Finish This Sentence: The Raiders will make the playoffs because. . .
Cyril: Josh Jacobs stays healthy and they catch fire against a weak schedule. Already dealing with a nagging shoulder issue, the Raiders can’t afford for their workhorse to miss time.
Evan: They take advantage of the remaining schedule. The Raiders have many winnable games ahead in the next eight weeks, including games with the Bengals, Jets, Broncos, Chargers (twice), Jaguars, and Titans.
Alex: The AFC South second-place finisher only wins eight games. The Raiders have the second easiest remaining schedule so ten wins isn’t out of question, but they need some help with the 6th seed. The Bills seem to have the 5th seed locked up because they have four winnable games left against the Dolphins, Jets, Broncos, and Browns, with other remaining games against the Patriots, Ravens, Steelers and Cowboys.
BD: The rookies on this team will continue to improve and play their best football in the back half of the season. That includes rookies on defense.
Will: They continue to ride a consistent running game and Derek Carr continues playing with the same efficiency.
You’ve watched the Raiders play eight games. I know it’s early, but what players/positions do you think the Raiders should be thinking about drafting right now with their two first-round picks?
BD: The easy draft target is LB, and the Raiders certainly shouldn’t wait too long to address that position. But in a draft with so much talent at WR, a player like CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy could take this offense over the top.
Will: This year’s WR class is one of the deepest and most talented, not only in recent memory, but maybe ever. Every team in the league should consider drafting at least one WR this year. The Raiders are certainly no exception. With their other first round pick, they have to hope one of the few potential star corners in this draft falls.
Cyril: With all the depth at the receiver position this year, I’d actually like to see the Raiders wait on a receiver until the second or third-round to look at the position. With two potential picks between No. 10 and No. 20, they should simply draft the best defensive players available. Whether they be edge rushers, cornerbacks or linebackers, the only defensive position the Raiders might be set at right now is at safety once Johnathan Abram returns.
Evan: The position the Raiders should be looking at edge rushers and/or linebackers. It’s beginning to look like the Bears pick they acquired in the Mack trade could be in the top 10. Two players who look to be top 10 worthy and fill position of needs are Iowa’s DE A.J. Epenesa and Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons.
Alex: Right now, FiveThirtyEight has the Raiders picking 12th and 16th. I doubt Isaiah Simmons makes it out of the top ten. The No. 12 pick probably nets them CeeDee Lamb and the No. 16 pick leaves them most likely choosing between A.J. Epenesa or Trevon Diggs. Another name to watch out for with that No. 16 pick is Dylan Moses.
Do you think Paul Guenther is on the hot seat? Or is everyone overlooking the lack of talent he has to work with?
Will: Guenther is a Gruden Grinder, as much as a cliché as that is, it seems to be true. Combined with injuries and a unit Gruden and Mike Mayock may have overrated in the offseason, Guenther has done a commendable job to get as many stops as he has.
Alex: At some point in my lifetime, the Raiders need to draft a linebacker that can cover a tight end. If Guenther doesn’t change how he values linebackers in his scheme, then bring someone else in who does. Especially if he’s expecting the linebacker to drop into zone coverage and cover the opposing team’s best wide receiver.
Evan: I am not ready to put Paul Guenther on the hot seat. I am a big believer that the defense lacks the personnel. The injuries/suspensions at linebacker have not helped. With the loss of starting safety Johnathan Abram and rookie Trayvon Mullen now starting at CB, there are many reasons why I think Guenther deserves another season.
BD: I’ve been critical of Paul Guenther this season. He actually called a great game against the Texans, but it was poor individual efforts from a few players that was the deciding factor. I think DB coach Jim O’Neil gets the axe first, and if that doesn’t help, Guenther is next on the chopping block.
Cyril: I’m a big believer that continuity breeds success in the NFL and do not think that the Raiders should be looking for a quick fix just yet. Guenther needs to get more creative with blitz packages, rather than simply rushing four on almost every play and throwing a few little DL stunts into the mix.
How are you feeling about Derek Carr this season?
Alex: Carr has 23 bad throws on 250 attempts, which is the best among starting quarterbacks. But he’s only averaging 5.6 yards through the air on each throw, which is tied for No. 16 among starting quarterbacks. Eli Manning has been hit more times than Carr has this season in the pocket. This offensive line, patchwork and all, has only given up nine sacks all year. I want to see Carr throw the ball some more down the field like he was doing with success on Sunday against the Lions.
BD: Derek Carr is having a very good season. His command of the offense shows up nearly every week, and it seems like he is actively trying to get better at extending the play. I’m pleased with him under year two of Gruden’s offense.
Will: Carr is playing more efficiently than Tom Brady. Entering Week 8 he was No. 5 in the league in QB DVOA, and No. 9 in DYAR. Then he played outstanding on Sunday against the Lions. He has the second-best completion percentage in the league. He has been outstanding, especially with a fairly nondescript group of skill players.
Cyril: The man has made some costly mistakes this season, but he has kept a roster laden with youth and lacking high-end talent in the mix through the first eight weeks. That is something to be celebrated. Let’s give the man his due. He’s been a top 10 quarterback this season. Gruden shouldn’t even consider moving on from him unless the season takes a drastic turn for the worse.
Evan: I think that Carr’s season has been a bit up-and-down early with the Kansas City game and Minnesota games. However, I think he is beginning to play his best football at the right time. I have been openly critical of Carr in the past, but I think he is proving with a steady run game and an offensive line that can protect he can be effective.
Give me one under the radar player that’s got you excited for the future?
Evan: Foster Moreau has been a pleasant surprise. I think he has been far more productive than many imagined. He is much more than a blocking TE, he is athletic and makes great catches. The future at tight end looks very bright with the combination of Darren Waller and Moreau.
Cyril: I’m a big fullback guy, and I want to throw Alec Ingold’s name into the mix here. Goddamn that guy is fun to watch. Football was meant for people like Ingold, who initially committed to Northern Illinois in high school to play quarterback. At Wisconsin, Ingold played linebacker before becoming the starting fullback. He’s been a classic road grader and has subtly improved the running game with his hard-charing blocks and ability to seal off defenders.
Alex: Daniel Carlson. Since his signing last year, he’s made 23 out of 26 field goals and is perfect on his extra points going 41 for 41. Every week you see a kicker costing his team a win. It’s nice to know that really hasn’t been an issue with Carlson so far. I hope I didn’t put the jinx on him.
Will: At this point Maxx Crosby probably isn’t an under-the-radar player. But if he counts, he is definitely the guy. He was one of my favorite EDGE players in this past draft and he has shown signs through the first half of the year that he could be a real player in this league.
BD: Trayvon Mullen is everything you want in an NFL corner (size-speed-competitive toughness). I love the way he has the confidence to jump routes as a rookie and looks better in coverage every week.