Another week, another game it feels like the Oakland Raiders can win. But will they?
With a “home” game against the Seattle Seahawks on the early morning docket on Sunday (it’s in London), here are five things to watch and one prediction:
A lot has been made this week about the Raiders’ decision to leave a day later than the Seahawks in their travel plans to London. Regardless of when you leave, the idea of going that far for that brief a trip, jet lag is going to be a real thing — but how much of an impact will it have on Sunday?
The Raiders have run out of steam twice already this season — in Denver and Miami — and this trip to London could be a good barometer as to whether or not this group has improved their conditioning since then.
Last week, the offensive line for the Raiders was a mess — something I’ve already touched on this week. On Sunday, the Raiders will once again trot out a patchwork line — featuring two rookie tackles and Jon Feliciano (filling in for Kelechi Osemele, who is listed as doubtful). The question is, can they hold up?
While the idea of a Seattle defense used to strike fear into opposing offenses, the truth is that this group — especially with Earl Thomas out — isn’t the same Legion of Boom we’re used to. Entering the week, the Seahawks are 22nd in the league in sacks (10). If the Raiders offense is going to start clicking, it’s going to require some faith in the guys up front — whether or not that faith is earned remains to be seen.
Stop the Run
In his last two games, Seattle running back Chris Carson has eclipsed the 100-yard mark — with 116 yards last week against the Rams and 102 yards against the Cowboys. Meanwhile, for the Raiders, they’ve spent the last two weeks watching opposing running backs blaze past them — with the Browns’ backs combining for 253 total yards and the Chargers going for 185 total yards. We know Russell Wilson will get his, but if the Raiders can make Seattle one-dimensional, it will go a long ways towards making this trip to London a successful one.
Tyler Lockett and the Oakland Speed Problem
If you had to identify one weakness for the Raiders defensively — one thing that has appeared to be their kryptonite — I think the best answer I’d come up with is speed. The truth is, the Oakland defense is probably still having nightmares about the Miami game when speedsters Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant both had touchdowns of over 50-yards.
Thus far this season, the Raiders have allowed the fourth-most plays of 20+ yards (23) and the most of 40+ yards (six). On the other side of the ball this week is Tyler Lockett, one of the league’s most dangerous return men and a guy Seattle is finally figuring out how to use within their offense. So far this year, Lockett has touchdowns in four of his team’s five games, with three plays of over 40+ yards on the season. Can the Raiders fix their problems with big plays and contain Lockett?
Derek Carr, No Picks
I know this isn’t the section for predictions, but I’m making one anyways: no picks this week for Derek Carr. If true, this would be quite the accomplishment with the Seahawks ranking second in the league in interceptions entering the week (nine) — and Carr still leading the league with eight of his own. If Carr can take care of the ball and force Seattle to earn everything on their own, I think this game could be a turning point and a confidence booster for a quarterabck desperately in need of one.
Prediction: 27-21, Raiders
The best news of all for the Raiders is that Seattle just isn’t good. They’ve got two wins on the season, but both are against two of the worst teams in football (Arizona, Dallas). That said, the Raiders haven’t been much to write home about either. The reason I like the Raiders is because I think the veterans on this team are going to stop this from going off the rails — none of them are here for a season of tanking, and this is the type of game you need to win to make this season respectable.