With two games remaining in the regular season, Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio and quarterback Derek Carr have a message for the team. Although they have clinched a playoff birth, the critical playoff seeding and AFC West remain up for grabs.
The Raiders were able to secure a 19-16 win over the San Diego Chargers, while the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Tennessee Titans on a last second field goal. Because of that turn of events, the Raiders jumped back up to the No. 2 position in the AFC West.
Throughout the season, Del Rio instilled the same message to his roster. When in the NFL you must always respect your opponent, but never fear them. With a business-like mentality, the Raiders assemble game plans and take the NFL in a week-by-week scenario.
Carr, who has lifted the Raiders to 11 regular season victories, has also turned into a team leader. He and Khalil Mack have taken captain duties of the offense and defensive unit, challenging their groups to remain prepared for what comes ahead.
During the post game press conference after the victory, Carr stated the weight is on their shoulders and constant preparation in practice will guide them to victory, via Raiders.com:
“There’s two games left, and we have to take care of business,” Carr stated. “It’s on our shoulders. It’s on us and that’s all that matters. We can’t think about anything else other than getting ready for the Colts, who are a great football team. We have to make sure we prepare and compete our tails off in practice.”
The Week 16 matchup has the Raiders returning to the Oakland Coliseum, in their first contest since clinching the postseason birth. Although the contest against the Chargers felt like a home game, they can now return to the black hole and celebrate with their fan base.
Players on the roster will be the first to tell you that just clinching a playoff birth isn’t enough, with them being focused on the greater goal at hand.
Carr has emerged as a frontrunner in the MVP conversation with his play this season, lifting the offense in many explosive outbursts. In 14 games this season, Carr has 3705 passing yards, along with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. The 25-year-old has been sacked a league-low 15 times this season, a testament to the exquisite play of the offensive line.
Although Carr has been statistically dominant this season, he stated that the ultimate goal of the team is to simply keep winning:
“Just win. That’s what we say,” Carr said. “Stats are fun for people to look at and try to compare, but we just want to win. I promise, there is something in everyone in that locker room and I think that’s why we win. Our mindset is we just want to go out there, do our job and help the man next to us so that we can win.”
The 2016 season has been a season of growing for the Raiders. Although the team has lost only three contests, Del Rio has insisted on learning from their mistakes in order to grow as a team.
Linebacker Malcolm Smith, who is a Super Bowl MVP, also reiterated similar thoughts in stating the team is still growing and is slated to hit their stride at the right time.
The Raiders can potentially clinch the AFC West and a first-round bye on Saturday, if they can beat the Indianapolis Colts and witness the Chiefs lose their second consecutive day. This Saturday can potentially turn into a key day in franchise history, especially with the organizational dilemma regarding the possible relocation of the franchise.