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The Morning After: Raiders at Bengals

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Oakland Raiders v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

There goes the chance at two in a row, unless a miracle happens to pull out the final two games of the season coming up against the Broncos on the 24th and then the Chiefs on the 30th anyway. Not a great chance there, though with division rivalry games you never know. In this case you do pretty much know though, just saying.

Thus will end this inglorious season for our Oakland Raiders after that. Thank the football gods it’s almost over, because this year has been rough. The loss yesterday to the Cincinnati Bengals is just another one to add to the pile. At this point it was actually probably a good thing to have lost because of the 49ers upset victory against the Seahawks helping their draft position immensely, but it still would have been a good game for the Raiders to win.

They faced a back up QB in Jeff Driskel who did not wow anybody going 14 of 33 for 130 yards with a TD and an interception. Those are the stats of the winning QB, that says a lot about how this game went for the Raiders. Want to know a stat that says even more, try 171 yards rushing on 41 rushing attempts for a 4.2 YPC average. If you can average that high on 41 (!) running attempts then your opponent was not stopping anything.

That’s the part of the game that was so infuriating, they knew the Bengals couldn’t throw the ball to save their lives and they still couldn’t stop the run. In that situation Oakland should have been selling out to stop the run and daring the Bengals to pass more, but they just couldn’t stop Joe Mixon for the life of them.

One area to give Jeff Driskel some credit on was his ability to get some yards with his legs though, especially on his 3rd down run where he tip toed the sidelines for the 1st down. He actually finished with 7 runs for 32 yards, his athleticism was easily the most impressive part of his game.

If Oakland needed any more proof to load up on their 2nd tier defense before next season though, this game was it. The Raiders have not drafted a 1st round linebacker since Rolando McClain but it’s time for them to consider it as one their biggest needs. The play from that unit all year has been horrible, we already knew they couldn’t stop the pass and this game showed how much they need to improve against the run too.

To start out this game down 17-0 and come back to make it exciting was fun to watch at least. It really seemed like the Raiders might have been pulling off the comeback again too, right up until the 77 yard kickoff return by Alex Erickson after the Raiders cut the lead down to 23-16. That return was an absolute back breaker, who knows what happens in this game if they didn’t give that kickoff return up.

Another huge mistake that could have altered this game was on the drive with the 44 yard completion to a wide open Jordy Nelson. Multiple mistakes actually, but the biggest was Derek Carr under throwing that ball when it should have been an easy touchdown. Even after that though, each one of the Raiders rookie tackles had false start penalties inside the 10 yard line on that drive. If they don’t have to settle for the field goal there it could have made a huge difference to the game too.

Speaking of field goals though, man Daniel Carlson has been an awesome pick up for Oakland. It’s going to be a very interesting field goal competition in training camp and preseason this year between him and Eddie Piniero who is the talented rookie kicker who missed this season with an injury. At this point though, there might not even be much of a competition because Carlson has kicked so well this season the job might already be his.

Lastly, shout out to Erik Harris for his baller game. He was a standout all preseason for the Raiders, has an amazing back story, and finally got his first interception of the season. It was a huge play too to get the ball right back after the Jalen Richard fumble, the Raiders offense didn’t do anything with it anyway but Harris did his job.

Next up is the Denver Broncos who are coming off a crushing defeat from the Cleveland Browns 17-16 that officially eliminated them from the playoffs. Who knows what they are going to look like after their coach made the absurd decision to kick a field goal even though they were at the Cleveland 6 and down by 4 points in the final 5 minutes. That type of coach decision could definitely lead to a hangover the following week for the team.

Let’s just all hope for a respectable final two games for the Raiders against their two biggest division rivals. Sorry Chargers but nobody cares about you (not even your “home” of LA and you are 11-3). The games against the Broncos and the Chiefs are the most important of the year always, that’s just how true rivalries work.

I can think of no better gift than to end this awful season beating both the Broncos and the Chiefs, but I’d settle for just the Broncos next Monday if you are listening Santa. Even if it screws up the draft position for the Raiders, it’d be an awesome holiday to get the victory. Especially for the die hard Oakland fans, if this ends up being the last home game for them then hopefully they can go out on top.