By Kevin McGuire
A year ago, the Oakland Raiders were going through an experience similar to what the Philadelphia Eagles are going through right now. The loss of an MVP quarterback derailed the Raiders’ season in the final weeks of the regular season and sent Oakland searching for answers in the postseason. After losing Carson Wentz to a season-ending injury, the Eagles are hoping to avoid falling into the same trap the Raiders did a year ago. With Oakland coming to Philadelphia for a Christmas night contest, the Eagles could potentially wrap up home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs if the defense can get back in sync against the Raiders.
The big question is, what will the game mean for the Raiders? The Raiders could officially be eliminated from the AFC playoff picture entirely a day before getting a chance to play on Christmas night. And if that’s the case, Oakland may be looking forward to just getting home as soon as possible.
Oakland fumbled away a potential win on Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys when Derek Carr lost control of the football as he stretched for the end zone. The loss dropped the Raiders to 6-8 and nearly out of the running for a postseason berth. This is a must-win game for Oakland, but the Raiders also need a good amount of help that is unlikely to come their way.
The last time the Eagles played the Raiders was in 2013. Nick Foles had seven touchdown passes in the 49-20 win on the West Coast. The Raiders have not played in Philadelphia since 2005, and their last win in Philly came in 2001, when Jon Gruden topped Andy Reid and former Eagles running back Charlie Garner scored a touchdown for the Raiders. Eagles guard Stefen Wisniewski’s uncle, Steve Wisniewski, played in the game for the Raiders.
Raiders on Offense
The Raiders offense has struggled to find consistency at times this season. The addition of Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to run the football has resulted in 695 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, but the Raiders rank just 25th in rushing offense this season. Derek Carr has thrown for more than 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, but the passing offense is in the middle of the NFL rankings in that category as well. The Raiders were also without Amari Cooper at wide receiver in Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, and his status next week could also be in jeopardy. When the Raiders play to their full potential, they can be dangerous, but far too often the Raiders have lacked the ability to make the plays they need on offense.
Raiders on Defense
Oakland will come to Philly with the league’s 21st-ranked defense. Opposing offenses are piling up 238 passing yards per game and have averaged 23.1 points per game. It is not a defense the Eagles should have much reason to fear this week, even with Nick Foles at quarterback (and Foles has a history against the Raiders that all Eagles fans are sure to remember).
On Sunday night against the Cowboys, Oakland gave up just two third-down conversions in 10 attempts, but the Cowboys were two-for-two on fourth down conversions. If the Eagles’ running game can create short-yardage situations, finding a way to keep the chains moving may not be the most simple of tasks.
Raiders Players to Watch
Derek Carr, Quarterback: After coming up with such a costly turnover in the Sunday night game against the Cowboys, Carr will be looking to rebound and make a bit of a statement this week. After the Eagles defense was picked apart by Eli Manning and the Giants, Carr will hope to be able to do the same.
Khalil Mack, Linebacker: One of the younger pieces of the Raiders defense is coming off a game in which he had two sacks of Dak Prescott. Mack will be difficult to contain and he is known to get his hands on the quarterback.
The Eagles should still be a considerable favorite at home on Christmas night, but the Raiders have the potential to make things interesting. If the Raiders can thrive against the Eagles defense the way the Giants did, it may be difficult to put the Raiders away for good. But Oakland may officially be eliminated from postseason contention by the time Monday night’s kickoff comes around, and that could take any energy still on the team out of the mix on the holiday.