Editor’s note: Brien is a well-traveled Houstonian and Army Combat Veteran with an extremely wide range of talents and interests including the NFL (Packers), Irish History, and writing. Follow him on twitter @ODonalsVanguard
By BRIEN O’DONAL
Sad news for those of us who enjoy good football and a feel good story.
Derek Carr is done for the season.
That is, unless they make the Super Bowl, and recent reports indicates he could be ready to play by then. But most likely Matt McGloin won’t get them there. There are fans out there who really felt the Raiders had a good chance to play in the conference championship game and give the Patriots a challenge. Now I don’t see that happening. Through my latest tinkering with the 2016 playoff machine I see the Raiders losing in the divisional round. This can happen two ways: One by beating the Texans in the wild card round and losing to the Patriots in the divisional and the other by beating the Broncos in week 17, thus earning a bye week but then losing to the Chiefs or Texans or Steelers in the divisional round. Either way, the Raiders don’t fulfill the promise they had just one week ago.
The Raiders have been somewhat of a surprise team this year. Many thought they would take the next step and get to the playoffs, but very few thought they would be looking at a good path to a bye week and a solid chance to play in the conference championship. I’ve been watching them closely the last few years because Reggie McKenzie is a general manager who studied under Ted Thompson of the Packers. I wanted to see if the philosophies he learned would help turn around a struggling franchise. It seems he has. In a short time McKenzie has hit home run after home run in the draft and free agency, creating a solid roster at almost every position. This year seemed a bit ahead of schedule but the way they have played there was little doubt they could contend with the big boys.
Carr’s injury occurred late in the game Sunday after the Raiders had enough of a lead to secure a 12th win of the season. That win total is huge step in the right direction for a team making its first playoff appearance since 2002 when they lost the Super Bowl. However, there are no moral victories in professional sports. Winning that many games just to put up an “also played” showing in the playoffs doesn’t earn them any awards. The injury to Carr will test every coach on the team and show how well (or not) the GM has put together the roster. If the Raiders can somehow win in week 17 and earn a bye or win in the wild card round it will be on the strength of that roster. I, for one, think that gives them a least a puncher’s chance.
For now, it’s just wait and see. They are already in the playoffs, which is something they haven’t done in a long time. I’d like to think they have enough to beat the struggling Broncos and earn the No. 2 spot but it’s not that easy to win with a backup against a top ranked defense. A loss would mean a wild card game against the Texans. Once again, I would like to think they could win but it would be the same scenario as week 17; a top ranked defense and a hapless offense. Maybe the second time is a charm but who knows. All this is just speculation anyways. The NFL is a fickle beast. There is one thing that is not speculation: the Raiders will not be the same without Derek Carr and for that I am sad. There will be one less team looking like a serious contender and that makes the playoffs less enjoyable.