After you open those presents, and enjoy some time with your friends and family, wrap up your Christmas night by settling in to watch the Oakland Raiders take on the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
While the Silver and Black are still two games under .500, Head Coach Jack Del Rio’s group is focused on controlling what it can control, and finishing the season on a high note.
The Eagles are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, so the Raiders will have their hands full Monday night; here are six things to keep an eye on when the two teams kick off during primetime.
1. What’s the deal at left tackle?
Okay, so here’s what we do know; after undergoing successful surgery Wednesday afternoon, Donald Penn’s 2017 season is over, and he won’t be at his usual left tackle spot come Monday night.
That being said, we’re still not quite sure who’s going to be filling in for D.P., and it doesn’t look like we’ll really know until the Raiders kick off against the Eagles.
“We know who the guys are that are going to play,” said Head Coach Del Rio. “The combination of guys. I imagine that they’ll all play in some capacity or another. We’ll get our preparation throughout the week and then [offensive line coach] Mike [Tice] will help us make that call.”
One player to keep an eye on is rookie tackle David Sharpe. While we’re not sure if No. 71 is going to get the start, Del Rio did say he would like to see what the former Florida Gator brings to the party against the Eagles.
If it isn’t Sharpe who gets the nod on Carr’s blindside, one possible line combination could be moving Marshall Newhouse to left tackle, and inserting Vadal Alexander on the right side. Like I said though, we won’t know what Del Rio and his staff decides until Monday night.
2. Who owns the ground?
The Eagles boast one of the best offensives in the NFL, and a big reason for that is the balance they employ.
Not only do they average an impressive 246.4 yards through the air – good for eighth in the NFL – they also have an elite ground game, averaging 140.5 rushing yards per contest, which ranks second in the league.
While the Raiders rank just 25th in the league on the ground, since returning from a one-game suspension, Marshawn Lynch has been running violently as of late, and there’s an argument to be made that he’s been the team’s best player over that span.
Now, getting “The Beast” rolling against a stout Eagles front won’t be easy – they’re ranked No. 1 against the run for a reason – but I’ll be excited to see which team can establish a rhythm on the ground.
3. Will Mack’s streak stay alive?
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Khalil Mack *loves *December.
Since the All-Pro defensive end began his NFL career in 2014, there isn’t a single player in the NFL who has tallied more sacks in December than Mack’s 17.
No. 52 is getting hot at the right time of the year too; he’s recorded a sack in five straight games, and with six sacks over that span, he’s playing some of his best football of the year.
The Eagles are middle of the road as far as sacks allowed are concerned, so keep a close eye on Mack all evening to see if he can make life difficult for Nick Foles.
Once again, the status of No. 89 is up in the air for Monday night’s game against the Eagles.
After injuring his ankle several weeks ago, Cooper has played sparingly since then, and was last on the field for the Raiders Week 14 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. The explosive wide receiver didn’t practice Thursday, so it remains to be seen if he can hit the gridiron against the Eagles, but if he can, it would provide a huge boost to the Raiders offense as a whole.
Although his stats are down in 2017, Cooper is still a dynamic playmaker, and his presence alone forces defenses to take note.
If however, Cooper isn’t able to go, once again, keep an eye on the Raiders supporting cast of wide receivers to see who steps up to fill the void.
The Raiders defense has been reborn under the guidance of Assistant Head Coach – Defense, and the results speak for themselves the past few weeks.
The defensive line has gotten to the opposing quarterback at an impressive clip, and with three interceptions in the past two weeks, the Silver and Black are forcing turnovers better than they did at the start of the season.
Pagano’s group will have its hands full Monday night though, as the Eagles offense is statistically one of the best in the game.
Yes, Carson Wentz is out of the picture, but even without him handling the quarterbacking duties, Philadelphia has the type of offense that can put points up in a hurry.
6. What role will Mother Nature play?
I feel like we’ve asked this question a lot lately, but December football always seems to warrant it; will the weather play a role in Monday night’s game?
As of now, the weather in Philadelphia on Christmas night calls for a high of 38 degrees with a low of 26, without any rain or snow on the horizon for the time being.
However, it is winter in Philadelphia, so the weather can change at a moment’s notice.
Will the Raiders have to deal with a winter wonderland come game time, or maybe a white Christmas? You’ll just have to tune in Monday night to find out.