The Oakland Raiders faced off against the Indianapolis Colts Saturday, December 24, winning 33-25 to move the Raiders to 12-3. The Raiders have served as the NFL’s Cinderella story this season, clinching their first playoff birth since their 2002 Super Bowl-appearance season. But, the Raiders will have to move forward in the AFC’s playoffs this year without their star quarterback and MVP candidate, Derek Carr.
Carr, was well on his way toward another MVP-caliber game, accumulating a stat-line of 20-30 passing, 228 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions before suffering a broken fibula in the early minutes of the fourth quarter. To add insult to injury, the offensive lineman that gave up the sack, Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn, gave up his first sack of the season on that play.
“I slip on one play… I ain’t never got a quarterback hurt in my whole career and I’m just upset right now,” Penn said.
The Raiders will now have to rely on backup quarterback Matt McGloin, who is in his fourth NFL season out of Penn State. McGloin, although he hasn’t started a game for the Raiders since 2013, has experience under his belt, throwing for exactly 11 touchdowns with the same amount interceptions in his career.
“It obviously is a blow,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “That’s what teams do; teams have to find a way to pick up and move on. We’ll rally around the next guy as best we can. That’s what you do.”
McGloin has started six games in his career, though none since 2013. He has a career passer rating of 76.2 with 1,818 passing yards while completing 58.2 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 11 career games.
“I’m ready to go,” said McGloin. “I feel great and it has been great working with Derek Carr the past few years and working together and seeing what he has done on the field, trying to learn from that.”
Despite injuries to Carr and even second-leading receiver Michael Crabtree hampered with lingering injuries (finger), the Raiders aren’t far off from nabbing a No. 1 see in the AFC playoffs.
But if Kansas City wins at home against Denver, the Chiefs would remain one game back of the Raiders entering the final weekend holding the tiebreaker over Oakland. The Chiefs play at the San Diego Chargers next weekend.
The Raiders also have a shot at the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Oakland would have to win at Denver, while the New England Patriots would have to lose at Miami.
With the Raiders defeating the Colts, they further showed the rest of the NFL that they were indeed a playoff team and no fluke. But, with the loss of Carr, the Raiders will have to prove their worth without their star quarterback and rely on McGloin. But talent isn’t lacking for the Raiders; they still have star receivers Crabtree and Amari Cooper to haul in passes. Running back Latavius Murray leads the Raiders in rushing touchdowns with 12. Murray’s touchdown total is also tied for fourth in the NFL. And last but not least, star defensive end Khalil Mack is fifth in the NFL with 11 sacks.
So although the Raiders are without their quarterback in Carr, the talent around them still makes the Raiders a dangerous team to match-up with in the playoffs. If head coach Jack Del Rio opts to rest a majority of the starters next week against the Denver Broncos, which win or lose will give them a first round bye, then the Raiders should have plenty of time to plan for how they plan to win the AFC to punch a ticket to the Super Bowl.
[Featured Image by Brian Bahr/Getty Images]