AFC West: Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders and their home crowd always have a special bond on game day. On Sunday, the feeling could be even more emotional because the team's future in Oakland is still up in the air. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills could be the team’s final game in Oakland.

The Raiders do not have a lease to play in Oakland beyond this season, and the team has been connected to both Los Angeles and San Antonio. Raiders owner Mark Davis is on the record as saying he wants to stay in Oakland with a new stadium, but he is open to all possibilities.

Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano said he doesn’t know too much about the situation, but he said his players know it’s possible that this could be the last game in Oakland.

“I have given some thought to that. It’s not something I’ve really spent a lot of time talking to the team about, but I know the team knows and they’re aware of it; we’ve touched on it briefly,” Sparano said. “But at the end of the whole thing, we don’t know.”

The Raiders have won consecutive home games and Sparano said the primary focus is making it three in a row to close the season.
The Oakland Raiders have taken a beating during this rough, 2-12 season. Oakland has 13 players on injured reserve and six additional players were ruled out for Sunday’s home finale against Buffalo.

The six players are defensive backs Tarell Brown and Chimdi Chekwa, tackle Menelik Watson, receivers Vincent Brown and Denarius Moore and tight end Brian Leonhardt. The Raiders need to add just one player to the inactive list Sunday.

Cornerback D.J. Hayden (back) and defensive tackle C.J. Wilson (knee) are both listed as questionable. Hayden was limited in practice Friday. With Brown and Chewka out, Hayden, who’d start for Brown, is needed.

Bills vs. Raiders preview

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
video When: 4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday Where: Coliseum, Oakland TV: CBS

The Buffalo Bills have the longest playoff drought in the NFL. It’s been 15 years since this franchise has tasted the postseason.

The Oakland Raiders are right behind them in the playoff futility chase. Oakland is tied with Cleveland for the second-longest playoff drought. Oakland hasn’t been to the postseason since 2002.

The Raiders are going to try to keep from moving up on this dubious list by attempting to knock off the visiting Bills Sunday. The Bills are 8-6 and their playoff hopes are alive. Oakland is 2-12 and is in play for the No. 1 overall pick.

ESPN Bills reporter Mike Rodak and Raiders reporter Bill Williamson preview the game:

Rodak: Bill, what's your gut feeling on the Raiders' future in Oakland? Could this be the last game they play at Coliseum?

Williamson: Yes, we could be on the cusp of the final game in Oakland. It is not out of the question that the Raiders move back to Los Angeles for the 2015 season. Oakland owner Mark Davis is on the record as saying he wants to stay in Oakland, but it has to be with a new stadium. The team does not have a lease to play in Oakland next season. Davis is also saying he’d be open to playing in L.A., or even San Antonio, if a new stadium deal in Oakland isn’t reached. The Raiders are not close to a new deal in Oakland. While L.A. is possible and we hear a lot about it, I think we have to actually see the Raiders move to Los Angeles before I'll believe it. Everything is in play.

Mike, the Bills, on the other hand, are set with their new leadership. Do you think the stability has changed the entire feeling around the franchise?

Rodak: Without a doubt. There were always fears about the team moving to Los Angeles, or more recently, Toronto. The team faced blackout issues for games in recent seasons, while funding for a new stadium was an issue in a small market. In truth, there would have been more outside suitors for the team had the Bills’ lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium not been so restrictive -- a victory for the county and state. In the end, the Bills found owners for the team in Terry and Kim Pegula who had both local ties and the capital necessary to win the bidding. While much remains to be decided about a new stadium, when it will be built and how it will be funded, any thoughts of the team relocating have passed.

Bill, if the Bills are going to draft a quarterback this spring, it will almost certainly have to be in the second round or later -- they don't have a first-round pick. The Raiders selected Derek Carr in the second round last May; has he shown signs he can be Oakland's franchise quarterback?

Williamson: The Raiders could trade their top pick to a team wanting to draft Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston for a gaggle of selections. The Raiders like Carr. Even if there is a brand-new regime in Oakland, which is very likely, I’d think Carr will be the guy. He has a great arm, he’s poised and he’s a leader. Give him more talent and he should be a quality player for the long haul.

Mike, the Bills made a big trade up in the draft this year to get Sammy Watkins. Could you see them perhaps being a trade partner with the Raiders in their search for a quarterback?

Rodak: I do think that the Bills must get creative at quarterback. Given what we saw out of EJ Manuel and Kyle Orton this season, it would be a tough sell to fans to turn back to either next season without a clear backup plan. I don’t see the Bills having interest in either of the Raiders’ backups, Matt Schaub or Matt McGloin. The names that have been the subject of media-based speculation include Jay Cutler and Robert Griffin III, although it’s unclear if either will become available or if the Bills would have interest. As far as the Bills and Raiders trading draft picks, I see that as unlikely. The Raiders could select as high as first overall, and having already sent their first-round pick to Cleveland in the Watkins trade, the Bills don’t have anywhere near the ammunition to move that high in the draft.

Bill, wins have been a rarity for the Raiders this year, but they were able to beat the Chiefs, a team that is fighting with the Bills for an AFC wild-card spot. What would be the formula for Oakland to repeat that sort of performance against Buffalo?

Williamson: Playing at home won’t hurt. Both of their wins came at home. The Raiders get a lot of energy from their fans. The Raiders won those two games with timely offense. They ran the ball and Carr was terrific when it counted in both games. The offense has not been good for most of the season. If this offense can play a clean, clutch game, Oakland can end the home slate on a good note.

Mike, could you see the Bills letting down against the Raiders after their big win over Green Bay?

Rodak: I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility. The Bills put a lot of energy into trying to topple Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers over the past two weeks, and now they’ll need to take a six-hour plane ride across the country Friday night. Road trips that long can be draining at this time of the season. If the Bills have a “letdown” game in Oakland, I think the formula would be what has plagued them in other losses this season: an inability to score on offense. The Bills have the NFL’s 31st-ranked red zone offense and might not have won against Green Bay had they not scored on defense and special teams. Unless the Raiders have a meltdown as the Jets did against the Bills twice this season, the Bills most likely will need to find a way to put the ball in the end zone.

Is a reunion at the Big House going to get in the way of the Oakland Raiders' big plans?

ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that Michigan is making a push for San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who played quarterback at the school. Harbaugh is not expected back with the 49ers and is expected to be the target of the Oakland Raiders after the season.

Schefter reported Harbaugh is “considering” the Michigan job. There are reports that the school is offering Harbaugh a six-year, $49 million deal.

Here are some thoughts on how it affects the Raiders:

It’s not over yet: This is high speculation season. Lots of rumors are floated. The key is leverage. Harbaugh has plenty of it and it's being played. Let’s see what happens.

Raiders can match that deal: If Mark Davis really wants Harbaugh, he knows he has to pay big. I believe he’s prepared. So, if Harbaugh is patient, more cash could be had in the Bay Area and in the NFL.

What if Harbaugh goes to Michigan? Well, the Raiders will be bummed. Gruden is staying at ESPN. Harbaugh was the big fish. If not, the Raiders will have to lower their expectations. There will still be plenty of good candidates. But no Harbaughs left.

Raiders pleased with progress of Khalil Mack

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17

ESPN Raiders reporter Bill Williamson talks about first-round pick Khalil Mack coming into his own entering the Bills game.

QB Snapshot: Derek Carr

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
A quick observation of quarterback Derek Carr and how he played in the Raiders' 31-13 loss in Week 15:

Earlier in the season, there were a lot of questions about how Oakland Raiders rookie Derek Carr would endure a rough season.

With two games remaining in a miserable season for the 2-12 Raiders, there is little question how the second-round pick from Fresno State is doing.

Carr is one tough customer. While the Raiders have been thrashed on a regular basis, Carr has withstood the storm. Sunday's lopsided loss at Kansas City was a perfect example of Carr's tireless play.

He suffered what appeared to be a significant ankle injury in the second quarter and was hobbling badly. But Carr finished the drive, bounced back and didn't miss a snap for the rest of the game. He ended up throwing 56 passes in the loss.

Carr fights to the end. He will continue to do so through the rest of his rough rookie season, and he and the Raiders will end up being better for it in the future.
For the second time in three weeks against the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr engineered a last-minute touchdown drive.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, this scene was reminiscent of so many other Oakland games this season and not the first game against Kansas City. The Raiders were scoring in the final minute of a game Sunday that was completely out of reach. It was the sixth time the Raiders scored a garbage time touchdown.

It’s the story of their season -- production when it doesn’t count. The result was Oakland is headed back home Sunday evening knowing it failed to do what it set out to do in Week 15. The Raiders failed to find any consistency in their 31-13 loss at Kansas City. Oakland couldn’t build on a victory for the second time this season.

The Raiders followed up their win over Kansas City with a ridiculous 52-0 loss at St. Louis. Now, they produced this stinker (Kansas City ran away from Oakland in the third quarter). The 2-12 Raiders have been outscored by a combined 83-13 in games following victories. Oakland is now 0-7 on the road this season.

Interim coach Tony Sparano, who almost certainly will not be retained, has been very vocal about how competitive his team has been in the past couple of months. There have been times where the Raiders have shown improvement. But when it was time to truly make strides and show they are ready to finish the season strong, this team has been unable to answer the call.

The reason? It’s not difficult to figure. The Raiders are just aren’t a very good team. They play hard. They don’t quit. But they just don’t have enough overall talent to compile victories on a regular basis. They have ridden emotion to victory a couple of times this season and I could see Oakland -- in what potentially may be the team’s final game in Oakland with a potential move to Los Angeles looming -- finding a way to beat Buffalo in Week 16. But the bottom line is the Raiders are not good enough to compete on a regular basis.

The Chiefs, who are average at best, handled Oakland in every phase of the game Sunday. Kansas City, which was flat and lackluster in its Thursday night loss in Oakland last month, was determined to overpower Oakland on Sunday. They exploited Oakland's defense in the passing game, they harassed Carr on defense and they scored on a punt return against the 26th ranked coverage unit in the NFL.

As important as it was for the entire Raiders team to show up, it was vital for Carr to show consistency. He was terrific against the 49ers last week. He was clutch on third down and threw three touchdown passes. Carr, who struggled for several weeks in the middle of the season, wasn’t overly effective Sunday.

Carr launched 56 passes, completing 27 for 222 yards. Much of his yardage came at the end of each half. Oakland could not build any momentum on offense. Of course, the loss was not all on Carr. It was a team loss.

Change is coming in Oakland and this flat performance was another example of why it is needed.

Rapid Reaction: Oakland Raiders

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14

A few thoughts on the Oakland Raiders' 31-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:

What it means: The Raiders fell flat after a victory for the second time this season. After beating Kansas City on Nov. 20, the Raiders answered with a 52-0 loss at St. Louis. Last week, the Raiders enjoyed their season highlight -- a convincing win over Bay Area rivals San Francisco. The focus going into this game was consistency. Oakland couldn’t do it, though, and the host Chiefs pulled away in the third quarter. The Raiders are now 0-7 on the road and 2-12 overall. The best the Raiders can finish is 4-12, matching the first two miserable seasons of the Reggie McKenzie era. This poor performance is likely another indication that interim coach Tony Sparano will not be kept. The Raiders fell to 2-8 under him.

Stock watch: Offense is pointing down. The Raiders' offense was timely and sharp in the win over the 49ers, but on Sunday, it was meager and ineffective. This has been the case for much of the season. Rookie quarterback Derek Carr, who was so good last week, was under siege and rendered ineffective.

Coverage unit breakdown: The Raiders' coverage units have been porous all season. Oakland entered the game ranked 31st in kick coverage and 26th in punt coverage. Kansas City scored the first touchdown of the game on an 81-yard punt return by De'Anthony Thomas.

Game ball: Sebastian Janikowski. He had field goals of 53 and 33 yards to keep the Raiders in the game early. Janikowski has quietly had a solid season. He has made 15 of 17 field goal attempts. He missed nine field goals last season.

What's next: The Raiders host Buffalo in their last home game of the season and potentially their final game in Oakland. The Raiders, who have been heavily rumored to be a candidate to move to Los Angeles, do not have a lease to play in Oakland next season.
One of the areas the Oakland Raiders have been weakest this season has been with their coverage units.

Oakland is allowing a whopping 31.7 yards per kick return this season -- 31st in the NFL. Oakland is allowing 10 yards per punt return, which is 26th in the league. Kansas City, where the Raiders play this Sunday, has an excellent return game.

Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano said he knows it will be critical for Oakland to get better in the coverage game.

“On paper, right now it’s a major, it’s a big advantage to Kansas City and we’re aware of that,” Sparano said. “So, they have their return units are all ranked, I think, in every category in the top 5, but top 10 for sure. I would say top 5 in several. We’re aware of that, our team is aware of that and we’re trying to make and take the appropriate steps here as we go forward. … We need to do a better job in the coverage units, and I have challenged that group this week.”
As he was playing the best game of his rookie season in a win over Bay Area rival San Francisco, Derek Carr took the next step as a field general.

Carr was excellent in every facet of the game as he was dominant on third down and threw three touchdown passes. But what stood out was the way he dictated the action and worked with his receivers as the plays developed.

That was not the work of a typical rookie.

"I think it's a little bit being ahead of the curve," Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano said. "Sometimes, when you do that you've got to know what's happening on the back end because all of a sudden you can get robbed. You're there, you're there, you're redirecting traffic and you're throwing the ball -- you think he's open, but all of a sudden something comes from your blind spot. I think that he has a pretty good feel for it right now. He's starting to develop a better feel for it and kind of how to play catch that way with some of his different receivers right now."

Carr attributes his success with his receivers as a growing comfort level.

"I think that just comes with us just playing with each other, too, comes with knowing the routes, knowing route concepts, not pointing him into another route, those kind of things, all those kind of things," Carr said. "We're all just growing. It was good to see us do it, finally, in a game. We actually had a few times instances where that happened at practice today. It's good."

Raiders vs. Chiefs preview

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
When: 1 p.m. ET Sunday Where: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City TV: CBS

The Oakland Raiders were winless and the Kansas City Chiefs tied for first place in the AFC West when the teams played each other Nov. 20 in Oakland. But the fortunes have turned for each team since the Raiders beat the Chiefs 24-20.

The 2-11 Raiders, who were 0-10 before beating the Chiefs, also won last week in beating the 49ers at home 24-13. In between, though, the Raiders were hammered by the Rams in St. Louis 52-0.

The loss in Oakland started what is now a three-game losing streak for the 7-6 Chiefs. They could still make the playoffs as a wild-card entrant by winning their final three games.

The Chiefs and Raiders play again Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Raiders reporter Bill Williamson preview the game.

Teicher: The Raiders have won two of their past three, both at home. In between was that ugly mess in St. Louis. Are they ready to take that next step here and win on the road?

Williamson: That’s the big question. Look, this season is never going to be remembered as a positive one in Oakland. The Raiders won a total of eight games the past two years, and they expected to be much better this season after a bunch of changes. Yet the losing has continued. Still, the Raiders can finish on a high note with a couple more wins to make the offseason easier to approach. But Oakland has to find a consistency. Coaches and players were really disappointed about the way they flopped after the win over the Chiefs. Now, Oakland wants to build on the big win over the 49ers with a season sweep of the Chiefs. Staying consistent is the focus of the team.

Do you think the Chiefs are a lot more nervous about the Raiders this time around?

Teicher: They should be. The result of the game Nov. 20 in Oakland didn’t look like a fluke to me. The Raiders outgained the Chiefs, and who knows what running back Latavius Murray would have accomplished had he not left the game early because of a concussion. He might have gained 1,000 yards. He’s a big concern for a defense that’s allowed a 100-yard rusher in each of the past four games. The Chiefs also need to do something to rattle rookie quarterback Derek Carr. They did nothing to get him out of his comfort zone the first time around.

Murray looked like the real deal against the Chiefs a few weeks ago, before he left the game. Have the Raiders finally given up on Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew? How will Murray fare as the full-time featured back?

Williamson: The job appears to be Murray’s for the rest of the season. He had 23 carries for 76 yards against the 49ers. McFadden and Jones-Drew have been disappointments this season. It is likely neither will be back next year. Thus, Murray will get the chance in the final three games to show Oakland it doesn’t have to worry about finding a lead back. Murray is an interesting player. After missing his rookie year last season with an injury, the former sixth-round draft pick started very slowly. But he has played well in the past three weeks, highlighted by his 90-yard touchdown run against the Chiefs on Nov. 20. The Chiefs will clearly be keying on Murray in this game. It will be fascinating to see who wins this battle.

What should we expect from the Chiefs' ground attack this week?

Teicher: I would expect a heavy dose of Jamaal Charles, if he’s up to it physically. He began the week with a swollen knee and a sprained ankle, so we’ll see. He was strong enough last week to rush for 91 yards on 10 carries and score both the Chiefs’ touchdowns. Knile Davis, his backup, has become just a bit player now. He hasn’t had more than five carries in a game since October. One thing interesting about the Raiders is historically they’ve done a better job than most opponents against Charles as a runner, at least. Charles did have a nice game against Oakland the previous time; he rushed for 80 yards and caught four passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.

It must have been an interesting scene in Oakland last week, with Jim Harbaugh coaching against the Raiders. What are the chances he’s coaching in Oakland next year? What do the Raiders do if they can’t get Harbaugh? Any chance they’ll stay with their interim head coach, Tony Sparano?

Williamson: Adam, there is certainly smoke about Harbaugh crossing the Bay. Some issues would have to be worked out, but it is certainly on the table. Harbaugh is going to be a target of Oakland owner Mark Davis. I think the odds of it happening are better now than they were earlier in the season, partly because I think Harbaugh is quietly intrigued by the Silver and Black. If the Raiders strike out on Harbaugh, they will likely look at more affordable options. That’s where Sparano could come in. Players like him, and he could be a candidate, but it likely won’t be in the first wave.

Andy Reid seems to have a strong program built. Do you think the Chiefs are set up nicely for the future?

Teicher: I think they have too many good players and are too well-coached to just drop back into a dark period, like the one they emerged from after they hired Reid. But the fact is the Chiefs have, at best, the third-best quarterback in the AFC West, and that’s going to hurt them as they try to compete with the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders -- much less try to get to a Super Bowl. Smith is efficient, and the Chiefs can win some games with him as their quarterback. But he’s not going to saddle them on his back and carry them like Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers are capable of doing. The Chiefs need to surround him with better players if they’re going to compete for titles, division or otherwise.
The Oakland Raiders faced a potential head coaching target last Sunday. They might face another at the end of the season.

Del Rio
There is no doubt that San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will attract the interest of Oakland owner Mark Davis in the offseason if he's released from his contract. Harbaugh will likely be the top target of the Raiders, especially with former Raiders coach Jon Gruden unlikely to make himself a candidate.

However, if the Raiders don’t land Harbaugh, another coach who could become a top candidate is Jack Del Rio. The current defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos was the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003-11.

There’s a lot of reasons to connect the dots and believe Del Rio could create interest inside the Oakland organization.

He has experience, he is doing well in his current job, he is from the East Bay Area and he is highly respected around the league.

The search will not crank up until after the Raiders conclude their season at Denver on Dec. 28. But when it starts, don’t be surprised if you hear a lot about Del Rio.
One of the more prestigious yearly honors for NFL players is given by the USA Football All-Fundamentals Team.

It didn’t take Khalil Mack long to get noticed by the impressive five-person committee. Mack, an Oakland Raiders' outside linebacker, was named Wednesday to the committee’s All-Fundamental team. Mack, the No. 5 overall pick in the May draft, was the only rookie selected to the team.

Mack has been impressive all season. He has been a complete player and scouts, opposing coaches and players have raved about his approach. Thus, this honor is no surprise.

The committee consists of former general managers Bill Polian and Carr Peterson; former head coach Herm Edwards and former players Merril Hoge and Charles Davis. Hoge had high praise for Mack in November.

Can Raiders win back-to-back?

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10

ESPN Raiders reporter Bill Williamson says the team is focused on beating the Chiefs and winning back-to-back games for the first time this season.

QB snapshot: Derek Carr

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
A quick observation of quarterback Derek Carr and how he played in the Oakland Raiders' 24-13 win over San Francisco in Week 14.

Derek Carr was able to move the sticks against the 49ers, and that helped him have his best game of the season in the highlight of the year for the 2-11 Raiders.

Carr has struggled on third down for much of this season and often targeted players before they reached the third-down marker. Carr would complete many of those passes, but the receiver would be tackled before getting the first down.

Carr was much more efficient on third down against the 49ers. In fact, he was dynamic. The rookie second-round pick completed 9-of-10 pass attempts for 98 yards, and all three of his touchdown passes came on third down.

It was a sign of real progress by the rookie, who had his worst NFL game in Week 13, a 52-0 loss at St. Louis. Carr hasn't been consistent this season, but if he can produce on third down Sunday at Kansas City, it will be an indication of major progress for the youngster in an area that's give him trouble.



Saturday, 12/20
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