Dennis Allen insists he isn’t worried about keeping the Oakland Raiders motivated, even though their hopes of ending a decade-long playoff drought are dimming with each passing game. At 4-8, the best they can do is finish .500, and even then it might not be enough.
The schedule isn’t much in Oakland’s favor. After flying to New York this week to play the Jets, the Raiders close out the regular season with a string of games against AFC West opponents: Kansas City, San Diego and Denver.
Here’s a look at some of what you need to know heading into the Raiders’ Week 14 game against the Jets.
|AFC West standings|
|Kansas City Chiefs||9-3||1||298||214|
|San Diego Chargers||5-7||5||279||277|
More importantly, the Broncos now own the tiebreaker should the Chiefs catch them. That seems unlikely considering Kansas City has lost its past three games after opening the season with nine straight wins. Jamaal Charles is an elite back and the K.C. offense has been more explosive of late, but unless their defense can recapture its early-season dominating form, the Chiefs—even should they make the postseason as expected—will struggle to do any damage in the playoffs.
|RB Rashad Jennings||Concussion||RB Jeremy Stewart||Knee|
|RG Mike Brisiel||Knee||S Usama Young||Neck|
|CB Mike Jenkins||Stinger||LB Kaluka Maiava||Calf|
There is a little bit of concern in the locker room over the status of running back Rashad Jennings. Jennings suffered a concussion during the game with Dallas and has not yet passed all of the NFL protocol required for him to be cleared to return to practice. He was in the team’s locker room on Monday and appeared fine, but as is the norm for players with concussions, he was kept off limits from the media.
Right guard Mike Brisiel also made his way through the locker room and wasn’t walking with a noticeable limp, a good sign considering he couldn’t finish the game against the Dallas Cowboys. Of the other four players on the injury list, cornerback Mike Jenkins seems the most likely to play against the Jets.
What has to improve
The key to Matt McGloin’s success against Houston was that the Raiders were able to balance their offense with a productive running game. They weren’t able to do that against Dallas and it was costly.
New York’s defense presents an even bigger hurdle. The Jets are first in the NFL against the run, giving up just 77 yards a game.
If Jennings is unavailable, Oakland will face even more pressure. Darren McFadden is averaging just 3.5 yards a carry and has just one 100-yard game to his credit this season.
As good as the Raiders have been on defense this season, one of their biggest problems continues to be a lack of tackling. Time and time again, they’ve had running backs pinned for losses or quarterbacks ready to be sacked, only to let them get away. Until that gets resolved, the second-half collapses will remain likely.
Though it hasn’t become much of an issue to this point, one of the things Dennis Allen and his coaching staff have to be on the lookout for is complacency from the players. Once there is nothing else to play for (i.e., playoffs), some players have a tendency to mentally check out.
To their credit, the Raiders have played hard all season and likely will. They are still mathematically in the playoff hunt, too. Once that incentive is gone, however, it will be interesting to see how the guys in the locker room respond.
The Raiders are on pace for 117 penalties, which would surpass their total from last season, when Allen was so adamant about curing some of the disciplinary problems the team had.
It’s not just that the penalties are up. It’s the type of penalties and when they’re happening that have to be the most frustrating, especially on offense where a young quarterback like McGloin needs almost everything around him to go right.
*All information and quotes in this and any report by Michael Wagaman were obtained firsthand.