By Charles Jay
Well, it’s been a long and winding road for the Oakland Raiders since they first came into the NFL in 1960. They were taken away from the city by Al Davis, then returned, and now they are leaving again. This time it’s not Los Angeles, but Las Vegas, but the fans have remained rabid. So we don’t expect anything less than for Raider Nation to be out in force on Sunday as the Silver and Black takes on the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fond farewell to the Coliseum, beginning at 4:05 PM ET.
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The Raiders certainly wish there was more encouraging storyline behind this one. But the fact remains, they were, for a moment, breathing down the necks of the Kansas City Chiefs and ready to pounce. In fact, they could have tied them in the AFC West with a victory on December 1. But that turned out to be impossible, and it wasn’t even close. In fact, the Raiders haven’t gotten close in any of their last three games, losing them by margins of 31, 31 and 21 points. Now, with a 6-7 record (both straight up and against the points), their chances to make the playoffs are dwindling.
The Jaguars basically left the playoff race some time ago. And a lot of this seemed to coincide, oddly enough, with the insertion of Nick Foles at quarterback. Foles, who of course won a Super Bowl MVP award with the Philadelphia Eagles, was signed to a big free-agent contract in the off-season, and he was supposed to be the guy who gave Jacksonville some steady leadership at quarterback in the week of the Blake Bortles. But he got injured barely into his first regular-season game, and Gardner Minshew, an unproven sixt- round draft pick out of Washington State, came in and added a little bit of charisma.
Minshew, who threw a LOT of passes as a senior in Mike Leach’s system, showed that he could take off and run with the football as well. And while it is not certain that the Jags would have contended strongly for the playoffs with him at the helm, we can most certainly conclude that things went very much downhill with Foles. In fact, the Jags have lost five games in a row by a total of 117 points. But even though Foles is healthy, Minshew was reinserted into the lineup.
That really leaves management, including executive Tom Coughlin, with a dilemma. They spent a lot of money, but they may not have spent it on their true “quarterback of the future.” Maybe they will shop Foles in the off-season? And maybe head coach Doug Marrone won’t be a part of that discussion? This team seems to have quit on him, or “gone on strike,” to use the more common parlance. We’ll get into that a little more in a second.
In the NFL betting odds posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, Oakland is the favorite in this game:
Oakland Raiders -6.5 (-115)
Jacksonville Jaguars +.5 (-105)
Over 47 points -110
Under 47 points -110
There’s no doubt this team has a look of a group that has quit. When you’re playing at home, as they did last week against the Los Angeles Chargers, and are outgained by a margin of 9.1 to 4.0 yards per play in a 45-10 loss to a team under the .500 mark, that’s quitting, no matter what kind of sugar-coating you want to put to it. So that’s what this team has before it as it travels across the country into what is going to be a hostile environment. Minshew threw 37 times last week for on;y 162 yards, and the team has not gone back to what it does best, which is run the football behind Leonard Fournette (1039 yards).
The fact of the matter is, Marrone should have been fired somewhere along the way, if they were serious about competing in the latter stages.
By the scores, it doesn’t look like Oakland is in freat spirits. But at least the concept is that this year they took steps forward under Jon Gruden and his general manager higher, Mike Mayock. A new tight end emerged in Darren Waller (72 catches). Derek Carr completed 71% of his passes. The first round draft pick, running back Josh Jacobs could not have worked out better, as he is a dual threat and has 1061 yards on the ground. That kind of thing could work here against Jacksonville, with a thin linebacking corps and one of the worst defenses against the run (5.3 ypc allowed) in the National Football League.
Oakland is hardly a complete team, however, and their defensive backfield is extremely vulnerable, surrendering, for example, 8.2 yards per pass. But Minshew isn’t necessarily a downfield thrower who stretches defenses, and the guy who became his favorite target, DJ Chark, has been declared out of this game.
Besides all that, we can’t imagine anything but a superhuman effort on the part of the Raiders here, can you? And when you put that against a team that may just come out half-hearted once again, we don’t have any choice, really, but the lay the points.
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