Despite setbacks, Raiders still confident heading into playoffs

Despite setbacks, Raiders still confident heading into playoffs

HOUSTON – Derek Carr’s broken fibula cast a dark cloud over Alameda when the sun was supposed to shine. It shrouded what should’ve been a glorious time, when the Raiders could revel in a season well done.

The AFC West title, a first-round bye and even the conference’s top seed were there for the taking. All fell prostrate by the wayside.

Quarterback trouble slowed a racecar once speeding into the postseason with lofty aspirations in mind. Many have written the Raiders off, even in a wild-card round game against the beatable Houston Texans.

They’ve used last week’s awful performance against Denver as evidence the Raiders can’t win without Carr.

His loss influenced that Broncos debacle. There’s no arguing that. The Raiders were still reeling from his fall and played awful.

While there is no replacing an MVP candidate, the skies have lifted some. They still aren’t a clear blue, not after Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn was rule out on Friday afternoon.

That’s yet another blow to a team already off balance, but the Raiders plan to find footing and fight back.

This is the playoffs, after all, and the Raiders aren’t about to let an opportunity slip. A young core weathered terrible seasons before this season’s return to prominence, and know qualifying for the postseason is special.

“I’m excited. This is what you play for,” running back Latavius Murray said. “It’s the opportunity we wanted from Day 1. Just because some things haven’t gone our way the past few weeks, we can’t let it determine how we’re going to go forward. This is what we wanted, and now we have it. We have to give it everything we’ve got.”

A victory in Houston seems improbable after all that’s happened lately. It is not impossible, even with Carr and Penn unavailable. The Raiders still have to play their way out of a rut.

Khalil Mack’s defense feels a responsibility to lead them out. The run game does, too.

The entire team must play better to take pressure off rookie quarterback Connor Cook, who makes his first start Saturday after spending 15 games inactive as the No. 3 quarterback.

Players don’t think that’ll add pressure to Saturday’s proceedings, though there is significant hype surrounding these postseason games. Those on the roster with playoff experience suggest everyone relax, but only a little bit.

“It’s still football game, but if you lose there’s no next one,” Raiders edge rusher Bruce Irvin said. “There’s a sense of urgency that needs to come with it this week. Guys have to be focused on their assignment and hone in on the game plan so I can be back next week talking to you all again.”

The Raiders are excited, and in a good mood heading into this game. They’re thinking upset, something rare for a 12-4 team in contention for the AFC’s top seed last week.

There’s an underdog story to be told after the past few weeks, and the Raiders are ready to give it a happy ending.

“Our spirits are high,” free safety Reggie Nelson said. “I don’t think no guys got low on themselves (after the Denver loss). They’re at home right now and we are in the playoffs. What more can you ask for? We’re worried about Houston right now. We’re in the playoffs and we’re going to have fun.”

Raiders remain on a receiver hunt as their top target signs elsewhere


Raiders remain on a receiver hunt as their top target signs elsewhere

The Raiders missed out on signing Ryan Grant. The former Washington receiver visited the team’s Alameda training complex, but left without a contract and ultimately chose to sign a one-year, $5 million deal with Indianapolis.

They lost that one, but are undeterred in their quest to upgrade the receiver corps.

They already signed Jordy Nelson and let Michael Crabtree walk, hoping for steady production and quality locker room leadership in the exchange.

Cordarrelle Patterson was traded to New England on Sunday, creating a spot in the position group.

The Raiders tried to fill it with Grant. No go, no matter.

They hosted veteran Eric Decker on Tuesday, according to multiple reports. They also declared interest in Allen Hurns, a player the Jaguars released Tuesday morning.

Hurns listed the Raiders among interested teams – he said there were 10 in total – in an interview with KFNZ radio in Charlotte, N.C.

Hurns has a 1,000-yard season to his credit – his biggest year came with now-Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson as Jacksonville's O.C. -- and two relative down years since. Injuries have also played a part in that.

Decker had a stellar four-year run with Denver and the New York Jets, but was less effective during two seasons in Tennessee. The 31-year old has experience in the slot, and could be a productive No. 3 option in Jon Gruden’s offense.

Gruden doesn't mind working with veteran receivers, something clear from his past and willingness to add Nelson as a major contributor. 

Even if the Raiders don't land a veteran receiver, they could also look for a receiver in the NFL draft.

Amari Cooper will remain the No. 1 option. Seth Roberts has $4.45 million guaranteed in 2018. Johnny Holton, Isaac Whitney and Keon Hatcher are also on the roster.

Report: Ndamukong Suh set to meet with Raiders


Report: Ndamukong Suh set to meet with Raiders

After visiting the Titans, Saints and Rams, free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will make a stop in the East Bay.

Recently released by the Dolphins, Suh will visit with the Raiders on Wednesday, according to ESPN.

The former No. 2 overall pick made it through just three seasons of a six-year, $114 million deal he signed with Miami prior to the 2015 season.

The 31-year-old Portland, Oregon native last made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and was last earned First-Team All Pro honors in 2014.

In 16 games with the Dolphins last season, Suh recorded 4.5 sacks and 48 combined tackles.