Derek Carr and the Raiders try and keep their slim playoff hopes alive against the sinking Jaguars
Just as little as three weeks ago, it appeared not only that Week 15's game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Oakland Raiders would have a lot of meaning in terms of playoff standings, but there was also a chance the Raiders could potentially host a wild-card game. But Oakland's dreams of winning the AFC West came to an end last weekend when the Chiefs claimed the division for the fourth consecutive year.
Although the Raiders (6-7) haven't been eliminated from playoff contention, they would need a lot of help to get into the postseason. First, it starts by winning their final home game at RingCentral Coliseum on Sunday against the Jaguars. In a few short months, the Raiders will be moving to a new stadium in Las Vegas.
Oakland has lost its last three games, and none of the final scores were relatively close. During their losing streak, the Raiders have been outscored 116-33. Jacksonville, meanwhile, has also been on a slide, as they've lost five consecutive games to fall to 4-9. Their latest loss came to the Los Angeles Chargers last weekend, 45-10.
Jacksonville and Oakland have met each other eight times, and the all-time series is tied 4-4. However, the Raiders have won the last three meetings, including the last one in 2016, 33-16.
Jacksonville at Oakland
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 15 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Raiders -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Derek Carr
It's no accident that Carr hasn't played well during the majority of the Raiders' losses this season. That is especially clear during their three-game slide. During the last three weeks, Carr has thrown just as many touchdowns (three) as interceptions. The Raiders offense has also averaged 10.3 points per game during the same span.
What could help Carr is the return of running back Josh Jacobs. Last week, the rookie missed his first NFL game because of a shoulder injury. Jacobs returned to practice this week, which is a good indicator that he will play against the Jaguars. In 12 games, Jacobs has rushed for 1,061 yards and seven touchdowns. Having a weapon like Jacobs in the Raiders' backfield should only help Carr's play.
2. Jaguars' quarterback situation
Prior to the Jaguars' loss against the Chargers, head coach Doug Marrone named Gardner Minshew II the starting quarterback for the final month of the regular season. While it appears Minshew Mania is back, it may not be around much longer if he continues to struggle as he did a week ago.
After a quick field goal on Jacksonville's opening drive of the game, the team found the end zone just once all afternoon. While Marrone may want to stick with Minshew, it will be hard to justify that decision if the team keeps losing. Especially with Nick Foles, whom they gave a four-year deal, $88 million during the offseason, on the bench.
3. Raiders' defense
If Oakland is going to reverse their recent lack of success, their defense will need to improve. The Raiders gave up over 500 yards of total offense to the Titans last week before the start of the fourth quarter. The 42 points they allowed in the loss tied a season high.
This week, the Raiders released safety D.J. Swearinger, who had been with the team only for a few weeks. Daryl Worley will move over from his cornerback spot to fill in at safety. Oakland has been struggling at the spot since injuries to Karl Joseph and Johnathan Abram limited their depth at safety.
Both of these defenses have struggled as of late, which contributes to their long losing streaks. The Jaguars are allowing 25.9 points per game, which ranks 25th in the league, while the Raiders have allowed 28.2, which is 29th.
As it will be an emotional game for both the players and the fans, the Raiders should be highly motivated to send end their time in Oakland on a high note. Getting Jacobs back, who can catch the ball out of the backfield, along with his running ability will be huge.
There could potentially be a lot of points scored, but it is hard to imagine the Raiders losing.
Prediction: Raiders 34, Jaguars 27
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.