated. I had the Raiders winning this game and some that I was a little crazy. Khalil Mack’s annual slow start is hopefully over. He terrorized Joe Flacco all day.  Mack has been solid against the run, but not much of a factor in their pass rush. The entire line had good push and Flacco was under pressure much of the time.

Against the run it wasn’t a good story again. The Raiders gave up 130 rushing yards at 5.0 yards a rush with 2 TD’s. Ward and Autry are playing more to get a push on the QB but it’s hurt the run defense. I’m not sold on either playing so much. Williams and Ellis are only playing around 15-20 plays a game. but they are limited in the pass rush.

Grade: B-

The Raiders against the pass were great, but another fail against the run. It’s not like the Ravens have Adrian Peterson either.   They gave a healthy scratch to their starting RB Justin Forsett but still rushed for 130 yards.

Linebackers:

Pretty much you can see the DL. The Ravens like the Titans don’t have much team speed on offense. The Raiders handled them fairly well in the passing game but struggled again in the running game. Cory James was beaten more than the Raiders would like against the run but he was excellent in pursuit and covering the pass. Bruce Irvin also had a nice game with his coverage and his pass rushing.  James is definitely an upgrade at LB but the Raiders still don’t have that stud run stopper.

Grade B

Again, the mantra for the Raiders all year is can they stop the run. The answer so far is not really. That has to change if the Raiders are going to get to the next level.

Defensive Backs:

All week the Baltimore media had brought up Joe Flacco being an elite player (announcer Steve Tasker did too) including Pro Football Focus’ rating of him the first 3 weeks. We must have been watching different players. Flacco has looked horrible at times this year and has the 2nd worst 4th quarter quarterback rating in the NFL. Last week against the Jaguars, his 2 key interceptions almost blew the game. Four TD’s and 4 INT’s is NOT elite.  That’s why I said the Raiders should handle them and they did.

The Raiders speed was evident against the slow offense of the Ravens.   The game plan was perfect; put David Amerson on Steve Smith and not worry about the others and it worked to perfection. Every DB played well.   Karl Joseph is getting more comfortable and he hopefully can help with the run defense.

Grade A-  

With the Titans pretty much having no deep threat, the DB’s played aggressive and physical again.   Other than a blip here and there and the long pass and run to iconic WR Steve Smith Sr., there were few worries.

Coaching:

Overall a well coached game. Raiders offense didn’t have a great game but enough to win.  No yards in the 3rd quarter and another slow start is a worry.  I think the Raiders should go more no huddle and put pressure on the offense.

On defense the game plan of putting Amerson on Smith Sr. was a great move that helped limit him.  Funny how Ken Norton’s name is never spoken when the Raiders defense plays better.  Some casual fans give all the credit to players when they win, and all the blame to coaches when they lose.  Crazy.

Grade B

The Raiders have to start the games better. Another 2 drives with little to nothing to show for it. They also had 0 yards in the third quarter. I wish their offense was more aggressive.

Special Teams:

Marquette King is really becoming a force. He helped the Raiders with great field position earlier in the game when the offense was struggling. Richard is a good return man.

Grade A-

Solid day all around.

Conclusion:

As I said going into this game, it’s a very winnable game. Joe Flacco is not a great QB and their offense only averaged 19 points a game. The Raiders run defense is still an issue and they did give up 27 points to an average at best offense. That has to change.  Offense came through in the 4th quarter and King is a weapon as a punter.

San Diego Chargers:

Philip Rivers had another last second drive fail against the Saints; something he’s done a lot of in the past; and the Chargers dropped to 1-3 losing to the Saints late. Rivers to me is this era’s Steve Deberg. A good QB who gets great stats in the first 3 quarters but doesn’t win anything. Nothing wrong with that but the networks push to make QB’s great is annoying at times. His epic fails late are more than people think.

The Chargers defense is 27th against the pass and 8th against the run. Look for a big game from Carr and the WR’s may have a field day. The Chargers lack talent and on paper this looks like a great match-up for Oakland. Rivers will always have his stats but they greatly miss WR Keenan Allen who is out for the year.

Joey Bosa may make his debut against the Raiders but the Charger fans are ready to blow him off for the year. The late signee has been hurt and hasn’t been ready to play.  He has not endeared himself to the fans that’s for sure.

Outlook:

Oakland is winning the close games and that is a big maturing process in a losing franchise learning how to win. There is a lot of excitement but there still is much work to do.  The Raiders are playing with fire playing close games. A good team like Atlanta made them pay for it. The Raiders run defense is probably going to be an issue all year. They have a very favorable schedule especially with Kansas City, the Colts and Carolina struggling so much.  Seems like all the stars are aligning as long as they beat the teams they should beat.

They can’t take anyone for granted. On paper the Chargers look like a team they can handle, but the Raiders have to start putting teams away and play a good consistent game for 4 quarters. Something they are looking to do against San Diego.

Defensively, the Raiders will be tested by the passing game of the Chargers but they always seem to fall short.  The Chargers are 1-3 and the big loss was the opening game loss to Kansas City in OT when they were up big early.

Look for a fun game with the Raiders flexing their muscle on offense again.  The Chargers running game has improved but is still only 19th in the NFL.  Look for San Diego to try and establish a running game and when it struggles, they will be throwing often from behind.  Should be a high scoring affair with the Raiders looking to continue their road to success.

 

 

Simple & Delicious Cherries Jubilee

Cherries Jubilee

 

Cherries Jubilee Recipe

This is an easy and simple take on a true classic.  It is delicious on a warm summer night during Cherry season!


Ingredients:

-1 pound of pitted fresh cherries OR 1 can or jar (16-ounce) of cherries.

-2 tbsp of sugar

-teaspoon of lemon juice

-1/2 cup brandy or rum

-Good-quality vanilla ice cream in cold bowls


Preparation:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat cherries with the juice and sugar.  Leave covered for 3 minutes stirring a couple of times.  (If no juice is available, add a little water).  Take off the cover and cook for another few minutes.

In another small saucepan, heat brandy or rum in medium heat for 2 minutes.

Carefully add brandy or rum to the cherries.  Using long matches or a long lighter (commonly used for barbecue) light the mixture and cook until flames are gone.

After the alcohol has burned off, spoon the luscious mixture over cold vanilla ice cream.  Eat immediately.

Variation Tips:

-Serve with Amaretto cookies or shortbread.

-Top off with a little whip cream and shaved chocolate.  Make sure to shave chocolate before topping the ice cream because this dessert needs to be eaten immediately.

-Add a little lemon or orange zest to the cherries when cooking.

Impress your friends and family with this great classic that is so easy and fun to make!!

 

Makes 4 to 6 servings.