Raiders

Five Raiders to watch in Week 9 vs. Lions: Where will Richie Incognito play?

Five Raiders to watch in Week 9 vs. Lions: Where will Richie Incognito play?

The Raiders haven’t been favored to win a game in quite some time. Oddsmakers expect the Oakland will beat the Detroit Lions on Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum, but they also expect a close contest.

Those forecasts should run true.

The first home crowd since Sept. 15 should give the Silver and Black a lift in a crucial game that starts a run of easier opposition, but make no mistake: the Lions are no slouch. It will take the Raiders’ best to beat them.

Here are five players key to a win the Raiders need in order to snap a two-game slide.

OL Richie Incognito

See the position just to the left of Incognito’s name? It should say “LG” for left guard. We had to leave it generic this week because there’s legitimate uncertainty surrounding where he’s going to play.

The Raiders would prefer he stays put. Incognito has been solid this year and has formed a great partnership with left tackle Kolton Miller in the running game. Incognito might have to slide over to center if starter Rodney Hudson and backup Andre James can’t play with ankle sprains. Both guys are formally questionable after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday. Incognito took snaps in their place and has played center before, but is clearly Plan C.

James is most likely of the two centers to play, though Hudson’s so tough he can never be ruled out. Keep an eye on where Incognito lines up, though the Raiders need him to be awesome playing in either spot.

WR Tyrell Williams

The Raiders unquestioned No. 1 receiver rarely posts on social media, but he tweeted this week a vow to be after two ill-timed, game-changing drops in his return from a two-game absence last week against the Houston Texans. Expect him to be.

Williams is a reliable downfield target who should rebound well against the NFL’s worst pass defense. Cornerback Darius Slay can play, but there should be openings deep and short for Williams to have a big day and continue his steady scoring. He has five touchdowns in as many games and should see more favorable coverage with the receiver corps whole with Zay Jones up to speed.

Williams must be productive and threat who creates space for others. He’s the catalyst for other aspects of the passing game and must play well for the air attack to function at a high level.

DE Benson Mayowa

The Raiders' most experienced and efficient pass rusher must continue solid play against quarterback Matt Stafford, who can beat anyone if allowed to operate from a clean pocket. Mayowa has made them dirty this year, with a team-high 5.5 sacks in six games.

The 28-year-old was a surprise scratch against Indianapolis but has been an agitator in every other game. Mayowa's primarily a situational pass rusher, so solid run defense could get him on the field in position to cause havoc.

The Raiders have matched their sack total from last year but still rank just 25th in that category. Mayowa must breathe life into the pass rush and start a game-long trend of hounding Stafford.

LB Tahir Whitehead

The Lions average just 3.6 yards per carry, but they run a ton. They run more than pass despite relative inefficiency and continued to do so even after feature back Kerryon Johnson was lost for the season.

The Raiders' run defense has been effective most of the season, and while it takes all 11 to shut opponents down on the ground, Whitehead leads the effort as a field general. He thrives in that role, which he had last year and assumed once again after Vontaze Burfict was lost for the year. Getting guys in the right gaps and then surging forward to make strong tackles will be key against a Lions team so committed to running the football.

This is also Whitehead’s first regular-season game against the team that drafted him in 2012 and employed him six seasons before he became a Raider. This is a big one for Whitehead and the Raiders need him at his best.

[RELATED: Why Raiders chose not to place waiver claim on Gordon]

WR Zay Jones

Jones makes the list for a third consecutive week as he continues to increase his snap count while adjusting to a new offense. He played 22 snaps in his first Raiders action last week, only half of which were passing plays. Coach Jon Gruden gave him a pair of easy, seemingly designed opportunities and he caught both targets for 27 yards. Eventually the Raiders have to let him loose despite inexperience in the offense in order to get his obvious talent on the field more often. This seems like a golden opportunity, against a struggling pass defense.

Jones has the ability to make big gains and prove he can be more efficient than his numbers with the Bills suggest. A big game would help get him into the offensive flow, diversify the Raiders' passing game and allow it to find a solid rhythm throughout the pattern.

Why Bill Belichick will miss Oakland Coliseum after Raiders' finale

Why Bill Belichick will miss Oakland Coliseum after Raiders' finale

It’s no secret that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick isn’t a man of many words.

When it comes to his press conferences, answers don’t tend to extend longer than a sentence or two.

But when the six-time Super Bowl champion coach was asked about the Raiders playing their final game at the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday, the famously tight-lipped coach opined on the soon-to-be-former home of the Silver and Black.

“Pretty intense fans. It’s like Halloween every Sunday there,” Belichick said to reporters Friday. “So, yeah. I mean, it’s a great environment.

“When I was with the Broncos, of course we played out there, so that was – especially at that time in ’78, if I get that right – I’m pretty sure the Broncos won the division that year. We were right there with the Raiders. It was the Raiders-Broncos. It was a very intense rivalry, so there was a lot of – there was the game, and then there was all the other aspects of the game.

“But, yeah, the Oakland crowd was a lot more intense than the L.A. crowd, and we’ll miss it. We’ll miss it.”

One thing the legendary coach won’t miss is the iconic Black Hole.

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Davis discusses end of Raiders' Oakland era]

“I think we kind of warmed up down there, so it’s not really where you want to be as a visiting coach,” Belichick said. “Tell the players not to stand too close to them in case they throw something and miss.”

The Raiders will host the Jacksonville Jaguars in their finale in front of the Oakland crowd on Sunday, as the team will officially move its operations to Las Vegas before the 2020 season.

Derek Carr among five Raiders who must play well to win Oakland Coliseum finale

Derek Carr among five Raiders who must play well to win Oakland Coliseum finale

OAKLAND -- The Raiders will play their last game at Oakland Coliseum on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It will be an emotional day for everyone involved.

That includes Jon Gruden, as attached to this East Bay fan base as anyone. The Raiders coach has shut off his emotions all week, driving focus into preparation for this game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That’s the last Oakland moment he can control, and Gruden plans to take advantage.

Gruden desperately wants this win, and a victory might finally provide the opportunity to be emotional about the team’s scheduled move to Las Vegas.

“I wish I had time to stand up here and thank all the fans," Gruden said earlier this week. "I wish I had more time to really sit down and make that the big story here, and thank the fans for their support over the years, and what this franchise has accomplished, and what it means and what Oakland means to the Raiders. So, I’d like to thank everyone that welcomed us back when we came back and I know that they are going to stay with us when we go, but I appreciate all the fans and their loyalty and their support. We’ll try to give you one hell of a show.”

In order to put on a showstopper, the Raiders will need good performances from these five guys.

QB Derek Carr

I generally try to leave the franchise quarterback off these lists, but we’ll make an exception for the last Raiders game in Oakland. He got booed off the field after last week’s first half and again at the end, but this fan base still has a great affinity for the signal-caller who started virtually every game since 2014.

Carr owes them his best on Sunday, and odds are great he’ll put on a show for the faithful. He must improve upon recent performances to execute his plan. Carr will need help from a so-so receiver corps and an offensive line -- Trent Brown’s questionable with a pectoral strain -- that haven’t been at full strength all season.

Emotional Derek Carr is generally the best Derek Carr -- the season opener is a great example -- so we should anticipate him being on top of his game. The Jaguars have struggled mightily this season. but they’re sure to put up a fight during the final game in Oakland.

Carr is capable of putting a team on his shoulders, and he might have to with the Raiders defense playing as it is.

RB Josh Jacobs

The Raiders don’t have much to play for. Their playoff hopes are essentially dead, with the path to the postseason now complicated calculus when it was simple math not long ago. Jacobs is this team’s offensive engine, the player who matters most in what the Raiders do moving the football.

They know that. They believe his fractured shoulder can’t get worse and are hoping to trot him out there Sunday to help win the last game in Oakland. Jacobs' play exponentially increases their chances to win, and Jacobs knows that. He desperately wants to win this game.

The rookie is expected to be active, though it’s unclear exactly how much he will play. A 20-plus carry dose should do the Jaguars in. If he can provide that, the Raiders are in great shape if the defense holds up even a little bit. If not, Sunday could well be a struggle.

CB Isaiah Johnson

There’s no telling how much the fourth-round draft pick will play Sunday. Heck, he might not play at all.

Johnson hasn’t done much since returning off injured reserve, at times a healthy scratch since being activated around midseason. He has sat behind other guys during a playoff push and that made sense, but now it doesn’t. The Raiders are essentially out of the postseason running, with cornerback Daryl Worley either out with a neck injury or moving to strong safety in the base package.

That provides an opportunity to see what Johnson’s got. He won’t be his absolute best, not after missing most of training camp and half the regular season with a facial fracture suffered in the first regular-season game. Rookies can’t make up for that lost time until the following offseason, and Johnson clearly would’ve played earlier had he not been behind.

But it’s time to throw him out there as a test, to see what you’ve got in a talented young player. If he gives up a massive play, so what? The guy has to learn on the job. That’s how Trayvon Mullen has done it, and the Clemson product has thrived despite making some rookie mistakes. It’s time to let Johnson do the same.

DE Maxx Crosby

A devout Raiders follower made a flag to hang over the Oakland Coliseum railing -- enjoy that while you can Raider Nation, the tradition isn’t following you to Las Vegas -- to honor the departing club. He featured a skull and swords as crossbones, with a name filling out the remaining fabric. It said Mad Maxx.

That honors the rookie pass rusher who has already adhered himself to the fan base with one sack and pressure after another. He has proven a better run defender than people have expected. The Silver and Black need him to step up Sunday and generate heat largely missing from recent games.

Crosby currently has 7.5 sacks and would certainly like to reach 10 in his rookie year, needing at least a sack on Sunday to make that happen and give him a chance to compete for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

WR Tyrell Williams

The veteran receiver just isn’t right. Coaches volunteered that Williams' plantar fasciitis has plagued him all season despite it keeping him out just two games in the early going.

Williams simply hasn’t produced at a No. 1 receiver level, which has hurt the offense as a whole. Drops have been a real issue, and his lack of consistent separation can be attributed to his ailing foot.

He is not even on the injury report and is expected to play, and Williams has to produce if that’s the case. He remains the team’s best receiver and has to act like in the final game played in the spot where his grandparents live, in the town where he spent so much time as a kid.