(CBS San Francisco/CBS Local) — The Oakland Raiders (3-2) rode a two-game win streak into their Week 6 bye. Those two wins, over the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears, can rightfully be viewed as statement games for a team mired in distraction for much of August and September. With Antonio Brown and Vontaze Burfict fading in the rear-view mirror, the well-rested Raiders appear ready to make a run. But they’ll have to get past the Green Bay Packers (5-1) in Week 7.
The Packers pulled out another close game Monday night, thanks to a lot of field goals and some questionable officiating. The Lions kicked five FGs and the Packers three, none more important than Mason Crosby’s walk-off 23-yarder, set up by a questionable hands-to-the-face penalty against the Detroit Lions. Penalties will remain a hot topic going into Week 7 of the NFL season. Regardless, the Packers’ hard-fought win means they host the Raiders on short rest. The Raiders, for their part, haven’t played at home since mid-September.
In their resurgence, this Raiders team has relied on the running game, short passes, and a defense that does enough. Rookie Josh Jacobs ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns against a Bears team that featured former Raiders standout Khalil Mack. Derek Carr went a tidy 25-32 for 229 yards, involving nine different pass-catchers. (Starting receivers J.J. Nelson and Tyrell Williams both sat out with injuries.) The play of the offensive line made Mack, for once, a non-factor, not allowing the vaunted Bears defense to record a single sack.
“Josh Jacobs has really provided them with stability,” said Evan Washburn, NFL On CBS sideline reporter. “They haven’t had everything they’ve wanted from the wide receiver position, due to the absence of Antonio Brown to start the year, but how they’ve managed that. And then Tyrell Williams going down has proven not to really knock them off their pedestal offensively.”
But it all comes back around to Derek Carr and Jon Gruden. “Seeing what Derek Carr has done, with an extended period of time with Jon Gruden,” says Washburn, “he’s starting to shape into a quarterback that’s really effective. And his numbers are actually better than they were when he was at his best in 2016.”
Can they keep it up against a strong Packers unit, which has propensity to give up points from time to time?
The Packers defense limited the Lions production, particularly when it mattered. Matthew Stafford threw for 265 yards, going 18-32 with no touchdowns. The Lions only managed one touchdown overall — a Kerryon Johnson one-yard run on fourth down that could’ve easily been ruled a stop. Johnson gained just 34 yards on 13 carries all night. The Packers defense forced five field goals, which, as much as the questionable late calls against Lions, helped determine the game’s outcome.
Aaron Rodgers was productive for the Packers Monday night, though not the one-man highlight real he’s capable of being in any given week. Still, his 283 yards on 24-39 passing included two touchdowns. And, of course, he led the last-minute, penalty-aided drive that resulted in the winning field goal. Rodgers has played better statistical games this season, like in Week 4, when he threw for 422 yards and two TDs in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. But he showed yet again that any team he’s quarterbacking is always dangerous.
That’s fortunate for Green Bay, because their running game has struggled at times, despite delivering yards in recent weeks. Jamaal Williams turned in 104 yards on 14 carries Monday; Aaron Jones ran for 107 yards on 19 carries — with four touchdowns — the week before. The Packers didn’t total 100 yards in either of the prior two weeks, but Jones turned in a 100-yard game against a very tough Minnesota Vikings defense early in the season. What Packers offense will the Raiders defense find themselves up against this week?
The Raiders D has shown improvement over the last month and change, and turned in a strong showing in their last outing. They sacked Bears backup Chase Daniel four times and intercepted him twice. Daniel, while certainly no Aaron Rodgers, still tossed a pair of TD passes. The Raiders unit continues to feel the loss of Burfict, who called the signals for the defense. Their secondary is also vulnerable and a little on the young side. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs lit them up for 443 yards and four (second-quarter) touchdowns in Week 3.
“But it feels like [these Raiders] have an identity,” notes Washburn. “And maybe they’re better off for it. I think Oakland is very comfortable flying a bit under the radar and happy to prove a lot of people wrong, that after training camp and all that noise, had written them off.”
The early line puts the Packers at six-point favorites at home over the Raiders, but this is a tough matchup. If the Raiders can run the ball on offense and pressure Rodgers on defense, this game could be decided by a field goal. Let’s just hope that field goal isn’t set up by a questionable penalty.
The Raiders play the Packers Sunday @ 1 ET on CBS.