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 Settles Lawsuit
New Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was acquired via trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this offseason, has struck a settlement with a man, Ophir Sternberg, that claimed that he nearly killed a toddle by throwing furniture off of a Miami apartment building balcony, according to TMZ.
In the lawsuit, Sternberg claims his 22-month-old son was walking around the pool at the high-end apartment complex back in April 2018 when suddenly “large objects started to fall from the building many floors above them.”
Sternberg claimed that Brown tossed everything from vases, an ottoman, and other pieces of furniture from the balcony and they landed within feet of the toddler.
Brown had denied throwing the items, claiming that it was another person who had access to his apartment on that day.
Police responded to the scene and reported that Brown was “very agitated” and yelling when they arrived, noting that people have been trying to calm Brown down.
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Eagles’ Jalen Mills Arrested
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills was arrested in Washington D.C following an altercation with Washington Wizards player Devin Robinson, according to the Associated Press’ Howard Fendrich (via the Washington Post).
Both men were charged with disorderly affray, which is described as fighting in a public place.
According to the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner, a verbal altercation broke out between the two that escalated into a physical fight that took place on the sidewalk.
Robinson was transported to a hospital following the fight with Mills and upon his release he was taken to to department’s 2nd District station where Mills was detained.
Mills and Robinson were “involved in a verbal altercation which escalated into a physical altercation on the sidewalk adjacent to the Opera Night Club” in the early hours of Saturday morning, according to the police report.
Both teams have since responded, with the Wizards essentially parting ways with Robinson due to the incident.
“We are aware of the incident this morning involving Devin and are disappointed in his actions. We will not extend him a qualifying offer for the 2019-20 season,” the Wizards said in a statement.
The Eagles issued a statement saying that they are “aware of the situation” and “continuing to gather more information.”
Mike Tannenbaum Joins ESPN
Following his run as Executive Vice President of Football Operations with the Miami Dolphins, and long-overdue dismissal following a disaster 2018 season, Mike Tannenbaum is joining ESPN, according to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson.
Tannenbaum will end up being ESPN’s replacement for Bill Polian, who retired from broadcasting to become a co-founder of the Alliance of American Football, which officially ended all operations last week.
Tannenbaum will make appearances on SportsCenter, NFL Live, and other ESPN productions in the build up to the NFL Draft and will also be a part of ESPN’s draft coverage during the 2019 NFL Draft.
At the end of the 2018 season, Tannenbaum was “reassigned” within the Dolphins organization, although no details were provided at the time and no information regarding his re-assignment have been made public since.
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