By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer
OAKLAND, Calif — Winners of four straight games for the first time since 2002, the Raiders look to continue their winning ways at home Sunday when the Silver and Black welcome the Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers to the Oakland Coliseum.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw two of his three touchdowns in the final frame to lift Oakland to a 27-20 “home” victory over the Houston Texans (6-4) on ESPN’s Monday Night Football to close out Week 11.
The game was played at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, which last hosted an NFL game in 2005 when the Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-14 in a game that aired on ESPN’s Monday Night Football too.
Carr is continuing to have an outstanding 2016 season, throwing for 2,800 yards with 20 touchdowns with just four interceptions. The third-year signal caller is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and is being touted as an MVP candidate.
At 8-2, Oakland is tied with the New England Patriots for the best record in the AFC and holds a one-game lead in the AFC West over the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos who are both 7-3.
Denver hosts Kansas City on Sunday night in a highly anticipated matchup on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
The Raiders appear to be jelling at the right time on both sides of the ball.
Despite losing the time of possession 36:27 to 23:33, allowing 104 rushing yards to running back Lamar Miller, and 22 first downs to Houston, Oakland’s defense made life difficult to the Texans’ offense by forcing two turnovers.
Linebackers Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith, along with rookie safety Karl Joseph were all over the field racking up 10 tackles a piece. Smith also intercepted a Brock Osweiler pass in the second quarter.
Carolina (4-6) is having a tough season following the franchise’s second trip to the Super Bowl.
The reigning NFC Champions are dealing with a slew of injuries to key players following a 23-20 victory in Week 11 over division rival New Orleans at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (concussion), defensive end Mario Addison (foot), and center Ryan Khalil (shoulder) are all out for Sunday’s game.
Kuechly, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year winner, leads Carolina in tackles (71) while Addison, the team’s most disruptive pass rusher, leads the Panthers with 6.5 sacks.
Khalil, a two-time All-Pro at center, is Carolina’s best offensive lineman and the main protector for franchise quarterback Cam Newton.
Newton threw for 192 yards and one touchdown as Carolina nearly blew another 17-point lead the way they did in their Week 10 home lost to Kansas City, holding off a Saints team that scored 17 unanswered points in the final frame after trailing 23-3 entering the fourth quarter.
Oakland will have its hands full dealing with a Carolina offense that includes running back Jonathan Stewart, tight end Greg Olsen, and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
Olsen is by far Newton’s favorite weapon and one of the premier tight ends in the league.
Not only does the 10-year tight end from Miami leads all NFL tight ends in receptions (54) and yards (745), but leads the Panthers in those categories while tied with wide receiver Devin Funchess for second on the team with three touchdown grabs behind Benjamin’s four scores.
Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. PT.