Raiders

Raiders not looking ahead despite monumental Chiefs game on horizon

Raiders not looking ahead despite monumental Chiefs game on horizon

The AFC West showdown of the season is coming up fast.

The Raiders travel to Kansas City for a Dec. 1 battle for pole position in the division race, as important a division game as the Silver and Black have played since 2016.

The NFL recognized that and dropped this game from a cluttered morning window to the late afternoon. The league knows that it should be a featured game.

The longtime rivals could be tied atop the division at kickoff, setting high stakes for that one. The Chiefs will enter that game at 7-4 fresh off a bye following Monday night’s victory over the L.A. Chargers.

The Raiders have to work for that record. A victory Sunday over the host New York Jets is required. The Raiders are road favorites for the first time this season but understand their next contest will be a tough one.

The Raiders can’t and won’t overlook anyone, especially after their previous game, against the winless Bengals, was too close for comfort.

“We are going to fight, scratch to win every single game that we can possibly win,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “I know the Bengals were 0-9 and it’s an easy story to write, but you don’t look ahead in this league. You just don’t do it. There’s a lot of upsets every week.”

Take another look at Gruden’s first sentence. That’s an accurate description of the team’s approach to this season. The battle and fight like crazy, which is why their 6-1 in games decided by one score or less. They also know they don’t have enough talent or clout to win while on cruise control. A maximum effort is required against most everybody. That includes a three-win team with two victories in a row.

“I can't speak for the team, but I know personally, I don't look ahead,” running back Josh Jacobs said. “Even coming into this week, I didn't even know Cincinnati's record. I didn't know any of the stats. I just looked at film and take it day-by-day and opponent-by-opponent."

The Chiefs can look forward to the Raiders during a bye. Andy Reid will certainly be in the lab concocting new and innovative ways to best old friend in Gruden, who could bring the Raiders to Kansas City on a four-game winning streak with control of the AFC West on the line.

A loss in the Meadowlands would ruin that scenario, but it doesn’t take the Raiders out of contention for the division or a wild card spot. The Silver and Black are in the thick of this thing, currently the AFC’s No. 7 seed -- that could change after a Thursday night clash between the Texans and Colts, both 6-4, and a half-game back in the division.

Gruden has done a good job preventing his team from dreaming too far ahead. They were focused on the Bengals and expect to get the best of Sam Darnold and a stout Jets defensive front in Week 12.

[RELATED: Raiders draft class making impact on season]

The Silver and Black have impressed thus far this season despite a tough schedule but know they haven’t earned anything yet.

“It just says that we’re getting better. We’re able to find ways to win,” Gruden said. “There’s an old saying around here, ‘Just win baby.’ We’ve fought our hearts out to put ourselves in a 6-4 position. That doesn’t mean anything. We’ve got a lot of respect for the Jets and a lot of work to do.”

NFL rumors: Donald Trump says season should start on time despite coronavirus

NFL rumors: Donald Trump says season should start on time despite coronavirus

President Donald Trump held a call with the commissioners of major American sports leagues Saturday, and offered a prediction for the upcoming NFL season.

Trump told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the other members on the call that the NFL season should start on time despite the coronavirus outbreak, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Adam Schefter reported. Trump reportedly told the commissioners that he expects arenas and stadiums to be filled come August and September, according to Wojnarowski and Schefter.

However, it's currently unclear if public health officials agree with Trump's prediction. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as a lead member of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, told Warriors star Steph Curry that sports only can return once the country as a whole has turned the corner with the outbreak and the medical system no longer is under strain. Then it will be easier to identify cases, and the cities won't be overwhelmed.

It is unknown when sports will return and how it will look when they do.

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While Trump's optimism might lift some spirits, it will be up to public health officials to determine when it is safe for sports to begin and be held with fans in attendance. With many epidemiologists expecting the virus to surge in the fall, the NFL's season could be in jeopardy.

While all major sports currently are on pause, the NFL is planning to start the season on schedule and hold games as normal with fans in attendance.

The NBA suspended its season indefinitely after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11. The NHL, MLB, PGA Tour and MLS all followed suit, with the NCAA choosing to cancel the men's and women's tournaments altogether.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver reportedly said on the call that his league would love to "lead the way" in jumpstarting the economy but they only can do so once they are told by public health officials that it is safe.

[RELATED: Raiders reportedly eyeing DT at No. 19 in draft]

Trump reportedly also brought up the idea of the leagues lobbying for a tax credit that used to exist for fans. This credit would allow fans to deduct concessions and ticket prices from their taxes, according to Schefter and Wojnarowski.

The call included commissioners and top executives from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, WNBA, WWE, PGA Tour, LPGA, UFC, IndyCar and Breeders' Cup, according to a White House pool report.

As of Saturday, there were more than 270,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and NBC News reporting.

NFL draft rumors: Raiders expected to take defensive tackle in Round 1

NFL draft rumors: Raiders expected to take defensive tackle in Round 1

The Raiders stocked up in free agency, spending big to fix a defense that was leaky at best in 2019.

Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock now must turn their attention to hitting another home run in the NFL draft. With the No. 12 and No. 19 overall picks, most expect the Raiders, who have glaring needs at wide receiver and cornerback, to address those holes in some manner with their first two picks. That might not be where Gruden and Mayock are planning to go, though.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported Friday, citing league sources, that most around the league expect the Silver and Black to draft a top wide receiver with the No. 12 pick, but use their second pick on a "middle-of-the-field" defender since the Raiders would like to make an upgrade at defensive tackle.

The middle of the field was a massive problem for the Raiders' defense in 2019. But they went out and added defensive tackle Maliek Collins and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski to lead the unit. They also lucked into signing safety Damarious Randall, upgrading the middle of the field at all three levels.

However, the Raiders do still need some help in the middle of their defensive line. Collins is young and thrives beating double teams, but he only signed a one-year deal. Maurice Hurst had a nice 2019 but he still needs to improve and Johnathan Hankins, while great against the run, doesn't move the needle rushing the passer.

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If the Raiders do want to draft a defensive tackle -- it might not be the best use of a first-round pick -- there are a few elite talents they could look at.

Derrick Brown leads this year's defensive tackle class. The 6-foot-5, 318-pound Auburn product might be the most complete defensive tackle to enter the draft since Aaron Donald. He has powerful hands, an unreal motor and can play in odd and even fronts. He's a Day 1 plug-and-play starter with All-Pro potential. Brown is expected to be a top-10 pick so the likelihood of him donning and Silver and Black is low.

Second on the list is South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Gamecock is an elite pass-rusher with all the tools and the strength of a bull. He has a great first step and unreal explosiveness. Kinlaw might be a shade below Brown but he appears to have Pro Bowler written all over him. He could be available for the Raiders at No. 12, but it's doubtful he slips to No. 19.

The next two players are end of Day 1-beginning of Day 2 guys, which means the Raiders must be sure they can contribute right away to take them at No. 19 or must trade down to make the pick lineup with the talent.

Next up is TCU's Ross Blacklock, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound load who has all the goods to be a star at the NFL level. Blacklock has the size, length, power and athleticism to be a dynamic playmaker at the NFL level. While some evaluators believe it might take him some time to adjust to the NFL game, he has all the tools you want in a three-down interior defensive lineman.

The last high-end interior defensive lineman is Oklahoma's Neville Gallimore. The rare defensive tackle that is defined by his speed, the 6-foot-2, 302-pound Gallimore has all the looks of a Day 1 NFL starter who can collapse the pocket and put the quarterback on his heels. His quickness, motor and power are traits that leap off the tape.

[RELATED: McKinney headlines top DB prospects for Raiders to target]

Now a middle-of-the-field defender could mean a safety like Alabama's Xavier McKinney, which would mean the Raiders would shift Randall to corner where they have a huge hole after Eli Apple's contract couldn't get finalized.

If Kinlaw or Brown falls to the Raiders, Gruden and Mayock should snap them up. Both would be a powerful inside presence who could open up rushing lanes for Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby.

But if both are off the board and corner like Florida's C.J. Henderson or even LSU's Kristian Fulton still are available, it might be wise to address to cornerback need first and see if a defensive tackle like Davon Hamilton,  Raekwon Davis or Justin Madubuike falls to them in the third round.