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“Raiders Off Season; Derek Carr & Kahlil Mack Contracts; Salary Cap; Who Stays, Who Goes”

NFL: Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders

It was a fun season for Oakland Raider fans but now the off season lull begins. I am extremely optimistic about the Raiders next season but there is work to do.  Let’s see if we can’t fill that void with early off season talk.

Salary Cap:

First off, if you are new to my writing my regulars would tell you I only write one way; honestly.  I’m not a homer and I don’t say what people want to hear.  I’m also not a hater.  I have the following I do because I respect the game and the readers.  I want to inform readers of all levels; whether you are new to the game and the Raiders or whether you know about schemes and techniques.  This is supposed to be fun and informative.

The salary cap was created by the NFL to create parity. The NFL felt that if they leveled the playing field and prevented dynasty’s, there would be more fan interest because different teams would be in the playoffs. Both Super Bowl teams from last year didn’t even make the playoffs this year.

Remember when Seattle won the Super Bowl? QB Russell Wilson was making under 1 million. His average annual salary is now 21.9 million. With that salary cap hit, they are struggling with their OL & depth at many positions. Well the Raiders are now in that same boat.

Last month the Raiders and Derek Carr both said that they wanted to finalize a deal in the off season. Carr is set to make 1.7 million in 2017. They were looking at a 4-5 year deal for 20 million a year. If the Raiders wait another year, they may get into a bidding war with teams and most feel the price would go up to 23-25 million per year.  Resigning players in their contract year is the smart thing to do.

In 2018 they now have to resign Kahlil Mack. He also is going to get a huge raise from his 4.6 million dollar average. The good thing is they can franchise him so they won’t lose him. Those are huge chunks taken out of the salary cap. Most that are looking ahead also think it’s near impossible for the Raiders to keep OL Gabe Jackson when his contract is up. He’s going to get a big raise from his 4 year average salary of 770k. Some think he’ll get around 7-8 million/year.

Derek Carr’s contract will dictate what the Raiders do in the off season.   The days of having a ton of money under the salary cap are gone. Seattle has done it right by emphasizing good drafts and player development through good coaching.  Raiders need to do the same.

The Reality:

The Raiders have to limit their busts. The Nate Allen’s and Sean Smith’s of the world can’t happen anymore.   The Jihad Ward and DJ Hayden draft picks can’t happen anymore (both picks that I took heat for from fans for hating them). If your 1st, 2nd, or 3rd round draft choices aren’t starting within 2 years and at least playing fairly well, then they were not good picks.   Before the salary cap you could bench picks and let them learn over time. Those days are gone. The standards need to be high if you want to keep winning.  Let’s now look at each position.

Quarterbacks:

Derek Carr will be back and healthy after healing up from his injury. Matt McGloin’s meltdown in Denver pretty much sealed his fate.   He’s an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and he said he’d like a chance to start somewhere. Look for McGloin to sign elsewhere and Cook to be the backup.   I said it at the draft last year, I think Cook is a back up at best in the NFL and I’m not a huge fan of his but he’s ok.

Running Backs:

DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard at times really stole the show.   Both are explosive and can catch the ball. I don’t think either is a franchise back but they are very valuable in a RB by committee way which has been the trend in the NFL.

Latavius Murray is a nice back but he doesn’t thrill me at all. Some have said he’ll ask for 6-7 million a year.   If he wants a lot of money I let him go and pick up a free agent or a later round rookie power back. There are some steals that can be had in later rounds. I still like Jamize Olawale and I wish he’d get more carries. The Stanford RB “Christian McCaffrey to Oakland” in the second round rumors have already begun.

Wide Receivers:

The Raiders are set with Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. They both dropped a lot of balls this season though, including one each in the playoff game so hopefully that improves. I said it last year; Seth Roberts is not a good #3 and he also had the dropsies. The Raiders have the rights to Roberts but you wonder if they move on. Lower down the Raider needs list, adding a good #3 WR would be a plus. Andre Holmes has his moments and is solid at #4, but where he shines is special teams where he has become a big contributor. He’s an UFA but I think he’ll come back.

Offensive Line:

The engine of the Raiders.

I still remember Donald Penn being raked over the coals on social media by many Raider fans when he asked for a lot of money in his last contract.   Well he is worth it. He had his best year and didn’t allow a sack until Carr was hurt late in the season; and on that play he slipped.

The OL will stay intact but there will be some changes. Menelik Watson is an UFA and may not be resigned. He is hurt a lot and his play is sporatic.   Mike Tice loved Jon Feliciano; I didn’t. I still didn’t get drafting him and he hasn’t been great either. Look for some new faces backing up the starters next year.

Tight End:

It’s hard to evaluate the TE’s because the Raiders throw so little to them (Part of the reason I didn’t like Bill Musgrave’s offense). During the year they were always top 8 in catches v.s. targets.   When they were thrown too they usually caught the ball.

Clive Walford is a good blocker and pass catcher. Mychal Rivera is a good pass catcher but can’t block and may not be resigned. Lee Smith; a loss that no one brings up that was a big one; will be back after breaking his ankle in week 4. He is the best run blocking tight end in the NFL and can catch a ball or two when needed.

Defensive Line:

The great Woody Hayes once said when asked about the potential of his freshman QB Rod Gerald, “Potential? Potential means you ain’t no damn good yet!”. The Raiders can’t be enamored with potential anymore. They need results.

The Raiders were LAST; DEAD LAST in sacks. They also were last in yards per play (6.1). I said it last year and I’m saying it this year; clean house in the DL.   Stacy McGee and Denico Autry have shown glimpses of good play, but injuries and inconsistencies have limited their success. McGee is UFA and Autry is restricted. Raiders need to move on unless the price is right.

I ripped on the Jihad Ward draft pick and still don’t get it. He started 13 games this year and played in all 16; did anyone notice?   They drafted him too high but I would not have drafted him at all. You can’t miss on early picks in the salary cap era.

Dan Williams and Justin Ellis were bad this year and their days are numbered.

The best way to help your DB’s is to have a great pass rush. The Raiders have to sign or draft a DT that can put pressure on the QB.   Mario Edwards so far isn’t the answer either. He’s hurt too much and has had some good play but it’s still not a given he’ll be good. Aldon Smith? In my personal life I avoid high maintenance people or drama so this whole thing gives me a headache.

Linebackers:

The Raiders LB’s this year at times were awful. They could not cover tight ends and they struggled in the running game. Malcolm Smith gets lots of tackles but many are much more downfield than they would like. He usually is good in coverage but he struggled at times there too.   He’s never been great against the run; that’s why in Seattle he was not a 3 down LB; and he’s not now to be honest.   Do you resign him for big money? No.   Lesser money? OK. He along with Perry Riley Jr. are UFA. Riley Jr. played great when he was first picked up but his play tapered off the longer he was on the field. He’s an ok player but as a starter, he may not be the answer.

The Raiders need to sign a physical LB that can shore up the position and they still haven’t found that.

Defensive Backs:

Clean House. For years the Raiders have wasted a ton of money, draft picks and signings on DB’s to fix their defense and it hasn’t worked. I’d rather spend less money on them and more money on the DL. The Matt McGloin fan club has almost been as annoying as the DJ Hayden fan club. No he’s not a shut down corner.   No he’s not a great slot cover guy.   Let him go. It didn’t work and I said it when he was drafted; it was a bad pick and it’s time to move on.

When Raider fans last year had David Amerson as the king of the world while holding up Pro Football Focus stats, I said hold your horses and give it time. I was right. Amerson is good on outs and short to mid range passes but he struggles a lot against the long ball. He was burned often this year with the deep ball and it’s the reason he struggled at Washington. The poor play of the safeties didn’t help him either.

Nate Allen has been a bust. He and Reggie Nelson take so many bad angles it’s hard to watch. Allen is an UFA and I let him go. Bad signing. TJ Carrie is more of a backup and Keith McGill was very bad at times and his days may be numbered.

Karl Joseph struggled in pass coverage but did well against the run for the most part.   Hopefully a healthy year and experience will fix that but the Raiders are hoping he’s not injury prone.

Sean Smith was a huge bust. Many of the people ripping on Smith now were applauding his signing back then (see, being a GM isn’t so easy). Smith is tentative and I’ve never seen a guy give so much cushion near the end zone. A couple of writers said he needs better technique; huh? So he’s great for 3 years but he forgot everything the next? Come on.   The truth is Smith played on a team known for their pass rush and great safety play at Kansas City. He seems to need it and he gets neither in Oakland.   The Raiders are stuck with him for one more year at least; possibly two.

Coaches:

Jack Del Rio has done a good job but these dumb penalties still need to be fixed.  Also, the Raiders lifeless performance against Denver can’t happen.  Even if you lose your QB you still die hard.  Del Rio has said the standards need to be higher now and that’s a good sign.

I don’t know what else Ken Norton Jr. was supposed to do. He did a great job at Seattle but Seattle had players. The Raiders LB’s are not good and their DB’s are worse.   Then add the poor DT play. Their Safeties and LB’s flat out can’t guard TE’s.   They have the worst pass rush in the NFL. Love to see what genius can make that work. The Raiders agree with me and are bringing back Ken Norton Jr. for 2017.

Some Raider fans are clamoring for Wade Phillips to take over as DC. Only thing is, Denver was 28th in the NFL against the run this year and it was one of the main reasons they struggled. What was different? Stud run stopper Malik Jackson signed with Jacksonville and LB Danny Trevathan signed with Chicago. The year before? Denver was #3 in the NFL against the run. Did Phillips forget how to stop the run? No. He didn’t have the same players.   Coaches help but some fans need to stop giving all the credit to the players when they win and then blame the coaches when their favorites don’t play well.

I wrote this article below when Bill Musgrave was signed and I flat out didn’t get it. The Raiders letting him go is a good thing. (Conservative; poor adjustments in game). The Raiders have the 2nd best OL in the NFL and great talent on offense.  They were #6 in the NFL in offense because of their great talent; not because of Bill Musgrave.

The only thing is they sure like to hire their friends.   Todd Downing goes from QB coach to OC.   Downing is a good friend of Mike Tice who hired Downing in the early 2000’s when he was coaching the Vikings.   He has very limited success up until now. Time will tell. Rookie OC’s don’t tear up the NFL either for the most part.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/who-is-bill-musgrave-the-raiders-hire-a-new-offensive-coordinator/

How to Keep the Success:

With Mack and Carr making so little money compared to others, the Raiders have had it easy.   Now the hard work comes in. The Raiders can still keep their success but they have to stop taking reaches on some draft choices and their signings have to be right on. They also can’t keep dead wood around if they aren’t getting the job done or staying healthy.

Like everyone else, the Raiders have holes to fill; mainly on defense. For me, DT, LB and DB should be addressed in that order.   Personally, the Allen’s, Murray’s and Malcolm Smith’s of the Raider world may have to go. Even if they are doing a fairly good to good job, it’s all about the salary cap and staying under it. Look for the chips to fall after they sign Derek Carr. This will be the most important off season for the Raiders in 15 years, and one of the most interesting.  It will be stressful but exciting to see what they do.

“GRADES: Raiders Lose In Kansas City: Why Things Are Not as Bad as You Think In Oakland”

raiders-chiefs

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Kansas City Chiefs; Week 14:

Kansas City Chiefs  21 (10-3)

Oakland Raiders  13 (10-3)

In a cold winter night that resembled days of old, the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Raiders 21-13. Maybe traveling Raiders fans knew something when a flight from Oakland to Kansas City actually ran out of alcohol serving thirsty fans; this would be a tough one.  The Raiders lost to the Chiefs and went from the #1 seed to the #5 seed in a NY minute.

http://www.sfgate.com/raiders/article/Airplane-Raiders-fans-Kansas-City-no-alcohol-10784175.php

Maybe though it was having 3 turnovers in KC territory and ending up with only 6 points from it. Maybe it was a bad day for the offense and Derek Carr.  The Raiders found out living on the edge against bad to average teams is a lot easier than magical comebacks against a good team like the Chiefs.

Quarterback:

I thought annoying Cris Collinsworth was going to start a Gofundme account for Derek Carr’s pinkie.  His over dramatics make Jack Buck seem pleasant.  Carr was interviewed after the game by ESPN and others and he said he was fine.  Funny how he was fine against Buffalo and now some fans have him near death.  Carr said he wasn’t cold and his hand felt so good he didn’t even wear a glove.  “I just had a bad game”.

Carr is now 1-5 against the Chiefs and in the last 2 games at Arrowhead he has been off target amazingly on 29 passes.  This wasn’t a one time thing.  Why do they have his number?  In the first game the Chiefs blitzed constantly.  In this game with Justin Houston back they didn’t have to.  Since high school Carr’s weakness is throwing under pressure.  For most of the year he hasn’t had any pressure.  Kansas City’s pass rush had him off balance all night.  Carr floated 2 long passes that were wide open; too much loft.

Since last year against Minnesota, some teams try to take away the deep ball by playing 2 deep zone; the safeties playing back to protect the CB’s.  Kansas City has done that a lot against Carr.  When you don’t have to blitz to get a pass rush it makes it even more successful.

GRADE: D-

Carr was 17 for 41 for 117 yards with no TD’s or interceptions.  In 2 games against KC he has 1 TD pass.  NOT a coincidence.  There were several times when KC was a sucker for a screen and I thought Carr didn’t audible as well as he has in past games.  Just a bad day all around.

Running Backs:

The second the Chiefs leader LB Derrick Johnson blew out his Achilles heel, the Raiders run game excelled.  The Chiefs really don’t have a solid LB backup to replace Johnson and it showed.  Latavius Murray ran for over 100 yards and the Raiders avg. 4.3 yards a carry for RB’s.  Not a bad night with 135 yards.

Grade B-

The Raiders RB’s never got too involved in the passing game which hurt the Raiders.  Part of that was Carr but it was an issue.

Offensive Line:

When I wrote last week that the Raiders offensive line was the co MVP of the NFL some laughed.  No one’s laughing now.  When they don’t protect Carr well, he struggles.

With Cris Collinsworth’s dramatics about Keleche Osemele not playing, you would have thought the Raiders should just forfeit and give up.  The Raiders run game rushed for 135 yards without him.  In the passing game at times they struggled protecting Carr which is job 1 for this unit and that’s where he was really missed.  Carr was flushed out of the pocket for much of the night and was uncomfortable for most of the game.

Grade C

Just like in the first game, Carr was forced out of the pocket and had to throw quicker than he wanted to.  Not a bad game on the ground but the pass protection didn’t cut it.

Wide Receivers:

The television media sure isn’t saying much, but on the long pass to Amari Cooper, many KC Chiefs fans online have said that it was obvious that the ball hit a wire coming from the tv camera that floats around the stadium for better views.  They didn’t say a word during the game about it.  Cooper said he was ready to catch it and then suddenly it just dropped straight down.

Overall a tough game.  With Carr being off and catches being dropped, this was the worst passing game for the Raiders.  Seth Roberts dropped 2 passes in the red zone and Crabtree and Cooper had their issues too.  Bad game all around.

GRADE: D-

The worst game of the year for this unit.

Defensive Line:

Overall a good game.  The Raiders obviously made it a point to stop the run and they did.  Dan Williams clogged the middle and Justin Ellis even pitched in.  Bruce Irvin did have his issues at times against the run but the Raiders pass rush was pretty good with Kahlil Mack causing another turnover.

Grade: B+

One of their better games.  Even with the Chiefs quick passing game and getting only 1 sack on the night, the Raiders put pressure on Alex Smith often.

Linebackers:

Another rough game.  The Raiders plan for TE Travis Kelce was to put a LB on him and then if needed have a Safety give help.  The help was often not there or late and Kelce over matched the LB’s.  They played better in the run game this week but part of that was the excellent play of the DL.

Grade C

The Raiders had to stop Kelce and they didnt.

Defensive Backs:

All year David Amerson has struggled against fast WR who can go deep.  He was burned again this week.  In the medium to short passes he’s good; the deep ball though; not so much.

TJ Carrie seems to have gotten his confidence back; he had 2 solid plays and a key interception that helped the Raiders get back into the game.  The safeties again struggled with help on deep balls.  Nate Allen’s angles were as bad as Nelson’s have been.  Alex Smith was 3-3 on passes 30 yards or longer.  Again, Alex Smith.

Grade C  

The Raiders defense was torched in the 1st half but played better in the second including the DB’s.

Coaching:

The Raiders need to come out no huddle right from the beginning.  Against Buffalo and in other comebacks, the no huddle has been highly successful.  Why not use it early? You can’t expect to start slow every game and come back and win. Punting to Tyreek Hill at all was another head scratcher.

The worst blunder though was with 2:06 to go in the game with 3rd and 1 at the KC 14. Instead of running the ball the Raiders threw to Andre Holmes in the corner which was well defended.  On the next play Austin Howard commits a penalty and now it’s 4th and 6.  Pass defended to the left side; game over.  The Chiefs without Johnson could not stop the run anymore and to not run the ball was a huge mistake.  There was plenty of time and the Raiders had 2 time outs.  The Raiders on their last drive ran the ball 6 times for 30 yards. You can’t run the ball twice for 1 yard?

Grade D+

All Jack Del Rio’s jokes about the Raiders penalties didn’t seem so funny anymore.  Austin Howard’s penalty on the last drive really hurt them.  They have to start better on offense; go no huddle immediately.

Special Teams:

Janikowski was perfect on the night but then it got ugly.  Jack Del Rio admitted that the Raiders were trying to punt to the left but then Marquette King kicked the ball in the middle of the field and Tyreek Hill ran the punt back for a TD against only 4 defenders.  Travis Kelce’s riding the horse dance in front of King was loved by the media and Chiefs fans alike.  The Raiders gave up 172 yards in the return game and their own return game was invisible.  Worst game of the year for this group.

Raiders long snapper Jon Condo had a poor snap that was muffed by Marquette King which cost the Raiders 3 points.  King didn’t do a good job of securing it either.

Grade D

Janikowski good; everything else a train wreck.

Conclusion:

Alex Smith is 9-1 in games against the Raiders and Derek Carr is 1-5 against KC.  Until the Raiders can solve the Chiefs quick passing game and keep defenders off of Carr, this trend will continue.

Why This Loss Isn’t as Bad As First Thought:

Dry your eyes Raider fans.  Let’s look at why this loss isn’t as bad as you think.

First, to the fans that said it was too cold for the Raiders to play well, I’m sorry but that is ridiculous.  Al Davis didn’t say “Just Win Baby Unless It’s Cold”.  The weather was a steady 20F and if you can’t play in cold then you are not going to do much in the post season.  KC torched the Raiders in the first half.  Funny how the cold didn’t hurt them.

No, Derek Carr’s finger wasn’t falling off.  He just had a bad game.  Against Buffalo he was just fine.  In Kansas City he was harassed all night; it happens.  Even Carr said he was fine and they will bounce back.

DENVER:  Denver has the hardest schedule in the NFL the last 4 weeks.  They go to Tennessee Sunday and then host New England.  They also have to go to Arrowhead on Christmas day and then host the Raiders on New Years day.  Hard to think with their struggles with run defense and QB that they will sweep.

KANSAS CITY:  KC has an easier road but they are not the same team without LB Derrick Johnson.  If people think they are going to stop the run with backup LB’s and hybrid safeties playing in the middle, they are crazy.

The Chiefs have Tennessee and DeMarco Murray at home next week; they host Denver and then they are on the road to SD who were destroying them in week 1 until the Philip Rivers express swallowed the olive late in the game.  If Denver concentrates on their run game, I see the Chiefs losing to Denver.

RAIDERS:  The Raiders lick their wounds and travel to SD.  They’ve won 3 in a row there and tend to score at will against the Chargers who have given up over 30 points in the last 3 meetings in San Diego.  It won’t be easy but its very winnable.  They then host the Colts who have little to no defense and a poor OL but they also have Andrew Luck who can carry them to a win against anyone. Then the game in Denver on New Years Day.  Yes it will be cold.

Jims Jamz:

Obviously you go week by week (save the emails) but for the sake of looking ahead, Denver probably loses at least another game and the Raiders should win at least 2 of those games. Again SHOULD. I see the worst case scenario is that the Raiders finish 1 game behind or tied with KC.  If that happens the Raiders will be in the playoffs.  I don’t see KC sweeping but there is a possibility because they always play Denver tough and have already beaten them once on the road.  I just think the Broncos will gut out a win with no Johnson at LB. They can’t look past the running game of Tennessee.

Outside of New England; just like most of the NFL; the rest of the AFC just isn’t very good.  Houston is tied for first place in the AFC South at 6-6 with a -50 point differential!

Look for a big game from the Raiders in San Diego.  They weren’t ready for prime time yet and that was a bad loss in KC, but a Chargers game is just what they need.

During times like these, fans either throw players under the bus or blindly make excuses. The Raiders will do neither.  They will own up that they lost, and will come back with a great effort next week.  If my scenario rings true and Denver beats KC, then the Raiders can win the west in Denver on the last game of the year.  Wow won’t that be fun. Get ready for a wild ride.  The fun is just beginning and with every week, comes a new story and scenario.  Even after a bad loss, I’m sure for Raider fans this sure beats NFL draft talk this time of year.

“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.

“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.

“GRADES; Raiders Magic v.s. Chargers Curse; Looking ahead to rival Kansas City”

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Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Baltimore Ravens; Week 4:

San Diego Chargers  31 (1-4)

Oakland Raiders  34 (4-1)

In a crazy game in Oakland, the Raiders outlasted the San Diego Chargers 34-31.

Overview:

There are some years where everything seems to go right and so far all the bad years in Oakland are forgotten for the moment.  The San Diego media; usually very soft on their teams; sliced and diced the Chargers like a Ginsu knife commercial while the Raiders and their fans basked in the California sunshine.  The Chargers have been train wrecks late in games.  Add a punter who has now played key roles in losing 2 games, and the fervor for the city of San Diego to want to have the Chargers stay has waned a bit. With another fourth quarter fail which has been the downfall of QB Phillip Rivers career, the Raiders again did just enough to chalk up their 4th victory of the season.  Rivers is a good QB but I don’t like when they say all time great because he isn’t.

Don’t look now but the Raiders are now tied for first place with the Broncos who found out quick Rookie QB Paxton Lynch holds onto the ball longer than a 4 year old on Christmas morning.  As for the Raiders, the magic goes on.

Quarterback:

Carr had a pretty good day.  In the first 4 games of the season, Carr had been TOUCHED only 7 times.  (Colts QB Andrew Luck has been sacked 20 times and touched 39 times).  The offensive line has been amazing.  In the Chargers game they blitzed Carr often and he struggled at times.  Carr made a poor throw on the interception during the screen, and also avoided another interception when San Diego backup CB Steve Williams flat out dropped an easy pass.  On the good side Carr calmed down and clicked with Amari Cooper much of the day, and his long throws were great.

The Chargers brought up a safety much of the game to help with the run defense and that freed up Cooper in a lot of easy matches against backups due to injuries.  Easy pickings for a quality WR like Cooper.  If they play 2 deep, throw to Crabtree; if they try to stop the run, go to Cooper.

GRADE: B –

Carr’s connections to Cooper were nice to see.  He was sacked 3 times and his throws were rushed in the first half.  I like Carr and his poise.  The key though isn’t Carr, the key is keeping people off of him.

Running Backs:

Most fans don’t notice it but wow, do the Raiders miss TE Lee Smith who is maybe the best run blocking TE in the NFL.  The Chargers game plan was to rush Carr and stop the run.  They now have the 13th best run defense in the NFL.  The Raiders rushed for 89 yards but their RB’s also caught 12 passes for 97 yards.  Their pass blocking wasn’t bad as well having to deal with the blitzes of the Chargers.  They looked fast out of the backfield and were a key part to the win.

Grade B

In the 3 key facets of the game, they played well.  They didn’t have a lot of breakdowns in pass blocking.  The Chargers wanted to stop the run so they improvised.  I liked the effort, speed and the results of everyone.

Offensive Line:

The Raiders are now #1 in sacks allowed in the NFL.  The Raiders OL continues to be the glue that holds this team together.  The Chargers really came after Carr and disrupted his rhythm at times.  The OL also had several penalties that still are a problem.  Not the best day of the season for this group but they got the job done.

Grade B-

They still played fairly well but Carr did get hit more than any other game and the Chargers weren’t bad stopping the run.  The penalties eventually will catch up to the Raiders if they don’t fix them.

Wide Receivers:

Overall this was another quality game from this group.  As long as Crabtree and Cooper don’t start worrying about their TD’s and catches, this is a solid tandem that is as good as any in the game right now.  Crabtree had a drop but in the end came through with the key TD grab.  Cooper was given one on one coverage more than at any time this year and he made the Chargers pay.  Andre Holmes and Seth Roberts contribute as well.

GRADE: A

The Chargers defensive backfield is a mess with so many injuries but this was still a quality performance and break out game for Cooper.

Defensive Line:

I’ve been saying for a while that Dan Williams needs to be playing more and rookie Jihad Ward a lot less.  The Raiders listened and their run defense improved.  Williams played 28 plays; by far the most he’s played all year; and Ward’s playing time was cut in half.  Williams even had half a sack.  San Diego only had 72 yards rushing on 19 carries.

The pass rush was a little better getting to Rivers twice, but overall he had time to throw for most of the day.  The Raiders are now 27th in the NFL in sacks with only 7 in 5 games.

Grade: B-

The Raiders were good against the run and not so good against the pass.  This pass rush isn’t scaring anyone right now but with Williams playing more their run defense is much better.

Linebackers:

The Raiders LB’s played well against the run.  In the blitzes they did though, there was only occasional push.  Cory James struggled all day covering the pass.  Newly signed Perry Riley Jr. lead the team in tackles.  He was beaten on a couple of pass plays but his forced fumble on Antonio Gates was a huge play early.  The Raiders overall struggled with the tight ends again giving over 100 yards passing and 2 TD’s to Hunter Henry and Gates.

Grade C+

I said it at the start of the season; there are going to be plenty of highs and lows with this group.  Riley Jr. played instead of Malcolm Smith and he was a burst of energy to the team but at times its a struggle.

Defensive Backs:

The Raiders defensive backs are going to also have ups and downs all year.  They struggle against fast WR and they did again Sunday.  They gave up 3 plays over 50 yards and Rivers threw for 359 yards total and an amazing 17.1 yards a reception.  Amerson was beat deep twice and Travis Benjamin juked him for a long pass and run.  Sean Smith had an INT but he also was torched often.  The last 2 weeks Oakland played 2 teams with little team speed at WR and they looked good.  Against New Orleans, Atlanta, & San Diego who have fast WR, they struggled.  Not a coincidence.  The 2 starting WR for the Chargers caught 12 passes for 234 yards and a TD.  Smith and Amerson really struggled all day.

Karl Joseph several times played 5-8 yards near the line of scrimmage for much of the game to stop the run and the short TE pass.  It also freed up their WR’s though for the long ball with one less safety.  I’m not a Reggie Nelson fan; he takes a lot of bad angles when he helps.  Joseph got his first INT when Rivers just heaved one.

Grade D  

They will struggle against speed, and thrive against teams that lack it.  Giving up 17.1 yards a catch in today’s game is bad.  Really bad.

Coaching:

I didn’t get why the Raiders were so worried about the running game of San Diego when it’s ranked 20th in the NFL and really isn’t that great.  I also don’t get if you have a good offense why they just lay back.  Playing bad teams you can get away with that but they need a killer instinct.  With 4 turnovers and 4 drives starting in San Diego territory, this is a game you need to hang a 40 on them and send a message.  It’s just too conservative on offense for my taste.  Some fans want Rocky Road and the Raiders are serving Vanilla.  It’s not a huge issue but I dont like playing good enough to win because eventually you won’t.

Grade B

With the rules of today, there is no reason why the Raiders should not be hanging 40’s on these bad defenses.  What good is having a Hemi if you are driving the speed limit all the time; take it to the track and let it go!

Special Teams:

Marquette King is a force.  Janikowski was awful on one FG try; not close; but redeemed himself.  The return game wasn’t a big factor and the coverage teams were fine.

Grade A-

Solid day all around other than the missed field goal.

Conclusion:

Already in 4 losses this season Rivers had chances to seal the games or win them with 4th quarter drives and his offenses failed several times; the story of his career.  The Raiders played well enough to win but there still is work to do especially on defense.

Explaining the Raiders/Chiefs Rivalry:

Kansas City Chiefs:

When everyone was screaming the KC Chiefs will win the West, I said no way.  There are 3 reasons why; no pass rush, Alex Smith and Andy Reid.  I told 49er fans at the time after the 49ers beat the Saints in the playoffs that you are not going to hoist any trophies in the NFL throwing 1-3 yard passes with Alex Smith.  Reid and Smith are just too conservative.  Their unwillingness to take chances throwing to WR is of legend.  The Chiefs running game also has suffered and with an aging Tamba Hali and an ailing Justin Houston who will probably miss most of the season, this team has no pass rush and are now 31st in sacks.

Outlook:

Raider fans hold on to your seats because this is going to be a wild one.  Nothing is going to be easy but the Raiders should be favored for almost every game looking ahead.  Look for another close game with the Chiefs.  The Raiders defense has holes but this offense is good.  With Kansas City and Carolina struggling, the Raiders schedule is a lot easier than first thought.  Other than Denver the Raiders don’t play any elite team.  No Minnesota, New England, Dallas, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.  All of a sudden this really is turning into a magical year.  Fans can afford to go overboard but teams can’t.  Look for the Raiders to take every week the same and not overlook anyone.  For older Raiders fans the Chiefs are the big rival game that they look forward to every year.

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

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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.