Three things you need to know from Raiders' 24-17 victory over Giants


Three things you need to know from Raiders' 24-17 victory over Giants

OAKLAND – Here are three things you need to know from the Raiders’ 24-17 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday at Oakland Coliseum:

1. Raiders control path to division crown: Read that headline to the left. It might require a double take but it’s accurate, and a bit beyond belief.

The Raiders can win the AFC West by winning out.

The Raiders won, the Chargers won and the Chiefs lost, setting up a three-way tie atop the AFC West. Each team has six losses at this stage, and the Raiders have a chance to give each rival a seventh. The Raiders play in Kansas City next week and close the regular season in Los Angeles.

They simply have to win those two, and probably beat Dallas and Philadelphia in between. Falling to 9-7 makes things real messy. That remains a tough ask, especially for a team lacking offensive consistency.

The Raiders have quietly won three of their last four to recover from a four-game losing streak earlier this year. They’ve seemed dead and buried a few times now, but the Chiefs are in a tailspin and have given the Silver and Black second life.

“Our goal is to stack these wins up and see how the cards fall at the end of the season,” edge rusher Bruce Irvin said. “We’re not looking toward the future. We’re not thinking about the past. We’re only focus on our current opponent. That’s it. It’s worked for us the past two weeks. Hopefully we can continue to keep it (going) like this.”

2. Channeling last year’s defense:The Raiders gave up a lot of yards and points last year. They had a penchant for performing in the clutch and generating turnovers when trouble’s afoot.

The Raiders had 30 takeaways last year, but have struggled stealing possession this time around. That trend got bucked Sunday.

The Raiders forced two turnovers inside their own 30-yard line that ultimately changed the game. Bruce Irvin strip-sacked Geno Smith in the second quarter, and NaVorro Bowman recovered at the Raiders’ 29. The Raiders stole a scoring opportunity and produced a field goal at the other end.

Khalil Mack made his best play this season late in the first half from the Oakland 4. Smith never felt his presence, and Mack straight-up stole the ball to take more easy points away from the Giants.

“We pride ourselves on getting turnovers,” Irvin said. “We didn’t have many early, but they’re starting to come. We have three in two weeks. They say turnovers come in bunches, and we have to keep pushing for them.”

3. Missing Cooper and Crabtree: Amari Cooper was ruled out of Sunday’s game with concussion-like symptoms and a sprained ankle suffered while beating the Denver Broncos. Michael Crabtree wasn’t allowed to play the Giants, serving a one-game suspension for fighting with Aqib Talib in that same game.

That left Johnny Holton, Seth Roberts and Cordarrelle Patterson to pick up the slack. Tight end Clive Walford and Jared Cook offered assistance. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Raiders got the job done. Receivers dropped four passes. Johnny Holton fumbled another and lost it.

That group had some positive moments, highlighted by Patterson’s 59-yard catch and run that established a two-score lead late in the fourth quarter. Holton scored that deciding touchdown, and had a nice, toe-tapping catch to set up another score.

“We did good, man,” Patterson said. “We’re in this league for a reason, we not just here to (mess) around. We come out each and every week and we got to perform. Unfortunately, our No. 1 and No. 2 receivers were down but, like I say, every receiver on this roster can go out and make plays.”

The Raiders will get Crabtree back next week. Cooper remains a question mark as he recovers from injury. The passing game suffers without him, even during a relatively lackluster season. Cooper has game-changing ability, and draws attention from others even without the ball. He also torched Kansas City for 210 yards and two touchdowns earlier in the year, so the Raiders hope he can return for the rematch.

Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?


Does Gruden see Lynch, Crabtree on Raiders in 2018?

Jon Gruden doesn’t love offseason restrictions on player-coach interaction. They weren’t so strict when Gruden last coached nine years ago, but the new collective bargaining agreement prevents the new Raiders head coach from extended contact with his players at this stage in the NFL’s downtime.

He has, however, run into several Raiders stopping by the team’s Alameda complex.

Count running back Marshawn Lynch and receiver Michael Crabtree among them. Conversations with those talented, yet mercurial players will be key as Gruden and general manager Reggie McKenzie decide how best to use the salary cap.

Both guys have a long history of NFL production. Both guys are getting up there in age, and have some drawbacks. Both guys can be cut without a salary cap hit.

Gruden had nice things to say about both guys in a Wednesday interview with the Bay Area News Group.

He was asked directly if Lynch will be on the 2018 roster.

“I don’t know,” Gruden said. “I bumped into him. Some of these players that live locally do come to the facility to get a workout, see the trainer. I’ve been downstairs and met several guys. I have talked to Marshawn briefly. We’ll see. We’ll keep everybody posted. Right now, he’s our leading ball carrier. He’s our back, and we’re counting on him. Hopefully we get an opportunity to work together. That’s a man that has a lot of respect in this league as a player and I certainly have respect for him also.”

Lynch started slow but finished strong, and was the team’s best skill player in the season’s second half. He’s contracted to make up to $6 million in 2018.

Crabtree came up later in a discussion of what he likes on the roster.

“I got to bump into Crabtree,” Gruden said. “Hopefully we can get the best out of Crabtree and his career.”

Crabtree is coming off a down year following two stellar seasons in Oakland. He had just 58 catches for 618 yards – he still had eight touchdowns – but his targets and snaps decreased the last two weeks. He seemed at odds with the previous coaching staff, a group that was dismissed at season’s end.

Crabtree is set to make $7 million next season, though none of it is guaranteed.

Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders


Gruden meeting reinforces T.J. Carrie's desire to remain with Raiders

PALO ALTO – Raiders cornerback T.J. Carrie became a father on Super Bowl Sunday. Newborn son Elijah Carrie has been the sole focus these last few weeks, as T.J. learns on the job how to be a dad.

Pardon him if he hasn’t thought much about impending free agency. The 2014 seventh-round pick turned full-time starter has a rookie deal expiring soon, with a raise on the horizon following his best season as a pro.

That’ll come in March. Early February, however, has kept him otherwise engaged.

“I’ve been so busy with my little one, and I haven’t been getting any sleep,” Carrie said Thursday. “Learning how to be a dad has been so engulfing that I haven’t delved into the details of what free agency will mean to me.”

Soul searching wasn’t required to realize his dream scenario. The East Bay native wants to stay in Oakland, with a Raiders team he loved as a kid.

“My intention is to be here,” Carrie said. “I’m a Bay Area guy, a hometown kid. I couldn’t see myself being anywhere else. This is a passion for me. I dreamed about playing for the Raiders for such a long time. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to play there for four years, I want to finish (with the Raiders).”

Carrie wants to work with a new Raiders regime. He visited the team’s Alameda complex on Wednesday and met with new head coach Jon Gruden and defensive assistants. The interaction left Carrie wanting more, furthering his belief that be belongs in Silver and Black.

“Coach Gruden is very energetic,” Carrie said. “He’s a coach that likes to have fun but it a very business oriented guy. There are a lot of things, I imagine, that are going to change, just from the way he has done things. It’s going to be different, but I embrace it. It’ll be very challenging entering into a new regime, but there are a lot of positive factors involved with it.”

The Raiders don’t have many cornerbacks under contract come mid-March. They released David Amerson, and could do the same with Sean Smith later this offseason. Gareon Conley should start at one spot, but everything else is wide-open entering free agency and the draft.

Carrie could find value on the open market after recording 70 tackles and nine passes defensed in 16 starts. He’ll explore his options further next month, before free agency begins in earnest March 14.

“I know March is really when it starts to go down,” Carrie said. “My son will be a little older then, so I can focus more on free agency and make some more decisions.”