If the season ended today, the Oakland Raiders would qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.
No…this isn’t April Fool’s Day. The Raiders are actually good.
Not just mediocre, but honest to goodness, actually good.
And here’s the evidence:
-On Sunday, Derek Carr threw for 333 yards and 4 touchdowns against a secondary that showcases one of the greatest defensive backs of all time. The Jets are a formidable force on defense and the Raiders picked them apart en route to a 34-20 victory.
-Amari Cooper is a stud. The rookie receiver is ranked #19 in the NFL in receiving yards with 565. He’s also found the endzone 3 times already and is just the kind of electrifying talent Al Davis used to reach for in all those ugly drafts of the 2000s.
-Second-year back Latavius Murray is quietly becoming one of the top backs in the game. He’s ranked 9th in the league with 534 yards on the ground.
-Charles Woodson leads the league in interceptions (5) at age 39.
The ageless wonder. 39 year old Charles Woodson picks off Geno Smith. He’s incredible. pic.twitter.com/fZ4Jjvp11D
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 1, 2015
And here’s some trivia for you. The last time the Silver & Black made it to the postseason they rolled all the way to Super Bowl XXXVII, where they were pummeled by Jon Gruden’s #1 defense featuring Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp.
Speaking of the Buccaneers – things are looking up in Tampa, too.
Well, sort of.
A week after squandering a 24-point lead to Washington, the Bucs allowed a 17-point comeback by the Falcons to send the game into overtime.
But this time Jameis Winston was able to convert 3 third downs in overtime to set Connor Barth up for the game-winning kick.
At (3-4) Tampa Bay fans have to wonder if the worst of the worst is now safely behind them.
Tasty Tidbits from Week 8
With Le’Veon Bell officially hitting the IR on Monday with a torn MCL, the Steelers’ chances of staging a late-season comeback in the AFC North have officially taken a nosedive.
Not only did Pittsburgh lose their star back for the season on Sunday, they also fell 16-10 to the Cincinnati Bengals and dropped 4 games back in the loss column.
Barring a Bengals collapse like the Emperor allowing Luke Skywalker to blow up the Death Star, what was supposed to be the most tightly contested division in football looks to be wrapped up halfway into the campaign.
Cincy is (7-0) and rolling.
You know who else is rolling?
Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
In what was meant to be a battle for the ages on Sunday Night Football, Denver made the Green Bay Packers look like a college team with a convincing (29-10) victory.
If you had an asterisk penciled in next to the Broncos’ undefeated record you can go ahead and get your rubber out to erase it.
Manning may not have thrown a TD pass, but 21 of 29 passing for 340 yards is more than good enough to send a proverbial F-U to the sportswriters (myself included) who believe his arm to be as wobbly as a cheap hot dog.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy after losing to the Broncos 29-10. pic.twitter.com/tBbFNaR6nf
— FOX Sports Live (@FOXSportsLive) November 2, 2015
Offensive Player of the Week
History for Todd Gurley! He has rushed for 566 yds in his 1st 4 starts, the most by any player since the merger. pic.twitter.com/W6Lu6N0QLP
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 1, 2015
Todd Gurley is the first rookie ever to post four straight 125+-yard games. What’s even crazier is that he’s really only played in four (save for a few warm-up snaps in week 3).
This kid’s gonna be special. Like “carry his team” kind of special.
Remember when Marshall Faulk dominated in St. Louis?
Watch out. This Gurley guy is seriously good enough to bring back the “Greatest Show on Turf”.
Defensive Player of the Week
We’re going to roll with a Defensive “Unit” of the Week here and the winner is simple.
You know that guy who’s pretty much the unanimous “best player in the NFL”?
Yeah, well Aaron Rodgers was held to just 77 passing yards on 14 of 22 passing by the Denver Broncos.
When was the last time Rodgers was dead last in passing in the entire NFL for a week (not counting QBs who were injured or subbed for an injured starter)?
I’m not taking the time to look it up but my guess is that the answer is never.
Without question, this is the top defensive squad in the NFL both statistically and otherwise.
Team on the Rise
We’ve already looked at the Raiders so let’s take a minute to talk about the New Orleans Saints who after three straight wins are back in the thick of the NFC Wild Card chase at (4-4).
Drew Brees played lights out in a wild 52-49 shootout over the NY Giants where he put up video game type numbers. Brees had 300 yards with 4 TDs at the half and finished up with an incredible seven touchdown passes and 511 yards.
If you’re wondering why Brees’ stat line wasn’t good enough to nab Offensive Player of the Week honors, I’m sorry, I don’t have a good answer for you.
With 3 very winnable games coming up on the slate (Titans, Redskins, Texans) we might just see New Orleans thrive in their new role as talented underdog.
Team on the Decline
Since 2004, the San Diego Chargers have only had a losing season once, (7-9) in 2012. With 6 losses after 8 games I think it’s safe to say they’ll be “enjoying” another one in 2015.
Philip Rivers leads the league in passing yards with 2,753 and the team is #1 in total offense but the Bolts defense gives up an astonishing 28.4 points per game.
It’s not looking good for those who hope to keep the Bolts in San Diego.
Dear San Diego Chargers. Please move to L.A. You suck
— Jeffrey Schlei (@jaschlei) October 25, 2015
Just in Case You Missed It
- New England squashed the Dolphins’ two-game win streak with a 36-7 ass-whooping on Thursday Night Football.
- The return of Dez Bryant was not enough to get the Cowboys back into the win column. Bryant was shut down by Richard Sherman and Dallas has now dropped 5 straight games.
- The Rams are quietly sneaking into the playoff race. They’ve won two in a row and only the Broncos, Panthers & Vikings have given up fewer points.
Games to Look Forward to in Week 9
Packers at Panthers – Denver kicked the Packers out of the realm of the unbeaten; can Green Bay do the same for Cam Newton and Carolina?
Dolphins at Bills – When two division rivals meet who both desperately need a win to stay in the playoff race what you end up with is one hell of a battle. While we’re not quite to “must-win game” time, this is just about as close as it gets.
Raiders at Steelers – These are the kind of games that Oakland must win if they are to truly elevate themselves to the next level. It will be interesting to see how Pittsburgh copes without Le’Veon Bell.
Broncos at Colts – The Colts have been disappointing this season but any time Peyton returns to Indy things get interesting.