What makes the Raiders so dangerous on offense?
S&BP: It starts with Derek Carr, but there are other factors that allow him to have the success he has been having. Having the same coaching staff and the same receivers two years in a row has helped him tremendously. The familiarity he has with the system and the chemistry that has developed over last season and throughout this offseason is showing up. Also the offensive line deserves a good deal of credit. They have done well to keep him protected. Carr's biggest mistakes are when he occasionally doesn't trust the protection is there and gets happy feet (probably flashbacks from watching his brother get pummeled for years in Houston). But there are only a handful of those instances now as opposed to his rookie season when it would happen quite often.
Why has the Raiders defense given up more yards than any other team?
S&BP: Now, that has been unexpected. I would point to two areas: the interior defensive line and the influx of new faces. The defensive interior has been nearly ineffective this season. They don't stop the run well and they offer little in the way of pass rush (although Stacy McGee went off last week outta nowhere). It has allowed offenses to focus on stopping Khalil Mack, which is why he has just one sack through the first five weeks. Mario Edwards being on partial season IR is hurting them.
The new faces on the defense have caused a good deal of confusion. They aren't communicating properly so there are breakdowns. Only one starting defensive back (David Amerson) returned from last season, there are two new linebackers (Bruce Irvin, Cory James) with the middle linebacker position having switched out already from Ben Heeney to the rookie James.
Is Derek Carr the best quarterback in the division right now?
S&BP: An argument can be made for that. Although I would still give Philip Rivers the respect he has earned as the division's top QB. And I would bet Carr would say the same thing. Very little of the blame for the Chargers 1-4 start falls on his shoulders. He's still putting up good numbers and almost single handedly keeping the Chargers in games only to have some fluke play or fumble(s) kill their chances. You guys know this as well as we do with the Chiefs having come from behind to beat them in the opener and then the Raiders holding on to win thanks in large part to the punter who shanked a punt and couldn't hold onto the would-be game tying field goal attempt. We can probably also agree that Thursday night against the Broncos was a great time for them to shake out of their funk.
What will a win to move the Raiders to 5-1 do for this fanbase? What's the feeling there in Oakland?
S&BP: Raiders fans are feeling a lot like Redsox fans circa early aughts. I looked it up last night and the last time the Raiders held sole possession of first place in the division was week 12 of the 2011 season. And it lasted just one week. They hold it now, but if that lasts for two days, it would be a 'here we go again' feeling if only because it's been so long since anything good happened for the Raiders. The fans have waited a long time to get a real sense that things have turned around. A win this weekend would exactly restore that, but it would be a very positive sign.
What's your take on the 1.5-point line? Seems low.
S&BP: Last I saw it was actually at one point. I don't think it's all that low. I expect this game to be close. The Raiders have already won two games by one point and in five games, they have outscored their opponents by a total of five points. The Raiders one-point wins, they were underdogs. One of them by one point (Saints). I look at the line as favoring the Raiders slightly simply by virtue of the game being in Oakland. But the Raiders have looked better on the road than at home this season with their only loss coming at home against the Falcons.
Bonus: Your score prediction
Chiefs 28, Raiders 26