Raiders must make take advantage in AFC West with Patrick Mahomes out


Raiders must make take advantage in AFC West with Patrick Mahomes out

Who would have thought we'd be having this conversation in Week 7? The Raiders, yes those Raiders, are in the thick of the AFC West race. 

After Antonio Brown ejected himself from the Bay Area and the Chiefs torched Oakland in Week 2, it looked like it could be another long season at the Coliseum. But after falling to 1-2, the Raiders bounced back with impressive wins over the Colts and Bears to enter the bye week at 3-2.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs sputtered after beating the Raiders, losing two of three before notching a Week 7 win over the Broncos on Thursday night to move to 5-2. That win, however, came at a cost as reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes left the game with a knee injury and did not return. 

Mahomes had an MRI on Friday that revealed a dislocated knee cap, per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.

While the Chiefs have yet to release an official timetable for Mahomes' return, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the news was the "best-case scenario" for the Chiefs. Before the MRI was conducted, the Chiefs reportedly believed Mahomes would miss three games.

However, a person with knowledge of the situation, told the AP's Dave Skretta, that Mahomes will be out for four-to-six weeks.

As the Raiders get ready to head to Lambeau Field to face the Packers in Week 7, they sit in second place in the AFC West but now have a massive opportunity in front of them.

All signs point to Andy Reid rolling with backup quarterback Matt Moore and possibly Chad Henne, should he return from IR, while Mahomes heals. While Reid is a great offensive mind, the Chiefs' offensive attack won't be the same without the rocket-armed quarterback, and with their defense still leaving much to be desired, they could be take some body blows. Over the next six weeks, the Chiefs will face the Packers, Vikings, Titans, Chargers and Raiders, possibly all without Mahomes.

The Raiders, meanwhile, head to Green Bay and then Houston before returning home to battle the Lions, Chargers and Bengals. After that, the Silver and Black visit the Jets before heading to KC.

Jon Gruden's club has a golden opportunity to close the division gap on the heavily-favored Chiefs, and possibly even overtake them and get the inside track for the division crown while Mahomes is out.

The first order of business will be for the Raiders to split their final two games of this grueling five-game trip. Returning home at 4-3 after a 3-2 trip would be a win by any measure. Assuming the Packers can handle Moore, the Raiders would be at 4-3 hosting the Lions with the Chiefs sitting at 5-3 getting ready to welcome a Jekyl and Hyde Vikings team to Arrowhead Stadium.

Returning home to the Coliseum should give the road-weary Raiders a lift, enough to propel them past a ho-hum Lions squad and a Chargers team that has yet to discover its identity in the wake of massive injuries to the offensive line and defense. 

If the four-to-six week timetable is accurate, the Raiders will have to make their move between Week 11-13 in order to pass the Chiefs.

While KC might be able to handle Minnesota and Tennessee without Mahomes, their next two games will be division games against the Chargers and, you guessed it, the Raiders on Dec. 1 at Arrowhead Stadium.

If the Silver and Black can hold serve against the Lions, Chargers, Bengals and Jets, and the Chiefs are tripped up by one of the Packers, Vikings, Titans or Chargers, then the Dec. 1 game could be an head-to-head opportunity for the Silver and Black to take over sole possession of the division against either Moore or Henne if Mahomes still is working his way back.

Of course, the Raiders defeating all four of those teams between the Texans game in Week 8 and the Chiefs in Week 13 is no gimme. The Bolts, while having a tough season, still are ridiculously talented and could have put it back together by then, and the Lions are as frisky as they come, just ask the Packers.

Still, the opportunity now is here for the Raiders to pass the Chiefs and win the division for the first time since 2002. It will be a tall task that asks the Raiders to play consistently good football against quality teams, beginning this Sunday in Green Bay.

Mahomes' timetable still is to be decided and he very well could come back on the short end of the time frame. If that's the case, the Raiders must keep pace and make sure they don't lose ground while the Chiefs trot out Moore or Henne to the wolves. If his absence stretches into the six-week mark or beyond, the Raiders will have a chance to grab the division and try to hold on during the final weeks of the season.

[RELATED: Could Raiders be AFC West favorites after Mahomes injury?]

Great moments are born from great opportunity. That's what the Raiders have now.

Stopping Titan-ic rusher Derrick Henry should be primary Raiders objective


Stopping Titan-ic rusher Derrick Henry should be primary Raiders objective

ALAMEDA – Ryan Tannehill is receiving credit for Tennessee’s recent resurgence. That’s appropriate given how well the former backup quarterback has been playing during a 5-1 stretch since becoming the starter.

Let’s not forget who’s really driving the Titans offense. That’s the 6-foot-3, 247-pound freight train coming out of the backfield.

Derrick Henry has been a monster this season, proving as tough to take down as ever. He has 1,140 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, currently on a run of three straight games with at least 145 yards and a touchdown.

A repeat performance on Sunday against the Raiders at Oakland Coliseum would make Henry the only player to do so in four straight games.

The Raiders would like to prevent that and armed with the No. 12-ranked run defense. They’ll try to slow a back never seems to wear down.

“The secret sauce in Henry is he’s got all the talent, and size, and running instincts, but he never tires,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “He does not get tired. He’s a machine, man. This guy wears you down – physical – he can wear you down. You’ve got to gang tackle him. He’s a better-than-advertised receiver, but he just never tires. The more they give him the ball, the better he gets. It’s an impressive human being.”

Tannehill obviously benefits from Henry’s threat and a balanced offense that has the Titans going strong. Stopping the run, or slowing it at least, will be key for the Raiders defense in this important game. It will not, however, be easy.

“We’re looking forward the challenge, but we know it’ll be a challenge dealing with Superman Derrick Henry,” defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said on this week’s Raiders Talk podcast. “…He’s a great back. He’s big. He’s fast. He sheds tackles like there are kids trying to tackle him. I think, overall, we have to do a good job of keeping him in the backfield and not giving him open lanes or creases to work. We also need to hit him as much as we can, because he’s a big guy. Overall, I think we’re ready for the challenge. I’m excited for this game.”

It’ll take the entire defensive unit playing disciplined football to slow Henry down. Give him an inch of space or leverage or poor tackling technique and he’ll take chunk yards by the mile.

“I just think you’ve got to be in good position,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “You’ve got to have eleven guys to the ball. You’ve got to play the blocks. First and foremost, you’ve got to be in the right spots, play the block, and then when he gets through there you’ve got to have eleven guys to the ball. He does a good job of trying to get extra yards, so we’ve got to put hats on him wherever he is, on his body as he’s trying to get those extra yards. We’ve got to make sure we get eleven to him.”

Raiders launch Josh Jacobs' NFL Rookie of the Year campaign online

Raiders launch Josh Jacobs' NFL Rookie of the Year campaign online

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have launched a campaign to help running back Josh Jacobs become the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

They have opened a website extolling his virtues. They have passed out buttons. They even have fullback and "chief of interior transportation" Alec Ingold giving a fireside chat about how awesome Jacobs has been in 2019.

The promotional materials may draw some extra attention, but Jacobs’ case is easy to make.

He has smashed every Raiders rookie rushing record. He exceeded 1,000 yards in his 12th game and will have huge totals even if he isn’t able to play Sunday against Tennessee. He’s formally questionable with a fractured shoulder he's been playing through since trucking Green Bay safety Adrian Amos in Week 7.

His numbers are pretty awesome. Jacobs has 218 carries 1,061 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s 4.9 yards per carry, and he ranks fifth in the NFL in total rushing yards. He also has another 18 receptions 146 yards.

The competition must always be considered, but he has to be the frontrunner after winning back-to-back rookie of the month awards.

Arizona's No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray is certainly a candidate, but the Cardinals don’t have many wins. Washington receiver Terry McLaurin and Baltimore wideout Marquise Brown have had good seasons, but they shouldn’t be considered serious competition here.

The Raiders haven’t had an offensive rookie of the year since Marcus Allen won it in 1982, and Jacobs has smashed Allen’s records from that strike-shortened year. Charles Woodson was the last rookie of the year on either side of the ball, winning the defensive award in 1998.

[RELATED: NFL prospects for Raiders to watch on Championship Weekend]

Jacobs’ shoulder injury could hurt the campaign more than anything, especially if he misses a few games or gets shut down for the rest of the season if the playoffs become a distant pipe dream.

Outside of that, he should be the favorite to win the award heading down the stretch.