NFL Playoffs: Raiders have tough road ahead in Houston

Oakland Raiders tackle Donald Penn lies on the turf with an injury in the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

HOUSTON, TX — Already having to deal with the loss of starting quarterback Derek Carr after the signal-caller broke his fibula in Week 16 at home against the visiting Indianapolis Colts, the Silver and Black were dealt a major blow as starting left tackle Donald Penn was ruled out for Saturday’s AFC Wild-Card playoff game against the Houston Texas at NRG Stadium.

Penn was hurt in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 24-6 loss at Denver in the regular season finale. Even though Penn returned to the game, he didn’t look the same and struggled to move on the snap.

With the loss of the Penn, starting right tackle Menelik Watson will move to left tackle, while durable lineman Austin Howard is expected to slide into Watson’s spot at right tackle.

Penn will miss his first game after starting 155 consecutive games in his career.

Penn, along with left guard Keleche Osemele and center Rodney Hudson were named to the AFC Pro Bowl team as the nucleus of a Raiders’ offensive line that allowed a league-low 18 sacks during the regular season.

Any quarterback would relish at the opportunity to play behind that type of protection, especially rookie Connor Cook, who will become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to make his first career start in the playoffs.

But Penn is the one offensive lineman that Oakland could ill-afford to lose because of his great play in both the running and passing games. Oakland just mustered 57 yards rushing against the Broncos.

Oakland faces a Houston defense that finished No. 1 in the league in total defense and according to Pro Football Focus, ranks int he top-five in the league in both the blitz and pressures per cbssports.com.

Playing the majority of the season without wrecking ball defensive end J.J. Watt, still Houston’s linebackers Whitney Mercilus (7.5) and Benardrick McKinney (5.0), along with defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (6.0) combine for 18.5 of Houston’s 31 sacks during the regular season.

McKinney leads Houston with 129 tackles, while Clowney was named to his first AFC Pro Bowl team.

Cook will  have the tough task of leading a Raiders team that finished 12-4, earning the franchise their first playoff berth since 2002 where Oakland made a trip to the Super Bowl, but don’t expect Cook to be rattled.

Cook did admit that he was “nervous” when he replaced backup quarterback Matt McGloin during Oakland’s loss at Denver, as he completed 14-of-21 passes for 150 yards, a touchdown and an interception in relief. McGloin hurt his shoulder in the second quarter and remained on the sideline for the remainder of the game.

Oakland did sign former practice squad quarterback Garrett Gilbert during the week to the team and is expected to serve as Cook’s backup Saturday.

If Cook can get the time to showcase his strong arm behind a reshuffled, but still stout offensive line, he’ll have two 1,000-yard receivers to throw to who can make plays in second-year standout Amari Cooper (83 catches, 1,153 yards, and 5 TDs) and Michael Crabtree (89 catches, 1,003 yards, and 8 TDs).

The last time that the Silver and Black won a road playoff game in the Wild-Card round: Dec. 28, 1980 when Jim Plunkett tossed two touchdowns to lead Oakland past former Raider great and Hall of Famer Ken Stabler’s Houston Oilers 27-7 at the now closed Houston Astrodome.

In addition to Houston finishing with the league’s top defense, Houston finished behind Denver in passing yards allowed, surrendering just 201.6 yards per game during the regular season.

Houston’s starting strong safety Quintin Demps finished second in the NFL with six interceptions combined that with 55 tackles is the anchor of the secondary.

There is no question that Houston’s defense led by defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel who is one of the greats calling defenses in history, will come to play at 3:35 p.m. CT (1:35 p.m. PT for us West Coasters), but Houston’s quarterback situation is just as suspect as Oakland’s.

Quarterback Brock Osweiler is back in the starting lineup for the Texans after quarterback Tom Savage suffered a concussion in Houston’s 24-17 loss at Tennessee to close out the regular season.

Houston (9-7) already wrapped up the AFC South and the No. 4-seed.

Savage didn’t pass the NFL’s concussion protocol, meaning journeyman quarterback Brandon Weeden will serve as Osweiler’s backup.

During a Week 15 matchup at home against Jacksonville, Osweiler threw two first half interceptions that led to a 20-8 lead for the Jaguars and the boo-birds started to cascade down  from the home crowd before Savage replaced and ineffective Osweiler (6-of-11 for 48 yards), to the delight of the Texan crowd.

Savage completed 23-of-36 passes for 260 yards helping Houston come from behind with a 21-20 victory, prompting head coach Bill O’Brien to name Savage the starter for the remainder of the season, benching Osweiler.

The Texans were embarrassed last season in the playoffs, getting thumped 30-0 at home thanks to quarterback Brian Hoyer’s five turnovers. Hoyer’s performance (15-of-34/136 yards/4 INTs) was the cyanide pill that Houston swallowed ending their season.

After signing a four-year $72 million ($37 million guaranteed) contract in the offseason with Houston after four years in Denver as the so-called heir apparent to future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, Osweiler was an average quarterback throwing for 2,957 yard, 15 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions with a 72.2 passer rating.

It’ll be interesting to see how Osweiler, who threw for 253 yards on 21-of-40 passes and a touchdown against the Titans after Savage left the game with the concussion, performs in his first start since his benching.

Houston will look to get super talented wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins more involved in the passing game. Hopkins led Houston with 78 catches for 954 yards and was tied with tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz for the team lead in touchdown catches with four.

Running back Lamar Miller will see a lot of action against the Raiders, after missing Houston’s final two games of the regular season with a nagging ankle injury. The Texans didn’t list the 1,000-yard rusher on their injury report.

In the first matchup against the two teams (a 27-20 Raiders’ victory in Mexico City), Oakland had trouble stopping  Miller, who rushed for 104 yards on 24 carries, including a 1-yard score.

Oakland’s defense, led by defensive end Khalil Mack, will have to get in the face of Osweiler on dropbacks and stop Miller from turning 2-yard runs into 5-to-7-yard runs to have a realistic shot at advancing to the Divisional Round and a trip to either New England or Kansas City next weekend.

Mack, who is the unquestioned engine that powers the Raiders’ defense, is key and must perform for the Silver and Black. Mack was named to the Associated Press’ All-Pro First Team for his 73 tackles, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles, and one interception (a pick-6 no less).

With all that being said: with no Carr, no Penn, a third-string rookie quarterback making NFL history with his first career start coming in a playoff game, and a reshuffled offensive line, the Raiders have the deck stacked high against them to pull out a victory.

Prediction?

Raiders over Houston, 23-21, behind a Sebastian Janikowski game-winning field goal with time expiring. Cook will drive Oakland into field goal range.

Call me crazy, but that’s why the first weekend of the NFL Playoffs are “wild” for a reason because someone who people least expect make a name for themselves on this stage.

Cook could be that player for Oakland.

 

Raiders try to wrap up AFC West title in Denver without Derek Carr in regular season finale

Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, left, watches as quarterback Derek Carr, bottom, is tended to by trainers during the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — With a playoff spot already in their back pocket, the Raiders have a chance to clinch the AFC West title with a win in Denver (or a Kansas City loss in San Diego) Sunday at 1:25 p.m. to close out the 2016 regular season at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

But the 12-3 Raiders are going to have to go out and win the division (and the AFC’s No. 2 seed) without franchise quarterback and MVP candidate Derek Carr. Carr fractured his right fibula during Oakland’s 33-25 win over the visiting Indianapolis Colts in Week 16 on Christmas Eve.

The third-year quarterback completed 21-of-31 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns before being helped off the field following a sack by Colts defensive end Trent Cole in the third quarter. Carr’s leg got stuck in the Oakland Coliseum turf as Cole spun Carr around, fracturing his right fibula. On the season, Carr passed for 3,933 yards, 28 touchdowns, and just six interceptions.

The loss of Carr is devastating for the Silver and Black as they embark on their first postseason appearance since 2002, but Carr’s backup Matt McGloin is a guy that is ready for the challenge of leading a very talented team.

“I feel great,” McGloin said this week via CBSSports.com. “I know this team, these guys around me, this staff and this organization will do a great job of helping me out, embracing me, and making sure we keep moving in the right direction.”

McGloin, who threw for 1,547 yards, eight touchdowns, and eight interceptions in six starts for Oakland in 2013, will have the same offensive unit that took down the Broncos 30-20 in Week 9 in front of the country on NBC’s Sunday Night Football in the first matchup.

In his career, McGloin has thrown for 1,847 yards with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing 58.3 percent of his passes.

Starting running back Latavius Murray bludgeoned one of the league’s best defenses on 20 carries for 114 yards and three touchdowns that night in front of a sold out Raider Nation crowd at the Oakland Coliseum.

Rookie running back DeAndre Washington had career-day against the Colts, carrying the ball 12 times for a career-high 99 yards and two touchdowns, both for 22-yard scores that capped off four straight touchdowns for Oakland.

The tandem of Amari Cooper (78 catches, 1,110 yards, 4 TDs) and Michael Crabtree (84 catches, 956 yards, 8 TDs) are great weapons for the former Penn State quarterback to throw to.

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio believes in the closeness of his team and the coaches.

“We’ve got a good group of guys and a good group of men and a good group of coaches and players,” Del Rio said via CBSSports.com “who are going to work hard to put together a good plan, and we go out and expect to win.”

Denver (8-7), who will miss the playoffs this year after winning the Super Bowl last year, is coming off a 33-10 loss to Kansas City (11-4) on Christmas Night at frigid and rainy Arrowhead Stadium.

Kansas City racked up 484 yards of total offense and held a 21-7 lead in the first quarter against the once vaunted Broncos defense, highlighted by a 70-yard touchdown run by rookie speedster Tyreek Hill and an 80-yard catch-and-run score by tight end Travis Kelce.

Both Hill and Kelce were named to the AFC Pro Bowl team as starters with Hill being named as a return specialist for his first selection of his career.

Hill, who has superb hands is second on the Chiefs with 56 catches for 547 yards and six touchdowns, has 497 yards on 38 returns including a 78-yard punt return for a score against Oakland in a 21-13 victory on Dec. 9 in Kansas City.

Hill also has an 86-yard kickoff return for touchdown that helped Kansas City take the Broncos in overtime,  30-27, in Denver on Nov. 27.

Kelce earned his second-straight Pro Bowl nod by having another impressive year for Kansas City  with 84 catches for 1,117 yards and four touchdowns.

The playoff-bound Chiefs are hoping that Denver can knock off Oakland because a Raider loss would give Kansas City the No. 2 seed and the first-round bye, and knock Oakland to the No. 5 seed where they would open the playoffs on the road in either Pittsburgh or Houston on Wildcard Weekend.

But the Raiders have shown that they can win on the road this season going 6-1 (well 7-1 if you count playing in Mexico City that was technically considered a Raider “home” game), but that was with Carr under center, not McGloin.

Second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian has surpassed the 3,000-yard passing mark for the first time in his career with 3,195 yards, but has engineered a Broncos offense that scores just 20.6 points per game, 20th in the league.

Siemian has thrown for 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a 83.9 passer rating.

But according to Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak, Siemian will share some snaps this Sunday with former  first round draft pick Paxton Lynch.

“I think Trevor deserves the right to go back out there as a starter,” Kubiak said via the Denver Post. “He’s done a lot of good things this year. He’s a young player that needs to keep going.

“I want him to get the Kansas City taste out of his mouth. It was a tough outing. Paxton is also going to play. I’m preparing both and you’ll see them both in the game.”

Just like Oakland, Denver have a premiere wide receiving corps with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders leading the way.

Thomas leads the team with 86 catches for 1,036 yards and Sanders is second with 79 catches for 1,032 yards.

Both are tied for the team lead with five touchdowns a piece.

After starting the season 7-3, Denver is just 1-4 since.

Oakland won last season’s game in Denver on Dec. 13, 15-12, behind the dominate performance of defensive end Khalil Mack who tied a franchise-mark with five sacks off former Broncos quarterback now Houston Texas  high-priced backup, Brock Osweiler that day.

Raiders host Colts in home finale on Christmas Eve

Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) in action during an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016 in San Diego. Oakland won 19-16. (Aaron M. Sprecher via AP)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — Now that the Raiders have locked up an AFC playoff spot, the Silver and Black will look to earn a first-round bye.

The visiting Indianapolis Colts are just looking to stay afloat this season.

Oakland (11-3) will host Indianapolis (7-7) on Christmas Eve in the Raiders’ final home game of the regular season.

Kickoff set for 1:05 p.m. PT.

This game will feature two of the best young quarterbacks in the league in third-year trigger-man Derek Carr for Oakland, and fifth-year starter Andrew Luck for Indianapolis.

Carr has been dealing with a fractured right pinkie ever since he sustained the injury at home on Nov. 27 against the Carolina Panthers. Since that injury, Carr and the Raiders are 3-1.

On the season, Carr has passed for 3,705 yards, 25 touchdowns to just six interceptions, but has only completed 36-of-71 passes for 330 yards over the past two games.

The player that most have picked to be this year’s league MVP helped Oakland clinch its first playoff berth since 2002 with a 19-16 victory over the Chargers down in San Diego last Sunday. Oakland has the second-best record in the AFC behind the New England Patriots (12-2) and are one-game ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) for first place in the AFC with two games to go.

Carr was one of seven Raiders players, along with defensive Khalil Mack, wide receiver Amari Cooper, offensive lineman Keleche Osemele, Rodney Hudson, Donald Penn, and safety Reggie Nelson named to the AFC Pro Bowl team on Tuesday, the most players voted from one team.

Luck is having one of his better season, throwing for 3,631 yards, 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but Indianapolis is on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second straight season.

Indianapolis carved up the Vikings, 34-6, in Minnesota in Week 15 behind Luck’s 21-of-28 passing for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

Running back Frank Gore carried the ball 26 times for 101 yards and moved ahead of Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett for 10th all-time for most career yards from scrimmage. Gore, who should wind up in Canton, is just 109 yards shy of recording his ninth 1,000-yard rushing season in 12 seasons and would become the first Colts running back since Joseph Addai (1,072 rushing yards in 2007) to record a 1,000-yard rushing season.

Oakland’s defense has started to really come on recently, and now have two players this season who have won defensive player of the week for his performance on Sunday.

Linebacker Bruce Irvin joined Mack when he won the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against San Diego.

Irvin sacked Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers twice, and forced a Kenneth Farrow fumble on a third down play that was recovered by linebacker Malcolm Smith. Irvin also recorded six tackles in a strong performance for Oakland.

Irvin now has seven sacks and five forced fumbles for this season and he along with Mack’s 11 sacks, can add to their total against an Indianapolis offensive line that has gotten Luck sacked 40 times this season, tied for third most with the Denver Broncos.

 

 

Carr, Cooper, and Mack among seven Raiders selected to Pro Bowl

Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack, right, pressures San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — Quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and defensive end Khalil Mack headline seven Raiders (the most since 1991) selected to the AFC team for the 2017 Pro Bowl, the league announced Tuesday.

The 2017 Pro Bowl will be held at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, Jan. 29. Oakland’s seven players selected were the most selected from one team, with the Atlanta Falcons second with six players selected to the NFC squad.

Oakland (11-3), who clinched their first trip to the playoffs since 2002 with a 19-16 win in San Diego Sunday, hope that none of their players play in the NFL’s All-Star Game as they could be preparing to play for the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LI on Sunday, Feb. 5 in Houston, Texas at NRG Stadium.

Carr is having  career-year and is one of the favorites for the NFL’s MVP Award, throwing for 3,705 yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. The third-year signal caller has a 95.2 passer rating while engineering the NFL’s third-ranked scoring offense at 26.9 points per game.

Cooper is just finding his way in the league in only his second season out of Alabama, surpassing the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the second straight season with 1,038 receiving yards this year. Cooper recorded 1,070 receiving yards in his rookie season last year.

Mack, who had his streak of consecutive games with at least one sack snapped at eight in San Diego, is tied for fourth in the league with 11 sacks. No matter what sports page or blog you read, or sports talk show you watch and listen to, Mack’s name is mentioned as a strong candidate to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award.

Left tackle Donald Penn, left guard Kelechi Osemele, and center Rodney Hudson were selected from the AFC’s best offensive line that has only gotten Carr sacked a league-low 15 times this season. This is Penn’s second Pro Bowl nod, while this is the first selection for both Hudson and Osemele.

Safety Reggie Nelson  earned his second straight nod with his team-leading four interceptions.

The Raiders sent six players to last year’s game, with Mack, safety Charles Woodson, and fullback Marcel Reece being voted on the first ballot before Carr, Cooper, and running back Latavius Murray were selected as alternates.

The Silver and Black host the Indianapolis Colts (7-7) on Christmas Eve in Oakland’s final regular season home game.

 

Oakland heads to San Diego with playoff berth on the line

AP file photo – In a Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016 file photo, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo. It could be a remarkable scene Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016 when the Oakland Raiders, closing in on their first playoff berth since their Super Bowl season of 2002, face a fading Chargers franchise that could be in the death throes of its 56-season run in San Diego. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga, File)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — One more step, and the Oakland Raiders can end 14 years of misery and disappointment.

With a win over the Chargers in San Diego, Oakland can punch their ticket to the playoffs since the team’s last playoff appearance in 2002. That season ended with a trip to Super Bowl XXXVII where they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in San Diego.

Oakland (10-3) is tied for first place in the AFC West and has a two-game lead in the wild-card race with three games to go.

Can you believe it? It was just two years ago that the Silver and Black were just an abysmal mess, sitting at 0-10.

The Raiders saw their six-game winning streak snap by the Chiefs 21-13 in Kansas City last Thursday night.

Quarterback Derek Carr continues to have his issues with Kansas City, but the loss wasn’t entirely on his shoulders.

Carr completed just 17-of-41 passes for 117 yards, but the third-year signal caller was victimized by drops from wide receiver Seth Roberts and a missing on a potential game-tying touchdown deep down the middle to Amari Cooper in the third quarter.

Cooper’s led all Oakland wide receivers with five catches for 29 yards. Cooper, who eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season, enters Sunday’s matchup with 1,010 receiving yards and ranks sixth in the league with 73 catches.

With San Diego decimated by injuries (the Chargers have 18 players on injured reserve), this is a game where Carr, Cooper, and fellow wide receiver Michael Crabtree (71 catches, 806 receiving yards, and 7 TDs) can do some damage and get Oakland’s offensive fluidity back on track.

Khalil Mack is the center of the universe in Oakland’s 30th ranked defense, and is no doubt the leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

Mack is tied for third with Washington defensive end Ryan Kerrigan with 11 sacks and has recorded one sack in eight consecutive games. Mack also has 61 tackles, five forced fumbles, and one interception (a pick-6) on the season.

San Diego (5-8) is mercifully looking for the season to end and maybe playing Oakland for the last time at Qualcomm Stadium.

After San Diego voters shot down a stadium proposal last month, the Chargers inch closer to moving to Los Angeles when the NFL owners unanimously approved a tenant-lease contract between the Chargers and Los Angeles Rams on Wednesday.

The Chargers have until Jan. 15 to exercise an option to relocate to Los Angeles.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is on pace for his eighth 4,000-yard passing season with 3,589 yards and fifth 30-touchdown passing season with 27 touchdowns, but Rivers has been a turnover machine with a league-high 17 interceptions.

Rivers was solely responsible for five turnovers — three interceptions and two strip-sack fumbles in San Diego’s 28-16 loss at Carolina in Week 14.

As a team, San Diego has a league-worse 30 turnovers this season.

Running back Melvin Gordon, who is on the brink of his first 1,000-yard rushing season with 997 yards on the ground, is out for Sunday’s game with a hip injury. Gordon was carted off the field against Carolina.

With top wide receiver Keenan Allen lost for the season in Week 1 with a torn ACL, Tyrell Williams has become Rivers’ favorite deep-threat.

The second-year undrafted wide receiver from Western Oregon has been one of the brighter spots for San Diego this season, leading the team in catches (55), receiving yards 905, and tied for touchdowns (6).

Williams has three 100-yard receiving games this season, one of them was a five-catch, 117 yards and a touchdown against Oakland in Week 5.

Wide receiver Travis Benjamin, who signed with San Diego in the offseason, also recorded 117 receiving yards on seven catches in Oakland.

The Raiders, who have had trouble this season covering the tight end, must account for future Hall of Famer in Antonio Gates and rookie Hunter Henry who both scored against the Raiders.

Oakland has won the last three meetings against San Diego, most recently a 34-31 affair at the Oakland Coliseum on Oct. 9. Carr threw for 317 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while Rivers passed for 359 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions.

 

 

 

Red hot Raiders travel to frigid KC with AFC West at stake on TNF

AP photo: Oakland Raiders Derek Carr (4) speaks at the post game press conference following their game with the Buffalo Bills last Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — In what is arguably the biggest game for the franchise since their Super Bowl XXXVII loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the end of the 2002 season, the Raiders will be on the national stage once again when they face their bitter rival the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Thursday Night Football.

Kickoff is set for 7:35 p.m. CT (5:35 p.m. PT) with temperatures predicted to be in the high-teens with a windchill factor that will make it feel like 10 degrees.

Thursday’s game begins a stretch for Oakland that sees them play three of their final four games on the road.

Ever since the Chiefs’ 26-10 victory over the Raiders on the rain-soaked Oakland Coliseum turf on Oct. 16, Oakland (10-2) is riding a season-high six-game winning streak (winning by an average of nine points) and sit one game ahead of Kansas City (9-3) in the ultra-competitive AFC West.

Oakland rallied from a 15-point deficit to dispatch the visiting Buffalo Bills 38-24 just four days ago and now have to travel two time zones on a short week and play in one of the loudest stadiums in pro football.

Quarterback Derek Carr engineered an Oakland offense that scored 29 unanswered points in the second half after trailing 24-9 early in the third quarter. Carr has become the first player in NFL history to throw five game-winning touchdowns in the fourth quarter or overtime in a season, according to the Associated Press.

Carr completed 19-of-35 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns while taking the majority of the snaps in the shotgun or the pistol in Sunday’s game, despite playing with a fracture pinkie on his throwing finger.

For the season, Carr has thrown for 3,375 yards with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions with a 100.3 quarterback rating.

Let’s not forget, Carr lost his first 10 games of his career before winning his first game against the Chiefs, but the Chiefs continue to be a thorn in Carr’s side.

In his last five starts against Kansas City, Carr is just 1-4 versus the Chiefs completing just 58 percent of his passes,  with six touchdowns, five interceptions and a 72.0 quarterback rating.

Legendary quarterbacks make their names from performing on the biggest stages with all of the money on the table so if Carr is going to be named the league’s MVP, he has to play better against Kansas City and why not do that on Thursday Night Football?

Latavius Murray, who didn’t play in the first meeting, rumbled for 82 of Oakland’s 139 yards against Buffalo. Oakland’s stout offensive line will need to find running lanes against a Chiefs defensive front that surrendered 128 yards to Atlanta in the Chiefs’ 29-28 win on the road in Week 13.

Kansas City is 20-4 in their last 24 regular season games, and have won six of their last seven games this season.

Alex Smith, who is 6-1 all-time against Oakland, was efficient with the football, completing 21-of-25 passes for 270 and a touchdown against the Falcons.

Tight end Travis Kelce recorded his third consecutive 100-yard receiving game Sunday when he hauled in eight catches for 140 Kelce’s 65 catches and 815 yards not only leads all AFC tight ends, but all tight ends in the league.

Kelce could prove to be a difficult cover for a Raiders secondary that will be without rookie safety Karl Joseph (foot) Thursday.

Rookie Tyreek Hill is listed as a wide receiver in most media guides, but when you pull up the film, Hill is a offensive specialist who is a matchup nightmare for most defenses.

With wide receiver Jeremy Maclin battling a groin injury, Hill has become a valuable target and weapon in Kansas City’s passing game. Hill is second to Kelce on the Chiefs with 50 catches for 481 yards, but his five touchdown catches ranks first on the team.

In their last meeting, Oakland had trouble stopping running back Spencer Ware, who carried the ball 24 times for 131 yards and a touchdown. Kansas City has put together a solid running game without starting running back Jamaal Charles this season led by Ware, who leads the Chiefs with 734 rushing yards and three scores.

Ware’s hard-nose running style is tailor made to carry the ball in the frigid conditions that is Kansas City in early December.

Both teams have pass rushers who can make life difficult for the opposing quarterback.

Kansas City outside linebacker Dee Ford and Oakland defensive end Khalil Mack are tied for third in the NFL in sacks with 10 apiece.

Mack, who won the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November, has recorded seven sacks in his last seven games. No other player has that many sacks during that span.

Chiefs All-Pro safety Eric Berry accounted for eight points (a pick-6 and a pick-2) to seal Kansas City’s win in Berry’s return to his hometown of Atlanta. Two of Berry’s three interception on the season have gone for touchdowns.

Shadowy cornerback Marcus Peters is tied for second in the league with Giants safety Landon Collins with five interceptions. Peters’ eight total takeaways leads the NFL to go along with a Chiefs defense that leads the NFL in total takeaways with 25.

Peters and the rest of the Chiefs secondary will have their hands full with the receiving  tandem of Michael Crabtree (67 catches, 785 yards, 7 TDs) and Amari Cooper (68 catches, 981 yards, 4 TDs).

A win for Oakland gives the Silver and Black a two-game lead in the AFC West with three games to go, but a loss to their arch-rival would not only give Kansas City a season sweep for the second straight year, but the inside track on the division title and No. 1 overall seed in the AFC.

But the biggest question that must be answered before kickoff for yours truly, what to eat to go with the frosty beer (Corona with lime most likely) that I’m sure I will consume?

Carne Asada tacos for the Raiders  win!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raiders start slow, finishes fast in home win against Bills

AP photo: Oakland Raiders receiver Amari Cooper (89) and running back Jalen Richard (30) jump for joy after Cooper scores touchdown in the second half at the Oakland Coliseum Sunday against the Buffalo Bills

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — The Silver and Black found themselves down early, out of sync on offense, but found a way to erase a 24-9 deficit in the second half to pull away from the visiting Buffalo Bills, 38-24, Sunday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum.

Now at 10-2, Oakland remains one game in front of the 9-3 Kansas City Chiefs ahead of this week’s showdown for AFC West supremacy on Thursday Night Football at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

Kansas City squeaked by the Falcons 29-28 in Atlanta earlier in the day.

Oakland scored 29 unanswered points in the second half and forced two turnovers created by the havoc-wreaking Khalil Mack that dashed any hopes of a Buffalo victory.

Derek Carr completed 19-of-35 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Raiders to their sixth straight win.

Carr tossed a 3-yard score to wide receiver Michael Crabtree to cut Buffalo’s lead to 24-16 with 5:17 left in the third quarter.

Then at the start of the fourth quarter, Carr hooked up with wide receiver Amari Cooper, who beat rookie cornerback Kevon  Seymour with a double-move, up the Bills’ sideline for a 37-yard touchdown catch that got Oakland within a point, 24-23.

Crabtree led the Raiders with seven catches for 74 yards (11 targets) and a touchdown, while Cooper hauled in two catches for 59 yards and a score.

The 22-year-old Cooper became just the seventh player 22-years-old or younger in NFL history to record 2,000 yards receiving within his first two years in the league.

Running back Latavius Murray finished with 82 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns. Murray’s 11 rushing touchdowns is second only to Dallas rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot’s 12 among all running backs.

Murray also became the first Raiders running back to score 10+ rushing touchdowns in a season since LaMont Jordan accomplished that feat in 2005 when Jordan had 10.

But Buffalo jumped out early on Oakland, scoring on their first two drives of the game to claim a 10-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to Buffalo’s sound running game and an intermediate passing attack.

LeSean McCoy gashed Oakland’s defense for 130 yards on 17 carries while dealing with cramps in the second half for Buffalo, and fellow running back Mike Gillislee scored two touchdowns on eight carries for 49 yards.

Buffalo (6-6) took it to Oakland on their opening drive of the second half for 66 yards on two running plays that set up their second touchdown of the game. McCoy darted up the middle of Oakland’s defense for a 54-yard run followed by quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s 12-yard scamper that gave Buffalo a 17-9 lead.

Taylor completed 18-of-35 passes for 191 yards and one interception and McCoy led all Bills with seven catches for 61 yards.

But when Oakland’s defense needed a play, it appeared that Mack would be the one who would  make it for the Silver and Black.

Mack tipped a Taylor pass at the line of scrimmage that was intercepted by safety Nate Allen, then Mack sealed the game with strip-sack and fumble recovery on the final play.

The Raiders stellar defensive end recorded a sack for the seventh consecutive week, the longest active streak in the league this season. No other player has more sacks than Mack during that span.

 

 

 

 

 

Raiders face tough test with Bills coming to Oakland

AP photo: Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) fires a pass against the Carolina Panthers last Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — Two years ago, the Silver and Black were in shambles at 2-12 when the 8-6 Buffalo Bills came into town looking to earn the franchise’s first trip to the postseason since 1999.

But that was two years ago when quarterback Derek Carr, who was a rookie at the time, displayed early on the talent that many football experts believe will tab Carr as this year’s league MVP that day when he found wide receiver James Jones for the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds giving Oakland a 26-24 victory, eliminating Buffalo from playoff contention.

With both teams tasting the playoffs as the season heads into the final month, Sunday’s matchup at the Oakland Coliseum at 1:05 p.m. will have the feel of a playoff game which should make for a very competitive game.

Carr has the 9-2 Raiders riding a five-game winning streak, and a win Sunday would put Oakland on the doorstep of the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2002.

Oh yeah, that team reached the Super Bowl that season.

It is still relatively unknown if Carr, who completed 26-of-38 passes for 315, with two touchdowns, and an interception in last week’s 35-32 victory over the visiting Carolina Panthers, will wear a glove in Sunday’s game to protect his dislocated pinkie on his right hand.

During Wednesday’s practice, Carr was seen wearing a glove on his right hand.

Carr took a snap on Oakland’s first drive of the second half and immediately jumped back holding his pinkie. It appeared that Carr pulled from under center too fast, causing the injury.

Carr left the game briefly with the Raiders holding a 24-7 lead, but Carolina would score 18 unanswered points in the third quarter that gave the Panthers a 25-24 lead that left the sellout Raider Nation crowd stunned.

Following a Cam Newton 44-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, Carr would throw a 12-yard score to tight end Clive Walford in the fourth quarter to go along with a 23-yard field goal by kicker Sebastian Janikowski to put seal the win for Oakland.

On the season, Carr has thrown for 3,115 yards, 22 touchdowns to just five interceptions while leading the league’s fourth-best passing offense.

As much as Oakland’s high-powered offense (27.9 ppg) has to do with most of the team’s success this season, it has been the play of the defense, most notably defensive end Khalil Mack.

Mack, who was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November, has been a force for Oakland after a slow start of the season.

Against Carolina, Mack was one-man wrecking crew, intercepting the reigning league MVP and returning the pass for a 6-yard score right before halftime, then registering a sack, a forced fumble and recovery on Carolina’s final play of the game.

In November, Mack recorded 12 tackles (11 solo), four sacks, six quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two passes defensed, one interception returned for a touchdown all while leading Oakland to a 3-0 record.

But Buffalo (6-5) is a team that can give Oakland problems, especially with running back LeSean McCoy and the league’s top-ranked rushing attack, averaging 157.4 yards on the ground a game.

McCoy rushed for 103 yards on 19 carries and scored two touchdowns, one of which went for a career-long 75 yards in Buffalo’s 28-21 win at home in Week 12 over Jacksonville.

The eight-year pro from Pittsburgh is eighth in the league in rushing with 819 yards to go along with nine touchdowns.

Tyrod Taylor is following up his 2015 breakout season where he threw for a career-high 3,035 yards with 20 touchdowns and just six interceptions with another solid season for Buffalo, throwing for 2,101 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions this season.

Defensively, Buffalo has some great players that Oakland’s stout offensive line will have to contend with on Sunday.

Inside linebackers Zach Brown and Preston Brown have combined for 194 tackles (121 solo), while outside linebacker and ex-Raider Lorenzo Alexander is having a career-year in his 10th year, pacing second behind Denver linebacker Von Miller (12.5) in the NFL in sacks with 10.

Buffalo’s 33 sacks as a team is second only to Denver’s league-leading 35.

The Bills secondary, which gives up just 227.7 yards through the air per game and plagued by injuries, will have their hands full with Oakland’s terrific wide receivers Amari Cooper (66 catches, 922 yards, 3 TDs) and Michael Crabtree (60 catches, 711 yards, 6 TDs) all game long.

 

 

Raiders no longer flying under the radar

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — It’s been a renaissance season for the Silver and Black in 2016.

At 7-2 and getting a chance to get healthy during their by week, Oakland is looking to finish the season off strong in what the team is hoping will end in a playoff appearance for the first time since 2002, also, the team’s last Super Bowl appearance.

Oakland has the fifth-ranked offense led by a quarterback that plays more like a 10-year veteran in third-year pro Derek Carr, a running back with a knack for touchdowns in Latavius Murray, and a stud wide receiver combo headlined by Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.

Carr is having a career-year as one of the elite passers in the league, ranking fifth in passing yards (2,505), tied for third in touchdowns (17),to go along with just three interceptions this season.

Oakland’s signal had a game for the ages in Week 8, throwing for a career-high 513 yards (breaking a franchise record held by Cotton Davidson, who threw for 427 yards in 1964), and four touchdowns in the Raiders wild 30-24 overtime victory of the Buccaneers in Tampa.

Carr became just the third quarterback in league history to pass for 500+ yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions joining Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle and Ben Roethlisberger according to the Elias Sports Bureau to accomplish that feat.

His 500-yard passing game was just the 20th such game in NFL history.

Carr’s performance earned him the AFC Offensive Player of the Week, joining teammates in punter Marquette King (AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Week 7 against Jacksonville), and linebacker Khalil Mack (AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 9 against Denver) to garner player of the week honors.

King punted five times (for 273 yards) and placed four of those punts landed inside the Jacksonville 20-yard line. King also had a punt sail 60 yards in the air.

Coming into the game, Murray didn’t have a game in which he rushed for  at least 60 yards until the fourth-year running back from Central Florida saw the third-ranked Broncos defense, who rank 29th in the league against the run by allowing 128.6 yards to opposing offenses.

Murray ran rough and hard against Denver, rumbling for 114 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns while being named the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week for his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.

Murray’s eight rushing touchdowns are tied for second with Arizona running back David Johnson for the league lead among running backs, only trailing New England’s LeGarrette Blount and San Diego’s Melvin Gordon, who have nine rushing scores a piece.

Oakland’s defense has played better in recent weeks, particularly the last two weeks holding Tampa Bay and Denver to 270 and 299 yards of total offense respectively after giving up nearly 400 yards of total offense per game through the first seven games of the season.

Now that Mack has found his groove at getting to the quarterback, Oakland’s pass rush has seen major improvement.

Mack was unstoppable against the Broncos, registering two sacks, a forced fumble and recovery (all on the same play) in Oakland’s 30-20 victory over Denver that vaulted the Raiders to the top of the AFC West.

Mack also earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors against the Broncos last year in Week 14, tying a franchise record held by Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long with five sacks (all in the second half) in the Raiders’ 15-12 win in Denver.

After a slow start in which Mack only had one sack through five games for Oakland, the ferocious linebacker from Buffalo has recorded six sacks in his last four games bringing his season total to seven sacks after finishing with 15 a season ago.

No longer are the Raiders flying under the radar with the home stretch of the season in the windshield.

With their next three games at home (with the exception of Week 11 matchup against the Houston Texans in Mexico City at the Estadio Azteca, and in Oakland against the Carolina Panthers in Week 12 and the Buffalo Bills in Week 13), the Raiders could strengthen their position in the AFC with more wins for a fan base that is hungry for a winner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Final Snap: Murray’s big night too much for Denver

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

AP photo: Acrobatic Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) takes a leap into the end zone against the Denver Broncos during the first half on Sunday Night Football at the Oakland Coliseum

OAKLAND, Calif — The talk surrounding the Raiders’ 6-2 start was that Oakland hadn’t played an NFL heavyweight this season.

On Sunday night, the Raiders stepped out on to the national stage and took down one of the league’s premiere teams in the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos 30-20 to move into sole possession of the AFC West.

This is the first time that the Broncos have not had a share of first place in the division since Week 10 of 2013, per Elias Sports Bureau.

“Its a start. There’s a lot of games left and we’re in a really tough division,”said running back Latavius Murray after the game.

Murray recorded his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, rumbling for 114 yards on 20 carries and a career-high three touchdowns. Oakland’s bellcow anchored a rushing attack that thrashed the Broncos’ third-ranked defense for 223 yards, the most that Denver has allowed since Week 5 of 2012, per Elias Sports Bureau.

Coming into Sunday night’s prime time matchup with the Broncos, Murray hadn’t rushed for more than 60 yards in any game this season, which makes tonight’s performance that much sweeter.

Oakland played controlled football, controlling the time of possession 41:28 to 18:32, and out-gaining Denver 16 to 6 on first downs in the first half.

Much of that controlled football can be credited by the Raiders’ commitment to running the ball against the Broncos, and the offensive line that kept quarterback Derek Carr upright.

Carr completed 20-of-31 passes for 184 yards Sunday night, after throwing for a franchise record 513 yards in last week’s 30-24 gut-wrenching overtime victory in Tampa Bay.

Amari Cooper led Oakland with six catches for 56 yards, and Michael Crabtree had just two catches for 27 yards.

Crabtree didn’t record his first catch until the Raiders’ third drive of the second half.

But Oakland’s defense, who throughout the season have had trouble stopping teams and were missing cornerback Sean Smith (shoulder), played extremely well holding Denver to just 299 total yards.

Oakland forced Denver into four straight three-and-outs  to begin the game. The Broncos had five three-and-outs in the first half.

Quarterback Trevor Siemian completed 18-of-37 passes for 283 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception, but appeared rattled early after completing just 1-of-7 passes for four yards in the first quarter.

Denver didn’t record its first first down until the second quarter after already trailing 13-0.

Defensive end Khalil Mack was just a nightmare to deal with for Denver, finishing with two sacks, three tackles (1 solo), a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. After getting off to a slow start to the season in which Mack had recorded just one sack in his first five games, Mack has six sacks in his last four games.

Now at 7-2 for the first time since 2001 and heading into the bye week, Oakland is riding high with a half-game lead over 6-2 Kansas City and a one-game lead over now 6-3 Denver with three divisional games remaining, but there is still plenty of work ahead for the Silver and Black.

The Raiders’ will be in the national spotlight once again after the bye week, when they face the Houston Texans (5-3) in a “home” game in Mexico City  on Monday Night Football on Nov. 21.