Over the first six games this season the Raiders were 2-4 with a 4-game losing streak. If things didn’t start looking up soon, the season would be lost.
That 4-game losing streak was rife with bad luck for the Raiders. Starting with the confusion pregame in Washington during the week of the league-wide anthem protest, then with Derek Carr running into a player’s knee and fracturing a bone in his back against the Broncos causing him to miss the following week against the Ravens, and ending with the one-point loss to the Chargers after a high snap by Jon Condo caused a missed extra point try. It was the kind of bad luck that makes you just throw your hands up.
The linebacker spot was struggling and made worse by the loss of both rookie middle linebacker Marquel Lee and fellow inside linebacker Cory James to injuries.
Just days prior, the 49ers decided it was time to move on from former All Pro middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman. Being right across the bay and in desperate need at the position made the Raiders the obvious landing spot for him and he signed in time for the next practice and was named the starter in his first game with the team and the Chiefs coming to town.
Those Chiefs were 5-1 at the time and figured to continue the Raiders downward spiral. It didn’t look good early on either, with a fight that had Marshawn Lynch ejected for contact with an official. Down 20-14 at the half, the Raiders luck started to change.
They would outscore the Chiefs 16-10 in that second half to pull out the 31-30 come-from-behind victory. It included a wild ending that featured 5 touchdown shots, the final two being untimed downs due to Chiefs’ penalties. It was the first sign Raiders fortunes may be turning around.
Then came their first personnel break with the Bills trading defensive tackle Marcel Dareus. Unfortunately the Raiders weren’t able to fully capitalize on that move because Marshawn Lynch had been suspended for that game. Both teams were without two starting defensive backs with injuries; The Raiders were without David Amerson and Karl Joseph and the Bills were without EJ Gaines and Jordan Poyer. Call it offsetting lucky breaks.
The following week the Dolphins traded Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi to the Eagles just ahead of hosting the Raiders. They made Jay Cutler look like Dan Marino, but still managed to pull out the win.
No amount of luck was going to help them against the Patriots in Mexico City. But the following week the Broncos decided to give Paxton Lynch his first start of the season, leading to some of the worst quarterback play you’ll ever see. Lynch left with an ankle injury and Trevor Siemian, down 21-0 in the fourth quarter, made a game of it, throwing for two touchdowns, but it was too late to dig out of it.
Last week the Giants did the same thing, giving Geno Smith his first start with the team while benching Eli Manning. Smith was strip sacked twice, both while in scoring range. The Giants had already lost several key players throughout the season — including O’dell Beckham and Brandon Marshall — and that week would send Pro Bowl cornerback Janoris Jenkins to injured reserve.
I can’t think of a better two week stretch for the Raiders to be without their top two wide receivers. With their opponent’s poor decisions at QB, the Raiders were able to survive without Michael Crabtree (ejected/suspended), and Amari Cooper (concussion).
This week Chiefs head coach Andy Reid announced he would be suspending All Pro cornerback Marcus Peters. So, for a second week in a row, the Raiders would not be facing their opponent’s top cornerback.
If you are waiting for what the luck will be next week against the Cowboys, it has already happened. That’s the final game of Ezekiel Elliott’s 6-game suspension. He appealed the suspensions just long enough to face the Chiefs (and beat them) and still be suspended for when they face the Raiders. The Cowboys are a very different team without Elliott in the lineup, losing three straight after he was suspended.
It makes you wonder what’s going to happen with the Eagles and Chargers in the final two weeks of the season.