If the Raiders are serious about making a playoff push, the next three games will tell the tale.
After a two-month absence from the Oakland Coliseum, the Raiders finally return Sunday to play the Detroit Lions. The Raiders are 2½-point favorites with an over-under of 50½.
Let’s be perfectly clear. The Raiders have not had a good record lately against the NFC North. They had lost three of their last four against Chicago before beating the Bears in London. Their loss to the Vikings was their third in four meetings. They have lost their last eight against the Packers. Now here come the Lions, who have beaten the Raiders the last four times they have squared off since 2003.
Detroit is an improving football team but definitely not a playoff contender. Matthew Stafford is a capable NFL quarterback. He may not be a superstar, but he will put points on the board. He completed 25 of 32 last week for 342 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in a 31-26 victory over the Giants.
After the Lions game Sunday, the Raiders have a quick turnaround to a Thursday night meeting against the Los Angeles Chargers at the Coliseum. This will be a critical game for the Raiders if they are serious about playing in January.
The Chargers have underperformed this year, and this past week they fired offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen is their new play caller. We’ll see how that works out, because frequently Philip Rivers is stubborn about what he wants to do.
Like most NFL teams the Chargers have struggled with injuries this season, but they’ve had an inordinate number to their offensive line. They were missing three starters for most of the season, but Russell Okung should be back at left tackle this week, and that will be a big help for them.
Ten days after the Chargers game, the Bengals pay a visit to Oakland. The Raiders will be heavily favored, so if they can sweep the three games of this homestand, they should be on their way to Las Vegas by way of the NFL Playoffs.
By the way, I visited the new Allegiant Stadium. The Raiders’ Tom Blanda is in charge of construction, and he told me there is no third shift. The builders do not work through the night. That means they are right on time to complete the stadium by the end of July.
Raiders season-ticket holders have already been billed for their first season in Las Vegas. The team is hopeful of having two preseason games at Allegiant in August and then the eight-regular-season games. They are not volunteering to move a home game to London or México City.
Hope you skipped my three-team teaser last week. I expect the Raiders to win and cover, so I hope you take that to the bank and cash some tickets