The 2016 season for the Oakland Raiders has been a magical one, as not only have they clinched their first winning season since 2002-03, but they have also clinched their first postseason birth since that season.
At 12-3, the Raiders are one win away from clinched the AFC West and a first round bye, and with a little help it is possible that they earn the top overall seed in the AFC, giving them home field advantage throughout the postseason.
The Raiders defeated the Indianapolis Colts 33-25 on Christmas Eve, putting them one step closer to reaching their goals. The win came at a cost though, as Raiders Pro Bowl quarterback and MVP candidate Derek Carr went down with a broken fibula after being sacked in the fourth quarter.
Carr had surgery on the injury on Tuesday morning, and has been given a recovery time of 6-8 weeks, effectively ending his season.
With Carr out the Raiders turn to backup Matt McGloin to captain their offense the rest of the way. McGloin has not seen extended playing time since 2013 when he was a rookie and started six games.
While losing Carr is a big blow for the Raiders, their season is not over yet. The Raiders411 staff debates what their chances of making it to the Super Bowl are with McGloin under center:
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand):
If the Raiders beat the Denver Broncos in Week 17, or the Kansas City Chiefs lose to the San Diego Chargers, which would give the Raiders a bye in the first round of the playoffs and then a home game in the divisional round, then I think Oakland has a slim chance of reaching the Super Bowl.
The identity of the Raiders team changed in the second half of the season, as they developed a running game and their defense has improved tremendously throughout the course of the season.
I think if that identity continues then it will make it easier for an inexperienced quarterback like McGloin to be successful.
The Raiders 124.3 rushing yards per game ranks fifth in the league, and they are finding more ways to give their change-of-pace backs, rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard the ball, so all McGloin needs to do is not turn the ball over and convert on a few key third downs and the Raiders will win some games.
Where I think they will run into some trouble would be against the New England Patriots in a possible AFC Championship game matchup, which is why I believe their chances of making it to the Super Bowl are slim. But I do believe they have a chance.
Eric Avakian (@EAvakian5):
When looking at the Raiders statistically this season, it is easy to understand where their deficiencies are. Offensively, quarterback Derek Carr held a ninth-ranked passing offense (258.9 YPG) in the NFL, while the trio of running backs are ranked fifth (124.3 YPG).
On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders are ranked 25th in terms of passing defense (260.9 YPG) and 21st in rushing defense (115.9 YPG). Before the Carr injury, the key knock on the Raiders’ Super Bowl chances was the defense and how they would hold up against the elite offenses left in the AFC (Patriots, Steelers, Chiefs).
Now with McGloin as the starter, it remains to be seen what kind of role he will have in keeping the offense at the pace they want. Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will adjust their offensive scheme to better fit McGloin, while he uses Week 17 as a tune up for the playoffs.
With the division and the first-round bye on the line, the Raiders need to give one last dominant regular season performance to earn perhaps the toughest division title in the NFL. The Raiders understand the importance of the bye week, not only in the grand scheme of things, but also how much additional time it gives McGloin to gel with his receivers.
If the Raiders were to lose on Sunday, a Wild Card scenario against the Houston Texans would be preferred. A matchup against perhaps the most explosive offense in the Steelers may have disastrous results, especially with their defense at home.
An AFC championship matchup against the Patriots would be a tough one to overcome, especially without Carr. If Carr were leading the offense, it would give them a better shot against Tom Brady and his dominance. However, Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Brady have a keen ability to dissect defenses.
The team needs to rally around McGloin, in order to get to the Super Bowl and reevaluate their chances at the title.