Credit Levi Damien over at SB Nation's Raiders blog, Silver and Black Pride. He has no problem admitting the Raiders stink. I have been finding ways this week to prop them up a little bit because you can't look past anyone in the NFL -- hey, the Raiders really don't get blown out as much as you'd think-- but Levi was pretty straight forward about this team in a Q&A I had with him about the Chiefs-Raiders Thursday Night Football matchup.
I found the part about the Raiders running game interesting because run defense is one of the Chiefs weak spots, so that matches up nicely for Kansas City. Thanks to Levi for answering my questions below. Please visit Silver and Black Pride for your Raiders info this week.
1. What is the biggest reason the Raiders are winless right now (besides their opponents scoring more than them in each game)?
Levi: Their run game. Or the lack thereof. It's historically bad. They average around 62 yards per game which if it holds at the end of the season would be the worst in NFL history. The line is seldom able to open holes and when they do, Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew can't seem to find them. The lack of run game puts a lot of pressure on Derek Carr who, as a rookie, already had enough on his plate as it is.
A few weeks ago I noticed the Raiders stopped running on third down. I asked Tony Sparano about it and his response was "We tried that already". They tried it once again last Sunday against the Chargers on third and one, and failed. Before that the last time they had run on third down was three weeks ago early in the second quarter against the Browns. Another third and one, another stuff for no gain. Knowing the Raiders will pass on third down, regardless of the distance, makes it pretty easy to defend. And it's the reason they usually convert about 30 percent of their third down attempts.
2. If you're Tony Sparano, how do you plan to attack the Chiefs defense?
Levi: If I'm Sparano, I go for the knees. Oh wait, you probably meant how he plans for the team to attack the Chiefs. In that case ... Sparano said this week that he is losing sleep trying to prepare for the Chiefs. And if I were him, I would be too. I think he has run out of answers. To be honest, I am not sure I have seen the Raiders so lost on offense. Even in their 2-14 season in the infamous "Bed and Breakfast" offense in 2006 they had things that worked from time to time. The problem is the game plan crumbles when combined with the offensive line's inability to hold up over a sustained drive. It's like Mike Tyson said "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."
The funny thing is the Chiefs run defense would be the area to attack, right? Well, as I mentioned that is also the Raiders weakest area, so those two things cancel each other out.
3. Who are a couple of under the radar players we might not know but should for Thursday's game?
Levi: I can give you one because rookie cornerback T.J. Carrie is injured and appears unlikely to play -- Latavius Murray. The Raiders took the running back out of Central Florida in the sixth round of last year's draft and he missed his rookie season with a foot injury. He had six carries all this season until last week when he was given four carries and added two catches. His first carry went for 14 yards. His second carry went for 23 yards which by itself matched the entire rushing output of the first three quarters and is the longest run from scrimmage by any Raiders running back this season. His third carry went for 5 yards, which matched Darren McFadden's longest run of the day.
Sparano said he is going to try and get Murray more involved. If that is true, it's possible he could help with some of the major issues in the run game. It's sure worth a shot. It has been worth a shot for a while and I called for it several weeks ago with the continued struggles in the run game. He is a big back with good vision and has fresh legs.
4. What's your prediction for the game?
Levi: I don't know, Chiefs by a comfortable margin? I expect the Raiders will add a late garbage time touchdown -- which they lead the league in by the way. So, let's say 31-17.
5. Will the Raiders go winless?
Levi: I don't see where they would get a win in their final six games. They have the third toughest remaining schedule and the only team left without a winning record is the Rams who have beaten the 49ers, Seahawks, and Broncos. I said going into last Sunday that the game in San Diego was their last best hope for a win. The defense kept it interesting but the league's worst offense faltered once again. Stranger things have happened but the mere odds that this squirrel could find a nut along the way is not exactly any kind of sign it is bound to happen.