Tag Archives: offense

“Win or Lose in Denver; Who Will the Raiders Play In the Playoffs: How Can Matt McGloin Succeed”

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With Derek Carr injured, it’s all about Matt McGloin right now.  Let’s look at what he brings to the table as well as the playoff picture for the Raiders.

The Good and the Bad of Matt McGloin:

With a handful of Raider fans using Youtube videos to try and convince people how amazing Matt McGloin is and some Raider fans making fun of them, it’s become just another internet drama. You’d think they’d just want the Raiders to win but it’s just how things are in today’s world.  Let’s deal with the truth as we always do without all the drama.

McGloin is as tough as it gets. The word that many people use to describe him is grit. He was a 3 star athlete out of high school who wanted to go to Penn St. He ended up going there but had to make the team as a walk on. He eventually won a scholarship during the tumultuous Jerry Sandusky scandal and played fairly well but was far from a great college QB.   Most felt he was a semi-long shot to make the NFL as a backup. He was signed by the Raiders as an un-drafted free agent.

I looked it up and as a starter he is 1-5.  He played most of the game in the 2015 opener against Cincinnati (33-13 loss) when Carr got hurt but he didn’t start.  He hasn’t started a game with the Raiders since 2013 and he now finds himself in the eye of the tornado.  When he did start, he played on some bad teams.  At times he played very well but he also had some real rough spots.

McGloin does have some skills. His main one is he is pretty accurate. He is good on timing patterns and short to medium range passes to the outside. He also has a knack for finding tight ends and that could be a big plus in the Raiders passing game.

On the bad side his pocket awareness at times is lacking and that has gotten him into trouble in the past with turnovers against a pass rush. His delivery can be painfully slow when he’s not aware of the pressure.

His main weakness; which he also had in college; was that he doesn’t stare down his receivers; he gazes into their eyes. After McGloin takes the ball from center, you almost always know where he’s going to throw the ball. He struggles with medium to long throws down the middle because of it. Former Raider great Lincoln Kennedy a few years ago during the Raiders-Bengals game in Oakland was just frustrated. He was the Raiders sideline reporter that day for their radio team. When asked what was wrong with McGloin, Kennedy told the Raiders radio crew, “I literally know where he’s throwing the ball even before he takes the snap.   Every pass he throws he’s staring down his receiver”.

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How to Set Up McGloin to Succeed:

One thing the Raiders need to do is to make sure they use quick throws, preferably to the outside.   Especially against a team like Denver, you don’t want him to stay in the pocket long with that pass rush all around him.

The run game is the key though. Their offensive line has had a great year and it needs to continue. The Raiders need to run the ball just like they did in the first game against the Broncos. So sick of the Bronco media saying their downfall is due to their offense because it’s just half of the reason. Their offense last year was one 19th in scoring and this year so far they are 22nd. Last year they had a running game, this year they don’t. Peyton Manning had 18 interceptions (the worst in 2015 was 19) last year and he did that in only 9 starts. Manning had the worst Super Bowl performance of any winning QB in history and was 1 for 15 on third down. Manning was 29th in passing in the NFL last year. He was atrocious. But this year so is Denver’s run defense which is getting a pass.

How Do the McGloin Lead Raiders Beat Denver:

This year the Broncos run defense is 29th in the NFL (last year #3) in rushing yards per game.   The national media isn’t doing their homework blaming all of their ills on the offense.  This defense is a shell of what they used to be last year.

The Raiders need to run the ball and run it some more. A first down pass to shake things up, followed by a physical run game. Denver gave up 218 rushing yards to the Raiders, 136 to the Patriots, 238 against the Chiefs, 180 against Tennessee, and 154 against Jacksonville. And this is just in the past six weeks! In those 5 games they are 1-4.

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Who Will The Raiders Play In the Playoffs:

If they Beat Denver:

This Denver game may make or break the Raiders season.

If the Raiders can pull out a win against the Broncos, they now are the #2 seed.   That gives them a bye the first week and then a home game against probable winner Pittsburgh.  If Miami somehow wins; which I doubt very much; the Raiders will then play the highest seed left.   Again it’s hard not seeing Pittsburgh winning.   Miami is another overrated team with only a plus 4 point differential.  Playing Pittsburgh in Oakland is a lot better than a contest in the cold of Pittsburgh. The Winner will then probably get New England on the road; a very cold, winter game. Whatever happens, the AFC championship will probably go through New England.

If they lose to Denver:

If they lose and KC beats San Diego, the Raiders will be the 5th seed.   They will go to Texas and play Houston in the first round. Houston is far from a good team and they are in a bad division. This game is very winnable. If they win they then go to Kansas City or New England. Not a fun road to go down. Asking Matt McGloin; and even Carr for that matter; to win 3 road games with 2 being in the cold, is just too much. This Denver game is pivotal.

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Why the Raiders Can Make a Post Season Run:

Let’s be real; if ANY team loses their starting QB, they are in trouble. Think of Pittsburgh without Ben, or the Patriots without Brady.   Other than the Cowboys with Tony Romo, no one really has a good backup.

The QB position in the NFL may be the worst it’s ever been. The Raiders alone had backups in the past such as Ken Stabler, George Blanda, and Jim Plunkett. Earl Morrall lead the 1972 Dolphins to the only undefeated season when starter Bob Griese was injured in week 5. Griese made 2 appearances late in the season and played in the Super Bowl, but without backup Morrall, the Dolphins don’t end up with a perfect season.

(side note; that Miami team was the only Super Bowl team in the modern era never to be invited to the White House due to the Watergate scandal. In 2013 the 1972 Dolphins were honored at the White House by President Obama).

The NFL longs for parity. They want a new Champion every year and this year they got it. Both Super Bowl teams won’t even make the playoffs and they are thrilled.   This allows for different fan bases to be involved in the big game and the playoffs.

A funny thing happened on the way to the bank though. The NFL ratings are down. What the NFL arrogantly felt is that fans would watch the NFL no matter what.   That hasn’t happened. The Thursday night games have mostly been bad and there are no more great teams. In the 1960’s-90’s you had some of the greatest teams of all time; especially in the 1970’s; so when the best teams played it was must see tv. The NFL world stood still with such Matchups as the Raiders-Steelers, Steelers-Cowboys, 49ers-Cowboys and so many amazing rivalries.  Now you have teams like Houston who are in first place and are going to the playoffs and they have a MINUS 42 point differential so far in their season. They’ve been outscored by 6 touchdowns this year and will make the playoffs.  They are also 3-4 against teams with a winning record. That’s smelly.

In the AFC there really are only 2 QB’s to fear in the post season for the Raiders. Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. And sorry KC fans. Andy Reid and Alex Smith are more conservative than Ronald Reagan at Bohemian Grove so they will never win a Super Bowl in my opinion. You win Super Bowls; you don’t hope not to lose Super Bowls.

Injuries have also hurt teams badly. Kansas City is now wondering if pass rushing star Justin Houston will ever be the same, again struggling with his health after coming back from surgery.   Their other pass rushing great Tamba Hali says he has no cartilage left in his knees and can only play on passing downs.

The Texans get a myriad of players back but they have greatly missed JJ Watts this year.

Pittsburgh’s offensive line is finally getting healthy but they are still struggling to keep healthy on the defensive side.

New England has their best offensive threat in RB Dion Lewis back from last years surgery but that gaping hole you see in their offense is the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski who is out for the year.

What all this means is that no team is unbeatable. Everyone has weaknesses but the Steeler’s and Patriot’s have their trump cards in two great post season quarterbacks.

Derek Carr will be out 6-8 weeks and being young, he will probably heal up quickly. If somehow, someway the Raiders get to the Super Bowl, it will be right on the 6-7 week time frame. Can he come back? Yes; many have come back and much sooner than that, but time will tell.   For right now they can’t worry about that. If they lose to Denver they play an ordinary Houston team who they can beat but then they will probably get into some murky waters in Pittsburgh and New England or Kansas City. And with a backup QB, that’s not the place to be swimming.

The Raiders though have their own ace in the hole; the second best offensive line in the NFL. If the Raiders give McGloin the time they gave Carr, McGloin can have a chance to play well. The Raiders also have to use their 3 headed monster running game, using all of their RB’s to keep them fresh.

Jims Jamz:

This Denver game is bigger than people think. The Raiders being the #5 seed I think gives them little to no chance of making a deep run. If they beat Denver though and are the #2 seed, they now have to gut out one home win; probably against the Steelers; to get to the Championship game against the probable winner New England. And oh the online drama. The media and fans everywhere will be in their dramatic social media glory. It will look like a Jr. High School love triangle with the melodrama of the Tuck Rule.  For the meantime though the Raiders need to think one thing; beat Denver.

“Will The Raiders Win the AFC West? A 2nd Half Breakdown of All 4 Teams”

 

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Who will win the AFC West?  Let’s look ahead to the rest of the season and see what may be in store for all of the teams.

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Oakland Raiders:

In the history of social media, there has NEVER been a tweet or Facebook post about the Raiders being in a playoff game. Let that sink in. In their glory days, for 25 years the Raiders were the winningest team of any Pro Sports team in the U.S. For the last couple of decades, they’ve been the worst. In their glory years, the Cowboys and the Raiders for almost 3 decades were the two most popular teams on tv ratings. Love them or hate them, it’s good that they are back.

The Cowboys Dak Prescott and Oakland’s Derek Carr are having great years.   They also are behind the 2 best offensive lines in the NFL. NOT a coincidence. Carr is the best protected QB in the NFL this year and that is important to his success.

The Raiders are now #4 in the NFL in rushing yards and #3 in passing yards.   Even though their skilled position players get most of the credit, their OL has been as dominating as any in the game this year and it’s the heart and soul of this team.

On defense it’s another matter. They struggle against good teams and occasionally look good against bad ones. The Raiders are 28th in sacks, 30th against the pass and 27th against the run.   And that is after a good performance against a bad Denver offense.

The Raiders have only played 3 teams with winning records; all at home; and are 1-2. They have not played a team who presently has a winning record on the road.

The Raiders schedule is interesting. They struggle against teams that can score points and they really don’t play a lot of good offenses the rest of the way. They still have a game in Denver, in KC and @ San Diego.   Outside of that they have Houston, Carolina and Buffalo. These are all good match-ups for them because those teams don’t have great offenses.   Even with their bad OL, the Colts will be a tough game because they can score.

Right now the Raiders have the upper hand in the AFC West and barring injuries to their OL; and even with a limited defense; they still should be considered favorites to win the division. This is not a Super Bowl defense in any way and offense may make headlines and put butts in the seats but defense wins championships.  Remember this is the salary cap era so every team has some sort of issue or weakness, but for now, the West comes through Oakland.

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Denver Broncos:

The Broncos are fading fast due to injuries and a poor offensive scheme.

On offense I really like their 2 young running backs. Rookie Devontae Booker hasn’t had much of a chance to run the ball but he has a lot of potential. Kapri Bibbs showed his playmaking ability on a 68 yard pass and catch late against the Raiders. On defense they still have an excellent pass rush but now they can’t stop the run. The  other problem on offense is head coach and play caller Gary Kubiak.

The Denver media; which is fairly soft; has been griping about him for 2 weeks.   They have brought up great points.  In the first 15 plays against the Raiders, Denver threw 13 times. In the last 5 games Denver has thrown almost 70% of the time in their first 15 plays.   Denver is 2-3 in those games.   With Siemian as a starter, Denver throws 72% of the time. That’s not Denver football.

Siemian is limited; he throws a nice deep ball but he needs protection; and lot’s of it. The offensive line at Denver has been inconsistent protecting the QB. He does not feel a rush at all and struggles under pressure as was seen with a loss at San Diego and again in Oakland.

Denver needs to go back to the ground and pound with young RB’s that are hungry. Both have mildly complained about their lack of touches in the running game. Kubiak is a borderline arrogant guy though when it comes to coaching and he can be stubborn. Analyst Cris Collinsworth brought up what I said last year. Why don’t they double team Kahlil Mack more? Last year in Mack’s epic game in Denver, they would not help out their tackles and Mack went off. Their tackles are not that great and it took until late in the game last Sunday for them to finally start helping out on him.

When asked about Siemian after the Raiders game, Kubiak said he was still making plays so there is no problem with the QB position. Now Paxton Lynch might not be the answer but if Denver throws 70% of the time for the rest of the year, they are toast.   Kubiak acted this way in Houston when Matt Schaub started to tank. Instead of using Arian Foster & Ben Tate with his run game to help him, he threw even more.

The Denver defense is now 30th against the run and can’t stop anybody.  The offensive line has also struggled. There may be changes there soon. Even so the Broncos have to go back to being a running team and take their chances. Their LB’s are no longer a strength of the team with changes there this year. Injuries have just killed the Broncos. Aqib Talib and Kayvon Webster are still hurting and Brandon Marshall is hobbling badly.   DL Derek Wolfe’s injury is not as bad as first thought but he is another one on the mend. And those are just the bigger names on the list.

The rest of their schedule is rough. Their last 3 games are at home against New England, on the road to KC and back home to play the Raiders.  Before that they also have to play the Chiefs in Denver. Denver has a great home field advantage so they will need to use that to keep in the playoff hunt. Get healthy and run the ball should be their mantra.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs:

The Chiefs are a classic Andy Reid team. They are tough, disciplined and they find ways to win. If you watch their games and look at the stat sheet, you wonder how they can be 6-2. They are 22nd in rushing and 25th in passing offense. Their offense doesn’t scare anyone. On defense they are ranked 13th against the pass and 25th against the run. Their once feared pass rush with Justin Houston and Tamba Hali is now 21st in sacks. Houston is set to return this week or next and 33 year old Hali’s days are numbered as he has no cartilage in one knee and tries to play in a specialist pass rushing position. Pass rushing project Dee Ford has shown glimpses of great play and has come on of late, as has DB Steven Nelson who made the game winning defensive play against Jacksonville last week.

KC has had so many injuries; Charles, Maclin, Ware, Houston, Hali; a who’s who if you are a Chiefs fan.

The AFC West has pretty easy schedules this year and KC has played only 2 teams with winning records and are 1-1, and that obviously has helped them.

ESPN seemed to fall in love with the Chiefs last week but slow your roll.   The Chiefs have a brutal second half schedule that includes 2 games with Denver, a rematch with Oakland, and road games with San Diego, Carolina and Atlanta. They STILL might make the playoffs though because most of the AFC outside of the West is awful. Their second half schedule will greatly test them and may expose them.

I’ve never been an Alex Smith guy. He’s the Ichabod Crane of the NFL. He and Andy Reid play not to lose with their extremely conservative passing game and you can’t win big with 1-3 yard check down passes. They may make the playoffs but they are not going far.   What they will be though is hard playing and competitive. They have owned the Raiders this decade, and play Denver well so you can’t sleep on KC.   Their home field on a cold winter day is not the place to be if you are an opposing team.

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San Diego Chargers:

You have to give it up for the Chargers. With all of the turmoil surrounding their possible move, the terrible season ending injury to star WR Keenan Allen, and the drama with first round draft choice Joey Bosa, the worst was expected in San Diego. A funny thing happened. Bosa has been a breath of fresh air and has greatly helped the defensive line and pass rush and RB Melvin Gordon has had a great year behind an improved offensive line. If they don’t implode late against KC and go into a coma in the 4th in Oakland, their season could be much different. Their win in Atlanta was impressive and was not a fluke. They earned it.

Their schedule has been the hardest in the AFC West by far. They are 2-3 against teams with winning records. They split with Denver so they just have the Raiders and KC at home along with Houston on the road as their toughest remaining games. The AFC only has 5 teams with winning records and 3 are in the AFC West.   Watch out for the Chargers.   Stranger things have happened and a playoff push may not seem eminent but they could make some noise.  Their slow start really hurt them.

Philip Rivers is a good QB but just like Alex Smith I just don’t think either will win anything significant in their NFL careers. In Rivers San Diego career, the Chargers so often fall short in the second half of games, especially in the fourth quarter. They always seem to do just enough to lose.   Sometimes it’s not all Rivers fault but he’s the captain of the ship. A very good QB with great stats who never will win anything who I personally think gets a little too much love. Gordon and Bosa though could be great building blocks for the near future.  Add a healthy Keenan Allen and next year looks much brighter in San Diego.

If you sleep on these guys, they can beat you. I don’t think they make the playoffs but they could hurt someone else’s chances if they are taken lightly. They are intriguing.

Jims Jamz:

The NFL has what they want.  No more great teams; lots of average to good teams who all have a weakness.  Odds now show Seattle to be the #2 choice to win the Super Bowl and they have a bad offensive line that struggles in protection and at times running the ball.  Parity and average teams to keep all fans interested is what they want and they got it.  Everyone has issues, and what that means is that it is a toss up on who will get to the post season and who will win it all.  Most everyone has a shot if they get hot.

Can the Raiders offensive line stay healthy and will their defense hold up?   Can the Broncos stop supplying bodies for their medical staff? Will Head Coach Gary Kubiak forget about Siemian’s stats in the Cincinnati game and actually start running the ball again? Can the Chargers play 4 quarters of good football and come through in the second half of games? Can the KC Chiefs get healthy and their pass rush be restored with the return of Justin Houston? And will Alex Smith ever get over his deepballaphobia and throw the ball downfield in big games?

These are all questions that will be answered in the second half of the season. Right now the Raiders look like the odds on favorite but this is the NFL and things could change quickly.  Its’ not the good ol’ days when the AFC West dominated in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, but for now it will definitely do.

“GRADES: The Raiders Make it Official by Beating Denver; They Are Back”

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Oakland Raiders’ Latavius Murray (28) leaps to score a touchdown against the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter of their NFL game at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 30-20. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

 

Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Denver Broncos; Week 9:

Denver Broncos  20 (6-3)

Oakland Raiders  30 (7-2)

The Raiders came through in a near must win situation, beating the Denver Broncos at home. It was a physical pounding of the Super Bowl champs that was loved by all in attendance.   Oakland had only played 2 teams with winning records all year and both ended up in losses at home. To go 0-3 against teams with winning records; all at home; would have been a hard pill to swallow.

Overview:

The offensive line flat out dominated this game.

Quarterback:

Statistically this was one of Carr’s worst games of the season but this is against the Broncos and it was no where near as bad as the numbers suggest. The success of the running game also limited him.  Carr was steady and accurate and didn’t make the mistakes that have plagued him against the Broncos in the past. Against good offensive teams though, the Raiders can’t settle for field goals in the red zone.

GRADE: B

Carr was 20 for 31 for 184 yards with no TD’s or interceptions. He missed on some passes but there were only a few issues that he had. Raider fans cringed when they shockingly called a pass with less than 8 minutes to go in the game and Carr made a horrible throw that was intercepted. The referees looked at it and reversed their decision because it hit the ground. Carr has to throw that away or throw to a place where only his guy can catch it. Better yet just run the ball.

Running Backs:

SO SICK of NFL ex jocks who are now sportscasters saying the Raiders can’t run the ball. The Raiders are now #4 in the NFL in rushing yards and #3 in rushing touchdowns. The Raiders running game is just fine thanks.

Latavius Murray had his best game of the year and everyone contributed. Jalen Richards looked like a rocket when hitting the hole. The Raiders offensive line is an excellent one playing at a high level and the running game is doing well.

Grade A

A thing people don’t talk about is the excellent pass blocking by the running backs when picking up the blitz. Good all around game by everyone.

Offensive Line:

Derek Carr is going to have to come up with more than big screen tv’s for presents for his OL this Christmas. The Raiders have only allowed 11 sacks all year and he’s the best protected QB in the NFL.

Round 1 against Denver goes to the Raiders OL. Dallas and Oakland have the best OL’s in the game right now and both of their QB’s are playing great. Not a coincidence. The Raiders are #3 in passing and #4 in rushing offense. A dominating performance with over 200 yards on the ground. Denver got 2 sacks but they didn’t affect the game much.

Grade A+

The OL is the key to the Raiders. Carr and the other offensive weapons get all the credit but this is the engine of the team. This OL is the “HEMI” of the NFL.

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Wide Receivers:

Nothing really special from this group but a solid game. Andre Holmes made an amazing one handed catch of a ball thrown behind him.   Even with Denver’s injuries at DB, the Raiders were held under 200 yards passing. They did their job and it helped win the game.

GRADE: B

A solid game.

Defensive Line:

Kahlil Mack had a great game and his slow start is a thing of the past. The pass rush overall was good all game as the DL put pressure on Broncos QB Trevor Siemian. Siemian struggles a ton when he’s rushed and it showed all game. Denver showed the same arrogance as last year, for the most part not trying to double team Mack and they paid for it.

The Broncos only ran 12 times and the Raiders did well to stop the run. They miss CJ Anderson. Siemian at times is a train wreck and no one has stepped up at RB.   Denver’s offensive line is very inconsistent and the Raiders took advantage of it.

Grade: A

Is the Raiders DL great; not a chance. But for this game they played great and was a breath of fresh air for a group that has struggled this year.

Linebackers:

The LB’s were very active.   Other than the long catch and run by RB Kapri Bibbs (wow was that an ugly play for the Raiders), this group played well.

Grade B+

Overall solid game.

Defensive Backs:

The pass rush definitely helped this group and they had a solid game.   Karl Joseph was fooled on 2 play action passes; one he was beaten for a TD; which shows he’s still learning the game.   Overall a solid game though. Siemian’s pathetic accuracy didn’t hurt either.

Grade B+  

This was one of their better games.

Coaching:

The Broncos had a bizarre game plan, concentrating on the passing game when it’s obvious QB Siemian is limited. Another coaching staff outthinking themselves. The Raiders took advantage of this by really going after the QB.

It was a bad decision to allow Carr to throw the ball late in the game which almost lead to an interception when it was obvious Denver could not stop the run. The Raiders need to be smarter. Just run the clock out.

They greatly improved their sloppy play from the previous 8 weeks where they lead the NFL in penalties and set a record against Tampa Bay. On a side note the game has definitely changed and there are so many pass interference penalties in the NFL that it can be hard to watch sometimes.   There is a reason passing records are falling like stars in the sky in the NFL and college game.  With the NFL rules, Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be DB’s.

Grade B+

Solid game plan against a bad run defense and limited offense.

Special Teams:

Janikowski is showing that it’s a lot different hitting 50 yard field goals in the first half of games on a losing team, than it is on a winning team trying to make the playoffs. He missed again this week. King had a solid game; could do without the Cam Newton dance party after his punts, but overall a solid game by King. Field position played a key role in the first half. The coverage team did a good job and the return game was nothing special.

Grade B+

A solid game other than the blip from Janikowski.

Conclusion:

I’ve been saying it all week. This is not a great team in Denver. They have an inconsistent OL, a QB that can throw long but not much else; and a defense that was 25th against the run coming into the game and is now 30th in the NFL after the Raiders game. Denver has had a lot of injuries and other than Marshall, their LB play isn’t the same.   The injury to CJ Anderson really hurt this team. The Raiders match up great against them. Last year the Raiders didn’t allow a bad Denver offense a TD in both games.

The game plan was good and the Raiders showed they can beat a good team. They are now on a bye week. They haven’t won anything yet though and the season is a long one so there is still work to do. They are now 1-2 against teams that presently have winning records, and those two teams had something Denver hasn’t got; good offenses. The Raiders still have holes on defense.

This was a game I thought they had to get and they did. The OL completely dominated and showed why the Raiders are doing so well this year. It was a fun night for all.

Outlook:

Tomorrow I will break down the AFC West and look at each team. The Raiders are in great shape but they still have to play each AFC west team on the road. They will next go to Mexico against Houston and even though Carolina isn’t that good this year, it will still be a tough game. Kansas City has dominated Oakland and San Diego with a pass rush is now much improved.  No one is talking about the Chiefs but they aren’t going away.   Denver is still Denver especially at home.  It should be a fun second half of the season, but for now, take 2 weeks off Raider fans to celebrate; you’ve earned it.

“Raiders on the Right Track Even with Setback Loss To Chicago”

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Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Chicago Bears; Week 4:

Chicago Bears 22 (1-3)

Oakland Raiders 20 (2-2)

Two steps forward, one step back. The Raiders took a step backwards with a bad loss to the Chicago Bears on the road. The Bears last win was on November 23, 2014 against Tampa Bay.   Last years team was atrocious under coach Marc Trestman and this was a nice win for the Bears and a tough loss for the Raiders. Many people including myself had the Raiders winning this one going into the Denver game.

Anyone that reads me know’s I’m not rah rah.  I tell it like it is even if it’s not that fun for homer fans to read.  I try to be honest; so when I’m saying things aren’t as bad as people are making it out to be, you should listen.

We found out 3 things with this game;

-Oakland is an improved team on the way up

-the Raiders aren’t as good as some say they are

-they play more conservative in the second half

If you are one of those people that live and die every week with your team, I hope that you have your counselor on speed dial. Not every loss is tragic, and not every win is epic. The NFL season is a marathon and you have to have a short memory whether you win or lose.  The sky isn’t falling after the loss to the hapless Bears but it is raining.

The Raiders are definitely a better team which is really a good thing for their fans and the NFL. If you expect them in the playoffs going 11-5 or 10-6 though, you are going to have some rough times. I think this is a .500 team. Considering where they came from, this would be very positive.   Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.  If you expect them to win every game then you are going to have some bad moments.  This isn’t your fathers and grandfathers Raiders.

It’s encouraging to see the great effort the players are putting in and it’s obvious this team has improved greatly over the past 12 years. I’m also realistic though, and good teams don’t lose to the likes of Chicago. I think they are on the right track though even with this setback.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr didn’t have a great day but it wasn’t bad either. He made a very nice throw to Amari Cooper for a touchdown but wasn’t as accurate as he was in the past 2 weeks. The Bears came after him more with a better pass rush and I’m sure that had some effect on him. He only threw for 196 yards.

People put all the blame for the conservative play calls on Raiders OC Bill Musgrave but I guarantee you if Brady or Rodgers doesn’t like the play, they change it. Bears DC Vic Fangio had a pretty clear mindset; take away the first down run and make the Raiders throw. It worked like it had so many times last year. The conservative nature of the game in the second half has to fall partly on Carr who can audible at any time.

The mindset of Carr, Musgrave, and the Raiders offense on the last drive seemed to be lets get a field goal.   The Bears were aggressive on defense and Cooper had man to man coverage on the entire final drive. A play action deep pass had to be tried. When your defense is really good you can get the field goal; when it isn’t, you go for the touchdown.

GRADE: B

Again, it wasn’t like the last 2 weeks but it wasn’t a bad game. The improved pass rush made him hurry a few throws and his accuracy wasn’t what it was. Crabtree made some really nice catches on a couple of them. I like Carr’s development but he has to audible when so many defenders are on the line of scrimmage on first down.

Running Backs:

I’ve said it before; the Raiders are taking a huge risk putting all their eggs in the Latavius Murray basket.   I think Marcel Reece needs to get some snaps at running back. He’s just too talented to only touch the ball a couple of times a game.

Murray imploded. He constantly was looking over his shoulder anticipating hits and hearing footsteps. He dropped 2 passes; one which went for an interception; fumbled a simple pitch play and was off all day. It got so bad he was benched for the rest of the 4th quarter and replaced by backup Roy Helu Jr. who played well in his absence. Helu Jr. made some nice runs and caught the ball well.

Grade C

Helu Jr. was a nice change of pace and Marcel Reece; on one of his few touches; made a great grab for a nice pass reception. Murray was brutal and he played like he did not want to be there. A good NFL player shows up every week. Murray didn’t show up.

Offensive Line:

Most of the networks picked up on what the strategy of the day for the Bears was; take away the first down run. Trent Green (who other than his worship of NFL QB’s is a really good analyst) pointed out a few times on first down that the Bears safeties were about 8 yards off the line of scrimmage.   The Bears dared the Raiders to throw, but in the second half they continued to run on first down. An audible with a play action pass and throwing a long one to Cooper was there all day long, including the last drive.

People are quick to blame the offensive line for the run struggles in this game but you can’t run the ball against 8 defenders near the line of scrimmage while trying to run on first down all the time.

The Raiders are not going to be able to run the ball if they don’t keep teams honest and throw on first down. Against the Ravens especially, they did play action on first down often and it opened up the field and the run.

Carr had a moderate rush at times and was sacked twice. Not a great day but not as bad as people say. Again if the stars don’t shine on an NFL team, Fan speak 101 says blame the coaches and the offensive line. If the stars shine, give the stars all the credit. Momma don’t let your babies grow up to be offensive linemen.

Grade C+

This group can play better.   Carr still had time to throw but the Raiders have to throw on first down more and keep teams honest or they can’t run the ball. The OL has had better games and will continue to improve and gel.

Wide Receivers:

Crabtree twisted his ankle but he came back and made two great grabs and lead the team with 5 catches for 80 yards. Cooper had a nice route and catch on a touchdown but other than a drop in the first quarter, he wasn’t much of a factor either way.

Seth Roberts almost made a great catch for another TD but his foot was out of bounds.

GRADE: B

A gutsy performance by Crabtree. The Raiders didn’t have the ball all that much and when they did; especially in the 2nd half; they were fairly conservative.

Defensive Line:

Dan Williams and Justin Tuck continue to play well. Aldon Smith and Kahlil Mack played well, especially Smith who had 6 solo tackles, a pass batted down, a tackle for loss and a sack. The Raiders again blitzed often in the first half but didn’t as much in the second half. On the final drive they mostly rushed 4 men and had a mild blitz on only one play.

Matt Forte is a great running back and even though he did get 91 yards rushing, it took 25 carries to do so.   Not a great game but not bad either.

In the second half though the lack of pass rush has to be addressed. The Raiders have to continue to send blitzes. Right now this group isn’t good enough to just rush 4 players yet.

Grade: C+

At times they played really well and at other times they could not get the pressure on the quarterback that they needed to. The Raiders need to mix in blitzes throughout the game to keep teams honest.   They continue to be too conservative to want to blitz near the end of the game.

Linebackers:

Like I’ve said before, the LB’s have their strengths but all of them have weaknesses too. Curtis Lofton had a bad game though. He’s usually really good against the run but he was inconsistent. He is not a cover guy and he struggled mightily in pass coverage.

I’m still not sold that Ray Ray Armstrong is a starter. Malcolm Smith is a good blitzer and pass defender but not much of a run stopper and it showed at times. This group is going to have good and bad days and this was not one of their better days.

Grade C-

The Raiders LB’s struggled at times and seemed lost against the pass.

Defensive Backs:

Jay Cutler couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn at times but he still carved up the Raiders defense for 281 yards and 2 TD’s and an interception. The Raiders pass defense is just awful at times. Part of it is that they are so depleted with injuries, but in reality they really don’t have a quality starting cornerback. Carrie again had to be moved over to safety due to injuries. DJ Hayden again struggled and to be honest I’m tired of picking on him. He’s just not a starting NFL CB and with 4.9 million due him next year, he’s all but gone. David Amerson was a surprise at CB with 2 nice plays knocking down passes in coverage.   He also was second on the team with tackles at 7.

The Raiders safeties can’t guard tight ends. The Raiders have tried everything; even covering tight ends with linebackers; but it’s just not happening. If the Raiders pass rush struggles, so will the DB’s.

Grade D  

The Raiders are 31st in passing yards against and 31st in total yards. They are now 26th in scoring defense.

Even with the Bears having so few weapons, this was another rough day for this group. Without Alshon Jeffery, the Bears do not have a #1 WR.   This group took it to the Raiders at times. In fact, Cutler threw only to 4 players all day.

Coaching:

The Raiders on offense were much more conservative than in the past, and it was really seen in the second half. The Raiders were afraid to pass on 1st down and they struggled mightily running the ball with the Bears putting many people in the block to stop it. In almost every first down play in the second half, the Raiders ran the ball. Carr also has to audible more on first down. Cooper often had clear man to man coverage on first down which should have meant play action pass, and then throw to him deep.

Musgrave did well by benching Murray because he just was somewhere else.

On defense, the Raiders again rarely blitzed in the second half. No matter what the publicity says, the Raiders 4 man rush can’t rush the passer on every down and harass the QB enough to disrupt him right now. The Raiders needed to blitz more. I watched the Denver game and the Broncos blitzed often in the final drive against the Vikings and it worked with a fumble recovery after hitting Teddy Bridgewater which secured the win. The Raiders have nothing to lose and you have to look at the risk v.s. reward.

I also think with the Raiders having so little talent and depth at cornerback that having TJ Carrie return punts was a huge mistake. It came back to bite them when Carrie had to leave the game after returning a kick.

Grade C-

Too conservative again in the second half. Some though are trying to blame the coaches in regards to the opponents tight ends dominating the Raiders, but they’ve tried everything. Woodsen is getting his interceptions but he struggles a lot in coverage. With all of the injuries at safety and the struggles of the linebackers in coverage, the Raiders are going to be vulnerable to tight ends all year. If Carrie can get back on the field, maybe have him stay at safety and take over the role.

Special Teams:

TJ Carrie getting injured on a punt return was discouraging.

Sebastian Janikowski and Marquette King were as solid as always. One of the most consistent groups in the NFL.   The return game wasn’t much of a factor and it was hard to lose a starting DB during a punt return.

Grade A-

King and Jano are solid as always. Return game not much of a factor.

Next Opponent:   Denver Broncos (4-0); last game, win @ home against the Minnesota Vikings 23-20)

Outlook:

The Raiders are an improved team and this loss should not discourage that. What it should do though is give them a reality check.   They are an average team; which is good from where they came from; looking to become a good one.

No matter how you spin it though, this was a bad loss against a team that hadn’t won a game since last November. The AFC west is not what it once was so that helps the Raiders some, but Denver’s aggressive defense is for real.

Peyton Manning is on his last legs, but he still has weapons in the likes of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. The Broncos offense isn’t what it once was and has struggled this year. Their defense though might be the best in the NFL. They have 4 solid pass rushers and an aggressive style that is constantly finding ways to get to the quarterback. I like them a lot and love their aggressive nature.

The Raiders are just 7-17 against the Broncos since 2003 and 0-7 in their last 7 meetings. Denver’s margin of victory in those 7 wins is 22 points. They have controlled the Raiders by stopping the run and rushing the passer on passing downs. On offense, they’ve been able to do pretty much what they wanted against the Raiders so this will be a good test for the defense.

The Raiders will have their hands full against Denver next week. They hope to continue their improved offensive performance while enhancing their ability to get to the passer which will be imperative against Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

“I’m Going Against the “EXPERTS”. The Raiders Will Go 2-1 Sunday In Cleveland in a MUST WIN Road Game”.

OAK-vs.-CLV

Week 3 Preview: Oakland Raiders (1-1) @ Cleveland Browns (1-1)

Sunday, September 27, 10:00 AM PST on CBS

FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

It’s not a big stretch but I feel the Raiders will win their next matchup against the Cleveland Browns.  Let’s look at the game in depth to see why.

Recap of Last week:

Raiders: Oakland had their best game in years on offense with a 37-33 home victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Derek Carr had a career day. Without much fan fare the Offensive Line had their best day in years with Carr barely getting touched all game.  The OL and Carr were awful against the Bengal’s so this is a nice come back for them.

Carr is not a pure pocket passer so protecting him is a must for his success.   In the first game against the Bengal’s he was rushed. Against the Ravens he was barely touched. Since college, Carr has struggled against a pass rush.

Another must is rolling him out and throwing deep which was done to perfection by proper play calling. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree had great games and there was plenty to smile about on offense.

The Defense is another story. They have been a sieve against the pass and are last or near last in many defensive categories including yards and scoring. They are also tied for last in sacks with 0. Khalil Mack had another forgettable game with only 1 tackle and no sacks all day. The only bright spots for the defense have been the run stopping abilities of Dan Williams and Justin Tuck who are thriving playing together. Curtis Lofton was hurt early in the first game but was a tackling machine in the win against the Ravens.

Cleveland:   Cleveland also got a big win with a 28-14 romp of the Tennessee Titans in Cleveland. Johnny Manziel got lots of publicity due to his 2 touchdown passes, but he was only 8 for 15 for 172 yards and a 75% QBR. Manziel is now benched and Josh McCown will start. Neither QB is scary.

With WR Josh Gordon out for the year due to his 3rd suspension, the only real weapon the Browns offense has is WR Travis Benjamin who is also a great punt returner. He doesn’t catch a lot of passes but due to his speed, the ones that he does usually end up going a long play. The Browns running game right now is average only getting a little over 3 yards per attempt.

On defense they are better but still not world beaters. They have a good pass rush which was seen by an amazing 7 sacks last week, but the Browns run defense is ranked last in the NFL.

The Raiders will win if:

DEFENSE: The Raiders defense has been awful and only Chicago has been worse. What they need is for Khalil Mack to have a big game and Aldon Smith needs to step up and make a difference.  The run game of Cleveland isn’t scary and I think this will be a game that the Raiders defense can play well in. I don’t see the Browns offense doing much this game.

T.J. Carrie will probably be on Benjamin and in reality the rest of the WR are not that good. Due to the Raiders safety situation, watch the tight ends for Cleveland. Tight ends have had huge numbers against the Raiders in the first 2 weeks.

OFFENSE: Carr had a great game and got all the credit but in reality the OL protected him like a fortress.  If they continue to roll Carr out and throw deep; his 2 strengths; look for another good game from the young QB.

Latavius Murray will have his chance to shine. He should get 20-25 touches at RB and look for a 100 yard game and a touchdown. If the Raiders fall in love with the pass and don’t run, look for a much harder game.  With this OL, the Raiders should be able to run well.

The Browns will win if:

DEFENSE: Cleveland needs to keep Carr in the pocket. Carr has really good accuracy on the run, so they need to put pressure on him when he rolls out. They also need to get to him to stop the 5 and 7 step long passes. He’s much better in the pocket when he has great protection than fighting pass rushers which he struggles with.

Players like Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers have amazing pocket awareness and footwork and can handle the rush without problems; ever since college it’s just not Carr’s talent.  Carson Palmer is having a great year but his career shows he will make bad throws if he’s pressured.  Arizona has allowed ZERO sacks and it’s not a coincidence that Palmer is having an amazing year so far.

The king of not handling a rush is Peyton Manning and he’s struggling.  Denver’s OL is playing badly and Manning’s been sacked 7 times this season already and in some years at Indy he wasn’t sacked 10 times all year.  Some QB’s can handle a pass rush and some can’t.

The Browns also need to take away the run game and make the Raiders more predictable so that they can unleash their pass rush. Cincinnati’s DL and corners played great in the first game and the Raiders had no answers.

OFFENSE: They will win if they can run the ball successfully. If they can’t run the ball then their passing game becomes predictable and their passing game isn’t very good.

McCown also needs to not be conservative and try to get the ball downfield to Benjamin. The Raiders are vulnerable against the pass and the Browns have not shown much of a passing game.

Conclusion:

It’s amazing how bad west coast teams play when traveling east and playing the early game so that is a concern. The Raiders have lost their last 11 road games and their last 19 out of 20 being the visiting team. These are mind blowing statistics of futility.

I trust gamblers. It’s uncanny how right sports books are when making point spreads and they have the Browns as a 2.5 to 3.5 point favorite. Some sports books have 70% of the gamblers taking Cleveland.

As my followers know, I’m very unbiased though and I go by what I see, and I just don’t why everyone is picking Cleveland. The Browns are awful on offense and are terrible against the run on defense.

I see the Raiders having a good game on defense, and for Latavius Murray to have a solid if not spectacular 100 yard rushing game. Look for Khalil Mack and/or Aldon Smith to get their first sacks and for Curtis Lofton to lead the linebackers to improve their game. I don’t see a 300 yard epic passing game for Carr, but I do see a solid hard fought win. The Carrie v.s. Benjamin battle will be something to watch as well. Johnny Manziel coming off the bench is a probability.

Final Score:

Raiders 23

Browns 16

This is a MUST win for the Raiders; the Browns are just not very good and road wins are at a premium. Good teams don’t lose games like these.

They have 6 tough AFC West games, along with games against the Steelers, Packers, and 3 more brutal early east coast travel games against the Bears, Lions, and Titans.   I see the Raiders going to 2-1 with a hard fought win in the Dawg Pound and then look forward to playing the Chicago Bears.