The Las Vegas Raiders are going to need all of autumn’s wind on their side if they’re going to turn this season around.
The Raiders are now 0-3 after falling 24-22 to the Titans Sunday. They’re one of the biggest surprise teams so far in the league after a tumultuous 2021 season where they still made the playoffs.
Of the previous 157 teams that started 0-3 since 1990, only four have made the postseason. The 2018 Texans were the last team to make it, a couple of years before the NFL’s postseason expansion to 14 teams.
It may be more comfortable for Raiders fans if there was one specific issue. The common thread seems to be that they just can’t play a good, full 60 minutes of ball.
“There’s no secret about it. You’ve got to do a lot of things right to win,” first-year Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said after the loss. “Winning is hard in this league. I think they know that. We know that. Every week’s a big challenge. Coaches, players, schemes and you’re going to have to earn it, you know what I mean? We’ve been in three close games so it’s not like we’re not competitive or have an opportunity to do it at the end. We’re going to have to make a few more plays as we go through the ballgame. Again, I’m looking for us to try to improve and play a full 60-minute game where we actually start well, play well in all three phases and see what that looks like because I’m not sure that we’ve done that yet.”
In Week 1 against the Chargers, Derek Carr played about as poorly as any established starter has in a game this season. The defense gave up 16 points in the final nine minutes of regulation against the Cardinals in Week 2. And Sunday against the Titans, the Raiders offense went 2-for-6 in the red zone and the second level of the defense played poorly in the first half without Denzel Perryman.
Vegas has had a propensity to play close games, though. Last year the Raiders were 7-2 in games decided by eight or fewer points, and 5-1 in games decided by three or fewer points. This year the Raiders have lost their three games by a combined 13 points.
They’ll need some of last year’s good fortunes in order to turn things around ASAP. The AFC West went 1-3 in Week 3, so that helps. The Raiders also have a manageable schedule through Thanksgiving: The Broncos twice, along with the Chiefs, Texans, Saints, Jaguars, Colts and Seahawks.
There’s no more margin for error left for these Raiders.
Something in sports I’m always careful to guard against is the fatigue of greatness. Like, don’t get used to what Tom Brady is doing at 45. Don’t think the MVP of a certain league has to go to another player just and only because one person has gotten it the last couple of years. You get the point.
Lamar Jackson is that. So far this season he has, as the kids say, been HIM. He’s the first quarterback in NFL history with consecutive 100-yard rushing games. He’s 2-1 and would be 3-0 if his defense didn’t collapse against Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins last week.
Right now he’s on pace to break several of his marks from his 2019 unanimous NFL MVP season. And because Jackson has been so historically great as a dual-threat for several years, I feel as though we’ve gotten used to it. What he’s doing is rare, and it should be appreciated as such even though we get the blessing to watch it every Sunday live and in color.
Jackson has bet on himself from a contract perspective. As long as he avoids major injury, the Ravens will surely franchise tag him come March at an exclusive tag number of around $45 million. That’s a difficult, but not impossible, number around which to continue fielding a competitive, championship roster.
Depending on how great he is, he’ll have greater leverage as his eventual (or hypothetical) contract numbers rise. Baltimore did not feel moved to meet him with a fully guaranteed contract, but the landscape may change next offseason when Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow are due their second deals.
- 49ers left tackle Trent Williams will have an MRI today to determine the extent of his ankle injury suffered Sunday night, per source. Patriots quarterback Mac Jones will also undergo further testing for his left ankle injury, and New England will likely have a roster decision to make with Jones regarding short-term IR.
- Trust me, I get plenty of wrong predictions. But one popular preseason projection I couldn’t wrap my brain around dealt with the high expectations around the New Orleans Saints. Sean Payton is a really good football coach — and I say “is” rather than “was” because he remains a good football coach even if he’s currently not a coach because he will very likely become a coach again. He’s an offensive guru who took this ball of interception clay that was Jameis Winston and turned him into an above average NFL starting quarterback. Although plenty of offensive infrastructure remains in New Orleans, Payton is gone. And outside of that fourth quarter against the Falcons, Winston has thrown five picks and averages 6.5 yards per attempt.
- What an incredible week of storylines in the NFL for Week 4. We get another round of Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes. We get the future of the AFC with Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. There’s the return of Doug Pederson to Philadelphia (where I expect him to get a warm reception.) An NFC title rematch between the Rams and 49ers. And if all goes to plan, Zach Wilson will be the starter for the Jets against the Steelers.
- Boy, the Panthers really needed that win Sunday. It’s been more than a year since Sweet Caroline played in Bank of America Stadium for a home team victory. Matt Rhule can’t relax too much with a game this week against a Cardinals team the Panthers trounced last year (albeit without Kyler Murray.)
- Two homefield advantages stuck out to me. First, of course, is Miami, where Bill after Bill exited the Sunday game due to some form of heat illness. Schedule-makers did the Dolphins a solid when they sent the Patriots and Bills down to Miami in September. And for as much as gruff as the Broncos have gotten, they went 2-0 at home. There are no two places to start an NFL season quite like Miami or Mile High.
- Speaking of the Broncos, three cheers for the Denver defense. The Broncos ‘D’ has been playing like one of the league’s best since halftime of the Week 1 game against Seattle. After allowing 17 points in the first two quarters against Seattle, Ejiro Evero’s unit has allowed just 19 points in the last 10 quarters while also contributing two points via Sunday night’s safety against the 49ers for a net of 17 points.