'Nobody believed in us' mantra rings true for Raiders and Texans

'Nobody believed in us' mantra rings true for Raiders and Texans

So it is generally agreed then that the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans will gather Saturday afternoon to play what will almost surely be one of the least aesthetically pleasing playoff games in recent NFL history.

And it should be agreed that that is so, for the reasons that have been enumerated again and again – quarterbacks, defenses, no chance of foul weather to impact play, even the uniforms will be a case of the bland meeting the drab.

But therein lies the mutant beauty of Saturday’s game. It has literally no expectations, save those placed upon it by the two fan bases. Plus, it allows the winning team to say with complete confidence and accuracy the one thing most winning teams have no business saying, under any circumstances ever.

“Nobody believed in us.”

In this case, you see, it is absolutely true. Starting last week, nobody did believe in either team, for the unassailable reason that nobody should have done so.

And you can't do better than that.

The Raiders went from championship contenders to the world’s unluckiest team when quarterbacks Derek Carr and (to a massively lesser extent) Matt McGloin got injured in successive weeks. The Texans, conversely, are singlehandedly midwifing score differential into common use, and they are back to first-then-second-string quarterback Brock Osweiler after trying desperately to exile him to the dustheap of football history.

Or Pro Football Reference, as it is more commonly known.

Either way, nobody thinks either of these teams has more than one game in it, and most analysts are straining for new ways to discredit both teams – all the way up to declaring that both teams will lose Saturday, which will tie the record set in 1970 when the Dallas Cowboys beat the Detroit Lions, 5-0, en route to losing what many people believe is the worst Super Bowl ever.

Hurray rampant judgmentalism!

So when Khalil Mack or Alfred Blue, Michael Crabtree or DeAndre Hopkins, Latavius Murray or Lamar Miller, even Sebastian Janikowski or Shane Lechler – when any of them say “Nobody believed in us,” take them at their word. Because nobody did.

Clichés, you see, are a stealthily precious thing. Everyone claims to loathe them as the zenith of unoriginal thought, yet they became clichés because everyone used them. “It is what it is” didn’t become a thing until the early 2000s, but was first coined (as near as anyone can claim) by a Nebraska newspaper columnist named J.E. Lawrence in 1949, which is exactly the same year that “Winning isn‘t everything, it’s the only thing” was introduced by UCLA football coach Red Sanders.

The problem with “nobody believed in us” is that it is typically a complete and utter lie. Most winning teams have had massive bandwagons constructed on their collective behalf that players either chose to ignore, assume as their due or were convinced didn’t exist by their deceit-riddled coaches whose jobs include lying shamelessly to their players whenever the need suits them.

Most players know they are being lied to, of course, but they know that repeating the lie is better for their continued employment than “What are you talking about, you thick-necked bellowing eejit? We have lots of people who believe in us, and we don’t appreciate your disingenuous behavior being aimed at us for reasons of mind control."

So “nobody believed in us” is the safe fallback position. In fact, Alabama football staffers put fake “nobody believed in us” media quotes on the locker room walls before the Crimson Tide went out and curb-stomped Washington in the national championship semifinal. Not because it necessarily works, but because not doing it is considered a lack of devotion to the greater goal.

So Raiders-Texans is in its way a special moment for everyone, because they bring an overly misused and essentially stupid cliché to life. In fact, we would be very disappointed if the first postgame on-field interview did not produce those very words, perhaps as quickly as the first four words uttered.

At which point the interviewer, almost certainly ESPN's Lisa Salters since that's the network that is airing the game, should say, “What, are you nuts? Of course we didn’t believe in you. Only a moron would even think of doing so. Now go away.”

Followed immediately by the rapture.

Raiders-Dolphins injury report: Clinton McDonald may get heavy workload

Raiders-Dolphins injury report: Clinton McDonald may get heavy workload

ALAMEDA – Clinton McDonald is not on the Raiders injury report. Defensive tackle P.J. Hall is, and isn’t expected to play Sunday in Miami.

That suggests the veteran defensive tackle, signed just a week ago to fortify an ailing position group, could see steady snaps in South Florida.

He played 52 against Denver, just days after being signed off the street. He fared well considering the circumstances. He had two tackles, two quarterback pressures and graded out well against the run.

“Clinton has played in our system, so he’s familiar with what we do in our system,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “He was with me in Cincinnati, so it was a little bit easier of a transition for him going in there. He did a tremendous job on short notice, playing that many snaps.”

He could see another heavy workload on Sunday, and the Raiders need him to play well inside to function well on the defensive line. Johnathan Hankins was signed last week for a similar task, and his workload could increase after improving his football shape considering he was a free agent all preseason.

Hall missed his fifth straight practice on Thursday. Rookie offensive tackle Brandon Parker returned to full work after missing Wedensday’s practice with an ankle issue.

Nick Nelson was added to the injury report with a hamstring injury. He was limited.

Thursday’s Practice Report

Did not practice

DT P.J. Hall (ankle)

Limited practice
C Rodney Hudson (ankle)
RG Gabe Jackson (pectoral)
RB Marshawn Lynch (shoulder)
CB Nick Nelson (hamstring)

Full participation
OT Brandon Parker (ankle)
CB Leon Hall (illness)
WR Dwayne Harris (foot)

Did not practice

RB Frank Gore (not injury related)

Limited practice
S Reshad Jones (shoulder)
LS John Denney (shoulder)
Bobby McCain (knee)

Full participation
DT Jordan Phillips (knee)
RB Kenyan Drake (abdomen)
DE William Hayes (finger)
WR DeVante Parker (finger)
QB Ryan Tannehill (knee/ankle)
WR Danny Amendola (not injury related)

Peter King: I wouldn't have traded Khalil Mack for four first-round picks

Peter King: I wouldn't have traded Khalil Mack for four first-round picks

We probably won't stop talking about the Khalil Mack trade for a while.

With every passing week, every passing game where the Raiders struggle to get to the quarterback and every passing game where Mack dominates for the Bears, it will keep coming up. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden will keep fielding questions. The media and fans will continue to be puzzled by every aspect of the trade.

More than two weeks after writing a column in which he said the Raiders made a huge mistake trading Mack, NBC Sports' Peter King had more harse words for Gruden.

"He's like Donald Trump with the wall or Donald Trump with the Russia investigation. He can't leave it alone and he's not convincing anybody," King said Thursday on The Dan Patrick Show. "Who possibly can be convinced that Khalil Mack didn't want to be on the Raiders? That was his first one. And now how hard it is to find a pass rusher. It's almost insult to the people who listen, really. I hear him say these things, and I like Jon, but everything is a justification for trading away a franchise pass rusher in his prime, a guy over the last two years in the NFL has impacted the passing game, via Pro Football Focus, more than any rusher in the NFL. You trade him in his prime, for two 1's. I wouldn't have traded him for four 1's."


King wasn't done.

"We've seen him play well enough. I'm not trying to be argumentative," King said. "I'm just saying that even if he had been pedestrian the first two weeks, I still would have said it's a dumb trade. I'll say it's a dumb trade for the next three years. I just think it's a dumb trade. I never understood it. I still can't to this day."

Safe to say King and Gruden won't be having dinner together anytime soon.