Through the first eight weeks of the regular season, the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys, the NFC North’s Minnesota Vikings, and Bill Belichick’s mighty New England Patriots have hogged NFL headlines thanks to impressive starts under less than favorable circumstances while the rest of league’s quality clubs have been forced to fight for what’s left of the mainstream media attention.
As the defending NFC champs, the unexpected struggles of Cam Newton and company have even kept the 2-5 Carolina Panthers relatively relevant, and as usual, New York City’s NFL cousins haven’t strayed far from the spotlight regardless of their respective records. But without fail, each NFL campaign produces at least one overachieving long-shot, and in 2016, it’s the 6-2 Oakland Raiders.
Last week, starting quarterback Derek Carr continued his dream season with an unbelievable individual effort that propelled Oakland to a 30-24 overtime-victory in Tampa Bay against Jameis Winston’s Buccaneers, finishing with a franchise-high 513 yards passing and tossing four touchdown passes including the game-winner with less than two minutes remaining in the extra period.
Armed with one of the best receiving corps in the business, Carr is currently posting career-highs in quarterback rating [65.9], completion percentage [66.3], and passer rating [100.9], and the 2,321 passing yards he’s totaled through his first eight starts is a good indication that he’ll also eclipse his previous high of 3,987 passing yards set in 2015.
With 17 touchdown passes and just three interceptions to go along with his probable personal-bests, Carr has even worked his way into the league’s annual M.V.P discussion. And after his star signal-caller became just the third player in league history to throw for at least 500 yards and four touchdowns without tossing a single interception in Week 8, Raiders’ head coach Jack del Rio essentially told the media that his quarterback is just warming up.
”I think we’ll continue to see good ones from him [Carr],” said del Rio via ESPN. ”He’s very confident, he’s got some weapons that he’s utilizing and he had a heck of a performance today.”
In true Raider fashion, last Sunday’s overtime win in Tampa Bay wasn’t pretty as Oakland barely overcame an NFL record 23 penalties, and allowing 27 points to a sub-par squad like the Bucs is never a good sign. Still, Sunday’s near-catastrophe improved the Raiders’ road record to a flawless 5-0, and the outcome of this week’s divisional showdown with the 6-2 Denver Broncos could easily set the tone for the second half of their season.
”The road to win the division goes through them [the Broncos],” said Carr via ESPN following Oakland’s latest victory. ”The road to the Super Bowl goes through them. They’re on top. Everyone wants to crown us because we haven’t won for so long and now we are. But we are not on top. We respect everybody, but fear no one.”
From finishing 3-13 and at the bottom of the division as a rookie in 2014, to last season’s promising seven-win effort, to this season’s first-half success, Carr has gradually become the face of a franchise on the rise. But before we pencil the Raiders in as an AFC playoff participant for the first time since 2002, it’s worth taking a look at who they’ve beaten thus far.
Through its first eight games, Oakland has faced just two teams that currently own winning records—the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons–and the Raiders lost both of those games. While six wins is definitely impressive this time of year, it’s hard to tell how good Oakland truly is when its only beaten a collection of cellar-dwellers.
Beginning with Sunday night’s clash against the Broncos, the Raiders will play four straight home games over the next five weeks—a lengthy run of home cooking that any other team would welcome. And due to a second-half schedule featuring two games against Denver, a home date versus the 5-3 Houston Texans, and a Week 15 trip to Kansas City, we’ll know just how good this team is soon enough. But ultimately, only Carr controls Oakland’s destiny.
Raiders’ Antonio Brown Threatens ESPN’s Ryan Clark
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown doesn’t appreciate the constant comments made by former Steelers teammate and current ESPN analyst Ryan Clark, and is threatening to handle it physically should he sees him.
Brown made his threat public, directed towards Clark on Twitter.
Bro stop mentioning my name I know it get u clout keep that same analysis energy next time we meet it’s on site ain’t gone spare u https://t.co/ks4YVRFLTx— Antonio Brown (@AB84) April 25, 2019
Brown is no stranger to making threats, and stirring up drama, especially on social media, and FOX Sports host Skip Bayless added his own hot take to the fire.
Uh, Antonio Brown, trust me, you want NO PART of Ryan Clark. You'd get hit harder than you've ever been hit on a football field. Better keep taking your shots from your keyboard.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) April 25, 2019
Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill Not Facing Child Abuse Charges
Kansas City Chiefs star wide receiver Tyreek Hill, or his fiancee will not face charges, as the Johnson County (Kansas) District Attorney’s office has declined charges against the pair, according to ESPN.
However, there is a wrinkle as District Attorney Stephen M. Howe said that although he believes that a crime occurred, the evidence in the case doesn’t clearly establish who committed the crime.
Back on March 14th, Overland Park, Kansas officers were called to Hill’s home to investigate an alleged battery in which a juvenile was a victim, police reports indicated.
While Hill was not listed in the report, his fiancee Crystal Espinal was listed under “others involved.”
The Kansas Department of Children and Families has been investigating the alleged battery.
“This office has reviewed all the evidence compiled by these agencies and has declined to file charges against Tyreek Hill and Crystal Espinal,” Howe said on Wednesday during a news conference.
“We are deeply troubled by this situation and are concerned about the health and welfare of the child in question. We believe a crime has occurred. However, the evidence in this case does not conclusively establish who committed this crime.”
This wasn’t the first incident involving the Hill residence as officers were called to the home on March 5th to investigate a report of child abuse or neglect.
In that situation, Hill was named on the police report, but the Overland Park police closed the case three days later when prosecution was declined.
Hill could still face discipline from the NFL, such as a fine and/or suspension.
Broncos’ Von Miller Avoids Charges for Bloody Shark Photo on Instagram
Denver Broncos superstar linebacker Von Miller will not face charges for catching and posing with a bloody hammerhead shark back in 2018, according to documents from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (h/t Deadspin).
Miller came under fire for a controversial photo posted on his Instagram story last year showing him with the bloody shark.
According to Florida Law, catching and releasing in this particular scenario would be fine, as long as the shark was “immediately returned to the water free, alive, and unharmed.”
Per TMZ Sports, Miller and the group pushed the shark back overboard after catching it, and the compilation of Miller’s Instagram story shows that process as well as the shark swimming away.
Despite that, and as Deadspin’s story points out, the picture doesn’t exactly 100% convince that the shark was “unharmed”.
According to USA Today, the boat Miller was on was called ‘Spellbound’ and the owner and operator of the boat were not as fortunate as Miller in regards to the investigation.
“Owner and operator were charged under the Magnuson-Stevens Act for fishing for sharks without the proper permit and for failure to release a shark in the manner that will ensure maximum probability of survival. A $2,000 NOVA was issued.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission classifies hammerhead sharks as a Group 3 shark, and harvesting them in state waters can be met with a second degree misdemeanor.
In the state of Florida, second-degree misdemeanors are punishable by up to a $500 fine and 60 days in jail, as determined by a judge.
Miller defended himself following the post, claiming that the shark didn’t die; “Everybody knows that I hunt and fish. It’s what I do” Miller said (h/t ESPN).
“But I also believe in conservation. I’m not just out there going crazy. We followed the rules. I did everything I was supposed to do.”
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