Oakland Raiders vs. Seattle Seahawks: Complete Week 9 Preview for Oakland
The Oakland Raiders are still winless heading into their eighth game of the season, and things are only going to get tougher from here.
Per ESPN.com's Bill Williamson, the Raiders' remaining opponents have a record of 40-25 (.625). This gives Oakland the toughest remaining schedule of any team in the NFL, a stretch that includes the Denver Broncos (twice), the San Diego Chargers and the San Francisco 49ers. First up in this murderer's row are the defending Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks.
Derek Carr won the starting job in final preseason game when he had an incredible performance in Oakland against these very same Seahawks. That night, he went 11-of-13 passing for 143 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers in two quarters of play.
His snaps came against plenty of starters, but the Seattle defense he sees this week will be much tougher than the one he saw in August. Still, it's going to take a similar performance for Oakland to have a chance.
Can the Raiders win this game? Yes. Should they? No. But if you're Oakland, you still have to enter the game believing in your game plan and confident that if you execute, you can come out with a victory.
Oakland will certainly have its work cut out for it when it visits CenturyLink Field in Seattle this Sunday. Kickoff is at 4:25 p.m. ET live on CBS. Here's a full breakdown of the game and what Oakland needs to do to not only stay in the game, but to give itself a chance to win.
Oakland Raiders Week 8 Recap
So close, yet so far.
When the Raiders visited the Cleveland Browns in Week 8, it turned out to be what many suspected it would be: a very winnable game for Oakland.
But as has been the case throughout the season, the Raiders were their own worst enemy.
A game-changing fumble by Darren McFadden shifted the momentum in Cleveland's favor for the rest of the game, and a fumble by Derek Carr inside the Oakland 10-yard line gave the Browns an easy touchdown that sealed the result.
As much criticism as the defense has taken, it hasn't been given nearly enough credit for keeping Oakland in games. The defense held the Browns to only nine points through three quarters. It also completely shut down the Cleveland running game, holding it to 39 yards on 25 carries for an average of only 1.6 yards per attempt.
Yet entering the fourth quarter, Oakland still found itself behind on the scoreboard.
It's easy to pile on the coaches, but sometimes the criticism is well-founded. Going into the game, it was known that the Browns had the worst run defense in the NFL. This situation was tailor-made for Oakland to give McFadden a lot of carries and let him exploit this glaring flaw in the Cleveland defense.
And early on, it seemed as if this would be the case when McFadden had more than 20 yards on his first two carries.
But the offensive play-calling quickly reverted to the same inept form it's been in all season. McFadden had only 10 carries the rest of the game. The offense was too reliant on the pass (56 passes to 22 rushes), it became one-dimensional, and it once again was unable to score enough points to win a game. For the sixth time in seven games, the Raiders couldn't score more than 14 points.
The final score of 23-13 is misleading. The Raiders were always in this game, and it remained close throughout. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that Cleveland stretched its lead, and this only happened because Oakland's turnovers forced the defense to play deep in its own territory.
These turnovers, combined with too many defensive snaps due to the offense's inability to stay on the field, guaranteed that the defense would eventually break.
Despite playing relatively well, Carr needs to be held accountable for his inability to get the offense into the end zone. This was highlighted against Cleveland. The defense did enough to win, but the offense didn't, and this decided the game.
News and Notes
Some Positives for Oakland Amidst Another Lost Season
This week, NFL.com's Marc Sessler released his midseason all-rookie team, and the Raiders' top two picks from the last draft made their way onto the list. Derek Carr and Khalil Mack earned top rookie quarterback and outside linebacker honors, respectively.
This is a meaningless award, and it provides little comfort to Raiders fans as they watch their team struggle through yet another year. But it's also evidence that the Raiders aren't completely lost as an organization. There are young players on both sides of the ball who the team can build around in the coming seasons, and that's something to be happy about.
Speaking of Carr...
This week, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller and Chris Simms sat down with Stephen Nelson to discuss the performance of this year's rookie class of quarterbacks through the first eight weeks (video above). They re-graded the rookies who have earned a start—Carr, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Zack "Mustache" Mettenberger—and according Miller and Simms, the Oakland rookie has clearly been the best of the bunch.
Carr has yet to lead Oakland to a victory, but he certainly hasn't been the problem. Although he hasn't been spectacular, he has been solid, and he's put up respectable numbers. Through seven games, he has 1,517 yards while completing 61 percent of his passes and throwing nine touchdowns and five interceptions.
That's not a bad stat line for a rookie quarterback, especially when he's on one of the weaker offenses in the NFL.
Simms has Carr as his top performer among rookie quarterbacks, and Miller has him second behind Bridgwater (although he does admit that his decision is affected by his bias for the Louisville product). But the consensus is that in Carr, Oakland finally has the quarterback it has been desperately looking for.
Asante Rejoins the Silver and Black
On Tuesday, the Raiders cut linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu, and they added him back to the practice squad on Wednesday. To replace him on the roster, Oakland made a move to reinforce its depleted secondary.
ESPN.com's Bill Williamson reported on Wednesday that the Raiders signed safety Larry Asante to the 53-man roster. Oakland has already lost two safeties for the the year—Tyvon Branch and Usama Young—and are thin at the position. Asante spent time with Oakland this preseason, so he's not completely unfamiliar with the team's playbook.
Aside from Charles Woodson, no safety on this roster is guaranteed playing time, which means that Asante will have plenty of opportunity to play himself into more snaps.
So Long, David...We Hardly Knew Ye
It seems that tight end David Ausberry's career (if you can call it that) as a Raider is slowly but surely coming to an end.
Per JustBlogBaby's Chase Ruttig, Oakland worked out three tight ends this week—Michael Egnew, D.C. Jefferson and Jacob Pedersen—as it looks for support at a position that currently has only two healthy bodies in Mychal Rivera and Brian Leonhardt.
It was supposed to be Ausberry's year. He was finally healthy, and he was designated the starting tight end heading into camp. But he couldn't stay healthy, and his season quickly devolved into the injury-riddled mess that has made up his entire career. He has appeared in six games, but he has only two receptions and has been a complete non-factor.
Now, he's out indefinitely with a foot injury, and it appears that the team is finally giving up. It's sad because he really does have a lot of potential. But he's only been healthy enough to play in 34 out of a possible 55 regular-season games in his career, and he's managed only 11 receptions and no touchdowns in that time.
He's had plenty of time and opportunity to earn his roster spot, but he hasn't. It's time for Oakland to move on.
L.A. and Chucky: The Rumors That Won't Die
Stop me if you've heard these before: "The Raiders are moving to Los Angeles." "Jon Gruden will soon make his triumphant return to the Silver and Black." Sound familiar? If you're a Raiders fan, You heard these rumors years ago. And you're still hearing them today.
In the latest edition of "Somebody Just Make a Decision Already!", these rumors seem to once again be heating up. In an interview with Bleacher Reports's Stephen Nelson, Jason Cole stated that owner Mark Davis still has Gruden at the top of his list of candidates to take over as head coach of the Raiders (you can check out the interview here).
However, Cole also added the interesting note that some of the people around Davis are actively trying to discourage this pursuit because they don't believe Gruden is "the proper fit."
So how does this relate to a possible return to the City of Angels? Cole goes on to say that if the Raiders make the move, they want to do it with a big name at head coach. And who better than Gruden? This assumes that the Raiders are still very much in the conversation for what is the NFL's inevitable return to L.A.
The fact is that it's now more likely than not that there will be a team in Los Angeles in the next year or two, and the Raiders are perhaps the best candidate for the move.
There are sill plenty of "ifs," "buts" and "maybes" in this scenario. Gruden has, in no uncertain terms, said that he has no intention of returning to coaching. But he's also extremely competitive, and he enjoys the spotlight. If the Raiders came to him with the offer of being the head coach of the NFL's Los Angeles franchise, would he really be able to say no?
Injury statuses and updates taken from CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair.
Ausberry is once again out with an injury, and this could turn out the be the final straw. Since the Raiders drafted him, they've held out hope that he would eventually be able to stay healthy and make use of his immense potential. But Oakland is now looking at other options at the position, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Ausberry gone at season's end.
Rogers has missed practice this week, but this is nothing new for the veteran cornerback. He's still nursing a knee injury, but it didn't keep him out last week. Unless he aggravates it before Sunday's game, he'll be on the field against the Seahawks. However, if he's limited in any way, it's possible that at least some of his snaps will go to D.J. Hayden.
Brown continues to work his way back from a nagging hamstring injury, but whether he's available to play, it's unlikely that he'll see any playing time. The depth chart at wide receiver has been solidified, so for the time being, Brown won't see anything more than occasional spot duty.
Reece and Tuck are still dealing with their injuries, but both still played last week. Reece has had a disappointing season, and he'll continue to share his snaps with Jamize Olawale.
Tuck picked up his second sack as a Raider last week, and he moved freely despite his knee injury. He's been limited in practice, but as is the case with Rogers, this is being done as a precaution. Tuck will be ready to go against Seattle.
The good news comes from Carrie, who isn't even on this week's injury report. When he went down against Cleveland holding his back, it appeared that the injury could be serious. But as it turns out, it wasn't really an injury at all. Tests revealed that it was only a back spasm, and there have been no lingering effects this week.
After Charles Woodson, Carrie has arguably been the secondary's best performer. He's been declared 100 percent, which is great news for the defense.
X-Factors and Matchups to Watch
D.J. Hayden vs. Seattle wide receivers
Hayden made his return against the Browns, but he saw only limited action, and he was primarily used on special teams. According to CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair, interim head coach Tony Sparano has indicated Hayden is going to see more snaps this week, but he hasn't specified exactly how this will play out. However, it's likely that Hayden will see more time at cornerback against Seattle.
This will be Hayden's first real test, as he'll be asked to actually cover a receiver. Who he covers will depend on the packages he's included in, and he'll likely still be behind Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and TJ Carrie on the depth chart.
But he will be asked to cover, and he'll have to show that he really is back to full strength and ready to contribute.
The Raiders have struggled badly in coverage, and they desperately need him to step in and perform like the cornerback they though they were getting in the draft last year.
Mychal Rivera vs. Kam Chancellor
Rivera is coming off of his best performance of the season, and he'll need to have a similar game for Oakland to have any success offensively. The Seattle defense hasn't been nearly as dominant, but it's still very good, and it'll be playing at home.
Rivera has to be solid over the middle, but he'll have to do it against much tougher competition this week. As CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair notes, Chancellor is a major reason for the Seattle secondary's reputation as a physical unit. Rivera is going to have to fight through Chancellor's physicality and still get open. If he can, his play could turn into a deciding factor.
Khalil Mack vs. Marshawn Lynch
This could be one of the most exciting matchups to watch on Sunday. Lynch, AKA BeastMode, is known for is aggressive, brutal, downhill-style of running. Once he gets rolling, there might not be another running back in the league that's as tough to bring down.
But on Sunday, he'll be up against one of the league's top run-stopping linebackers in Mack. Lynch isn't having a particularly good year, but this has a lot to do with Seattle inexplicably going away from the run. But if Lynch gets the carries, he'll be as dangerous as ever.
Mack will be expected to be a major contributor in stopping Lynch. It'll be interesting to see how the rookie handles his biggest test of the season.
Darren McFadden vs. Brock Croyle
Although he's struggled once again, McFadden has shown some flashes. If he gets the touches, he's shown that he can still get the job done.
He'll have another great opportunity for a breakout game as he'll be watched by undrafted rookie Brock Croyle. The middle linebacker will get his first NFL start this week, per the Associated Press' Tim Booth. McFadden has to take advantage of the rookie's inexperience. Establishing the running game will keep the offense on the field, and it'll eventually lead to more points.
Of course, this all depends on whether the coaches decide to finally run the ball.
Derek Carr and Andre Holmes vs. Richard Sherman
Carr earned the starting job in Oakland based on his performance in the final preseason game against the Seahawks. It was a meaningless game, but Sherman is sure to remember how the rookie picked apart the vaunted Seattle secondary.
This Sunday, Carr is going to show the same fearlessness he's show all season when it comes to throwing at the defense's top cornerback, but Sherman is going to be especially eager to make a big play. Carr can't shy away from that side of the field, but he needs to be extremely cautious. Sherman doesn't need any more motivation. If he comes up with a pick, he could shut down an entire side of the field for the rest of the day.
Sherman will likely see most of his time covering Andre Holmes. This means that Holmes has to help his quarterback out by being aggressive and attacking the ball. When a pass does come his way, he needs to be first to the ball every time.
X-Factors of the Week: Justin Tuck and Benson Mayowa
Against Cleveland, the Raiders were able to stop the run for the first time this season. A major reason for this was the job that Tuck and Mayowa did setting the edge. This forced the runners back inside into the teeth of the defense.
This will be especially crucial against the Seahawks. If Oakland is going to have any chance in this game, it will have to contain the running ability of both Lynch and Russell Wilson. If Seattle gets its running game going, it's going to turn into a very long day for the Oakland defense.
By containing Lynch and Wilson, Oakland will create shorter possessions for Seattle. This will get the Raiders offense on the field more often, giving the the team a chance to score enough points to win.
Perhaps ESPN.com's Bill Williamson put it best when looking at what the Raiders need to do in order to win on Sunday:
Perfection. Absolute perfection. In all three phases of the game. That is how the Raiders can beat the Seahawks in Seattle. The Raiders will have to do everything right. They have been far from perfect this season, but they have to be to win this game.
That's a tall order for any team, much less one that has played as poorly as Oakland has. Needless to say, the odds of this actually happening are slim to none.
Every team in the NFL has talent. Sure, there's a difference from team to team, but even the winless Raiders have players capable of making plays in every phase of the game. The deciding factor is execution and consistency, and these are both areas in which Oakland has struggled.
Per Williamson, Sparano himself noted that one of the biggest issues for this team has been consistency. When the Raiders plug one hole, the team springs a leak somewhere else. Oakland has yet to put together a game in which all three units play well.
Seattle will exploit this inconsistency and make Oakland pay for every mistake. The Raiders will make some plays, but the Seahawks will dominate throughout and never really be in danger of losing.
For Oakland, this will be a learning experience. Despite the loss, the team needs to take important lessons that can be applied going forward. The Raiders will win a game this season, but it won't be this week.
Prediction: Seahawks 31, Raiders 17
Unless otherwise noted, all stats taken from ESPN.com.
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