And why not? Although still mathematically alive in the AFC playoff picture, the Oakland Raiders are pretty much out of the post-season scenario. What better way to celebrate the holidays for them than to knock off the #1 seed in the NFC at their own house?
The Raiders (6-8) had high hopes for this season. Their Top-10 QB Derek Carr was healthy again, and when he’s healthy he can really run an offense. But things just haven’t panned out the way they drew it up in training camp. They enter the Week 16 matchup with the Eagles on the heels of a last-second loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Raiders have fallen to 19th overall in the NFL offense rankings. But don’t let that fool you into false complacency. Carr can still pick apart a defense when he’s on, and RB Marshawn Lynch has been incredibly effective since his return from a one-game suspension.
The generic FedEx matchup board looks incredibly in favor of the Eagles, but remember, FedEx tracks the 2017 average output of these teams, not the recent 3-game trend which Leo Pizzini always said is more important than the seasonal average:
This upcoming game has a similar feel for me as the preceding game against the Giants. What you want to do is get up on the Raiders early by two or more scores. If you do that, the players are calling their agents at halftime to remind them to rent the U-Haul trailers for their return flight home, and to assure them that they are okay physically and will not be risking getting hurt in the second half against the Eagles. But if you come out flat and allow the Raiders to hang around into the 3rd quarter, anything can happen—especially with Carr at the helm.
One sad thing which is not in the Raiders’ favor is the door has officially shut on the rest of Donald Penn’s season, as Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio confirmed Monday afternoon. The veteran left tackle will miss the remainder of the 2017 campaign with a foot injury. Penn is the Jason Peters of the Raiders. I don’t think he’s missed a game since 2007. He’s really good.
The other player the Raiders may miss the most is WR Amari Cooper. He missed the recent Dallas game with a sprained ankle. It’s questionable whether Cooper will be able to play against the Eagles.
But the Raiders still have plenty of guys left who are ready to wreck Christmas for the Eagles:
Last week, the Raiders hosted the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football and fell in a close contest, 17-20. The defense held the Cowboys to just 330 yards of total offense. DE Khalil Mack led the way for the unit, posting two sacks on the night. CB Sean Smith recorded his first two interceptions of the year, picking off QB Dak Prescott on the game’s first drive and then again in the third quarter. LB NaVorro Bowman again led the team with 11 tackles in the game. QB Derek Carr threw for 171 yards on 21-of-38 passing with two touchdowns, both hauled in by WR Michael Crabtree, who finished with seven catches for 39 yards in addition to his two scores. WR Seth Roberts led the team with 52 receiving yards on three receptions. The Raiders rushed for 122 yards in the game, including 76 from RB Marshawn Lynch and another 47 from Carr, his highest total of the season.
Big Mack in particular is going to try to turn Nick Foles into a human wishbone. Since entering the NFL in 2014, no player has racked up as many sacks as DE Khalil Mack in the month that matters most. Mack has accounted for an unparalleled 17 sacks in December since his rookie campaign. Mack is also in the midst of a five-game sack streak, posting a sack in each game since Week 11. Following up on Mack’s eight-game sack streak last year, he is one of only two players with a sack streak of at least five games in each of the last two years (Joey Bosa).
And the Raiders kinda know us—maybe more than we know them:
• Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo held the same position with the Raiders from 2007-08 and 2012-14, helping develop Raiders QB Derek Carr.
• Eagles G/C Stefen Wisniewski originally entered the league with Oakland as a second-round draft pick in 2011 where he started at left guard as a rookie before transitioning to center for the 2012 season. Wisniewski’s uncle, Steve, was an eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro First Team member as a guard for the Raiders from 1989-2001.
• Raiders player personnel assistant Howie Long Jr. is the younger brother of Eagles DE Chris Long. Their father, Howie Long, played for the Raiders for 13 seasons and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame following seven Pro Bowl appearances.
• Raiders running backs coach Bernie Parmalee (running back) played with Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson (quarterback) for the Miami Dolphins from 1992-95.
• Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing served on Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’ staff with the Detroit Lions from 2009-13, first as an offensive quality control coach before being promoted to assistant quarterbacks and later quarterbacks coach.
• Raiders S Karl Joseph played in the same secondary as Eagles CB Rasul Douglas for one season at West Virginia, where the two competed against Eagles WR Shelton Gibson at practice in 2015. Additionally, Raiders LB Bruce Irvin and Eagles LB Najee Goode played together at West Virginia from 2010-11.
• Raiders DE Khalil Mack and Eagles DE Steven Means were teammates at Buffalo from 2010-12, where the two tallied a combined 31.5 sacks during their three years together.
• Raiders S Shalom Luani and Eagles DT Destiny Vaeao played on the same defense at Washington State in 2015. Additionally, the two are both from American Samoa as Luani is a native of Masausi and Vaeao is a native of Pago Pago.
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Is it just me, or do you also have anxiety over the possibility of losing a playoff game due to an interpretation of an existing rule at the worst possible time in the game?
I mean, one of THOSE rules— like the “completion of the process of the catch” rule….or the “fumble out of bounds in the end zone” rule.
Anyone who watched the Patriots at Steelers game this past week knows what I’m talking about. Back in the old days a catch was a catch, and TE Jesse James would have scored what would have been a winning TD for the Steelers, as he had possession of the ball he caught when it passed the plane of the goal line.
But that simple rule has been rewritten in recent years. I’m still not sure why it had to be rewritten, but the contemporary interpretation of the new rule cost the Steelers the game.
Well, actually it didn’t truly cost the Steelers the game, as on the very next play Big Ben threw an INT into endzone coverage on which former Eagle Eric Rowe had a nice deflection. But let’s just say that play never happens if the old “a catch is a catch” rule were still in effect.
Anyway, I have a funny feeling the technically correct interpretation of some kind of similarly flawed rule is going to bite us in the throat in the playoffs.
Am I being paranoid? Yes. Is it going to happen to SOME team in the playoffs? I would say yes, probably.
If you want to take a few minutes to delve into this issue, I recommend a short piece in Ryan Van Bibber’s SB Nation football newsletter. It leads with the warning “One day, it’ll be your team on the wrong side of those rules”. So how do we fix them? Retired NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz has some ideas for how to fix the three worst rules in the NFL rule book.