The Oakland Raiders are still smarting from their last-second loss to the Tennessee Titans. The good news? Dennis Allen’s team doesn’t have much time to wallow in pity, not with a Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas coming up.
With five games left, the Raiders (4-7) can still make a run at the playoffs despite having dropped three of their last four. It won’t be easy, either, as Oakland has only two home games left and must still face division-leading Denver and Kansas City.
To end their decade-long playoff drought, the Raiders will likely have to run the table over the final month. Even then it might not be enough, as Oakland dropped from sixth to 12th in the AFC standings after giving up a late touchdown to the Titans.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind heading into Week 13:
Talk about missed opportunities. The Broncos and all-world quarterback Peyton Manning were cruising along with a 24-point lead against New England on Sunday night, only to watch the Patriots storm back and pull off a stunning win that prevented Denver from moving into sole possession of first place.
Only a few hours earlier, Kansas City also lost on a late touchdown after leading San Diego most of the afternoon. That left the Chiefs and Broncos deadlocked atop the division heading into their Week 13 showdown at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers and Philip Rivers won to stay in the hunt, while the Raiders’ loss to Tennessee might have crippled whatever playoff hopes they had.
Tight end Mychal Rivera and cornerback Mike Jenkins were both knocked out of the game against Tennessee, but the prognosis for both is good. Each player still has to go through the NFL protocol for concussions before getting cleared to play, however. On a short week, that might be tough to do before kickoff.
Kevin Burnett’s injury doesn’t seem too serious, and he should be back on the field in the middle of the defense for Thursday’s game. The same goes for running back Rashad Jennings, who suffered a shoulder stinger.
Even more encouraging was seeing left tackle Jared Veldheer and running back Darren McFadden both working out on the field Monday. Though neither player has been cleared to play, Allen said it’s possible Veldheer could make his 2013 debut in Dallas.
What needs to improve
— Whatever swagger the defense had earlier in the season is gone. For the second time in four weeks, the Raiders let an average quarterback play like a Hall of Famer. Even before throwing his game-winning touchdown pass, Ryan Fitzpatrick had Oakland’s defense on its heels. Allen said afterward he wished he would have been more aggressive with the play-calling during Tennessee’s final drive, but he could have been speaking about the entire game.
— Kicker Sebastian Janikowski caused quite a stir, and it wasn’t just from his two missed field goals that wound up being the difference in the game with the Titans. Janikowski came under scrutiny after he complained about holder Marquette King to a sideline reporter while the game was still going on.
As much as he would like to use King as a crutch, the bottom line is that Janikowski has been shaky at best this season. His decision to take the situation public only makes the issue worse.
— Losing Rivera against the Titans was a big blow to the passing game. Quarterback Matt McGloin has formed a good connection with the tight end, and the two rookies have clearly developed a strong rapport with one another. Without him, Oakland wasn’t able to do much through the air primarily because of a mediocre cast of wide receivers.
Getting Denarius Moore back would be a critical step toward improving things, though he has had his own issues with consistency this season.
— Terrelle Pryor was healthy enough to be in uniform against Tennessee but did not play. Expect that to change this week even though McGloin will start. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson has said previously that he would like to get both quarterbacks on the field at the same time, and the timing couldn’t be better considering the rest of the offense. Because of his athleticism, Pryor can line up in the backfield or split out wide as a receiver. He’s too talented to sit on the sidelines, and the Raiders have to find a way to utilize him in some capacity.