The Raiders are in a decent spot heading into the 2019 season’s second quarter. They’re at 2-2 after the first four, which would’ve been a realistic expectation even if Antonio Brown still was on this roster.
Adding another win to the tally Sunday here in London against Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears would be huge. That would put them in good standing within the AFC and provide great confidence with two more road games coming up after next week’s bye.
The road gets a little easier after that road stretch, and the Raiders could surpass expectations and maybe even enter the playoff picture. This could be a turning point game. Stealing a win here changes the Raiders' outlook on the season and would show great resilience after all the early-season setbacks.
Here are five players vital to achieving that goal:
QB Derek Carr
We normally exclude Carr from these lists, because he could easily be on them every week. An exception is to be made here because the Raiders quarterback must be awesome to work out a win here, showing shades of 2016 to beat an excellent Bears defense without some of his best weapons.
Chicago will emphasize run defense to keep Josh Jacobs quiet, and Carr must be solid moving the chains with smart ball placement that provides for yards after the catch even if the passes don’t travel far.
The Raiders might not need tons of points, but they need a zero turnover day from Carr and probably four touchdown drives to come out of this with a win. Carr has had several games like this before, with a penchant for fourth-quarter comebacks. He might have to orchestrate another one to beat Chicago.
TE Darren Waller
There’s a sense that Tyrell Williams will play Sunday, but that isn’t a stone-cold lock. Williams won’t be 100 percent even if he does play, so Waller becomes the best and most dynamic talent in the lineup. He needs to have a productive, high-volume day.
He’ll probably receive several relatively short passes as Carr will look to get the ball out quick, and Waller must do his best to create yards after the catch and turn those opportunities into bigger gains. The Bears are a sure-tackling unit, but Waller’s a powerful guy who can make plays in space. He also can chip edge rushers going into his route, a vital effort in slowing down the Bears' pass rush. Waller has a full Sunday ahead, but is capable of continuing his breakout season even if significant attention is paid to him in coverage.
DE Maxx Crosby
There’s no certainty whether first-round draft pick Clelin Ferrell will play Sunday due to concussion-like symptoms. Someone will have to pick up his slack, and Crosby has been most deserving of extra snaps. Crosby wouldn’t take over Ferrell’s role, but he could be active in the base defense. That means he would have to show well against the run, and would get extra chances to rush the passer. He had four quarterback pressures, two run stops, a forced fumble and two batted passes against Indianapolis, proving he can produce.
The Raiders need extra production off the edge, and Arden Key hasn’t done much to this point. Benson Mayowa’s an option off the edge, but the Raiders should look to Crosby for an encore after his performance last week. The Eastern Michigan product could provide some juice up front and create problems for Bears backup quarterback Chase Daniel who will start in place of the injured Mitchell Trubisky.
RT Trent Brown
The massive, shockingly athletic right tackle was paid a pretty penny for games like this. He’ll be asked to shut Mack down when the former Raiders edge rusher is on his side, often all by himself. Mack moves back and forth, so Brown could be dealing with Leonard Floyd or another Bears edge rusher on his side at times.
Brown must handle those guys effectively, largely by himself. That allows the Raiders to shade protection coverage to Kolton Miller on the left. Last year’s first-round pick is talented, but could use the help early on and possibly often. Keeping Carr upright is imperative, and doing so solo is hard. Brown certainly is up to the task.
DB Lamarcus Joyner
Raiders coaches found some creative ways to keep their slot cornerback on the football field after Minnesota schemed him out of the game. He played the run more than usual and had three big stops in that area. He allowed five receptions on eight targets, but they totaled just 39 yards. Just four of them came after the catch.
The Bears use David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen, backs of different size and style, to make gains on the ground. Joyner must be impactful against those guys, occasionally against tight ends and, of course, against slot receivers. Joyner’s also an effective blitzer, and disguising them well and getting home could create problems for the Bears front and force Daniel into some bad decisions.