Raiders

Why Gabe Jackson sees plenty of potential in Raiders offensive line

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AP

Why Gabe Jackson sees plenty of potential in Raiders offensive line

ALAMEDA -- Gabe Jackson was back in action after a long layoff Monday. The Raiders' star right guard hurt his knee during a joint training camp practice with the Los Angeles Rams and hadn’t worked out with the team since.

Just being back with his team was an accomplishment, an important step in his return to action after missing five games. The Raiders left him on the 53-man roster hoping he could be back before midseason.

That should happen. Jackson said he hopes to return Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. If that doesn’t work out, he should be ready for a Week 8 clash with the Houston Texans.

“I feel pretty good,” Jackson said Monday. “I’m excited to be back with my brothers. It has been a long time.”

Jackson went more than nine weeks between practices, a layoff that sent his position into flux. The Raiders tried several at right guard, settling on Denzelle Good as a quality placeholder on an offensive line off to a great start. The Raiders are averaging 4.9 yards per carry and rank fourth in pass-blocking efficiency.

Jackson will pair with longtime running mate Rodney Hudson on the interior and work with Trent Brown on what should be a dominant right side.

The 28-year-old was part of a dominant offensive line in 2016 that was integral to the Raiders' lone trip to the playoffs this decade. He believes this year’s line could compete with that one.

“I think we could be even better,” Jackson said. “If everybody stays the course and grinds it out, I think we could be pretty good.”

This offensive line operates in a different scheme but has executed well to this point. Jackson will energize and fortify the unit, which has been bolstered by Brown’s addition in free agency.

“I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I can say for sure Trent is a beast,” Jackson said. “When he first came here, I knew it would be fun to play with him. Watching the things he has done recently and since he has been here, he’s impressive.”

[RELATED: Raiders' Jones ready to make impact after 'shocking' trade]

Raiders coach Jon Gruden said that Jackson might be in his best shape, certainly over the past two seasons. Jackson did shy away from that compliment. He believes it’s warranted after training hard during this down period.

“I had some time to work on myself,” Jackson said. “There are some things I’m still working on, but I feel like I have gotten better. Now, I’m ready to get back at it and play.”

Raiders stuck in present, even with huge Chiefs game on the horizon

Raiders stuck in present, even with huge Chiefs game on the 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 Playoff Picture: Where Raiders stand after Chiefs win Week 11 game

NFL Playoff Picture: Where Raiders stand after Chiefs win Week 11 game

The Raiders had a chance to move into first place in AFC West on Monday night, but they needed a little help.

They did not get that help as the Chargers failed to beat the Chiefs in Mexico City on "Monday Night Football." Kansas City held on for a 24-17 victory and moved to 7-4 on the season.

The Raiders, coming off a 17-10 win over the Bengals,  sit and 6-4 and remain in second place in the AFC West and in seventh place in the AFC playoff picture.

Had the Chargers won, the Raiders would have moved into third place in the AFC by virtue of the tiebreaker with the Indianapolis Colts.

Alas, the Raiders still are on the outside looking in.

Here's how the AFC playoff picture looks through 11 weeks of the NFL season.

1. New England Patriots (9-1)
2. Baltimore Ravens (8-2)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
4. Indianapolis Colts (6-4)
5. Buffalo Bills (7-3)
6. Houston Texans (6-4)
7. Oakland Raiders (6-4)

The good news for the Raiders is that their schedule the rest of the way is slightly easier than that of Kansas City's.

Oakland has six games remaining and only their Week 13 matchup against the Chiefs comes against a team with a winning record. The Raiders also have games remaining against the Jets (3-7), Titans (5-5), Jaguars (4-6), Chargers (4-7) and Broncos (3-7).

[RELATED: Raiders-Chiefs Week 13 clash flexed to afternoon slot]

After a bye next weekend, the Chiefs host the Raiders, then travel to New England to take on the AFC-leading Patriots. They close the season against the Broncos, Bears (4-6) and Chargers.

Buckle up because the last six weeks of the season are going to have many more twists and turns.