And just like that, we’re a quarter of the way through the 2018 regular season.
After a thrilling, overtime win Sunday afternoon against the Cleveland Browns, the Silver and Black now own a 1-3 record headed into Week 5.
With four games behind us, Kyle Martin and Eddie Paskal of Raiders.com take a look at the good, the bad, and everything that fell in between during the Oakland Raiders first four games.
Who’s your first quarter MVP?
KM: My heart is telling me that Marshawn Lynch is the most valuable player through four weeks, but my head is telling me that it’s Jared Cook. While The Beast is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, is the fourth-leading rusher in the NFL, and forced the most missed tackles according to Pro Football Focus, Cook has come up clutch for the Raiders when they’ve needed someone to make a play.
No. 87 is currently 10th among all NFL receivers with 370 yards, ahead of Odell Beckham Jr., Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, and A.J. Green – just to name a few. In the time he’s been a Raider, Cook has quickly become Derek Carr’s safety blanket, and whenever No. 4 needs to convert a crucial third down or score a touchdown, the former South Carolina Gamecock is there to help him out.
Against the Browns in Week 4, had Cook not caught a diving reception on third down in overtime the Raiders might not have won the game. His effort on that play extended the Raiders final drive, and put them closer to field goal range.
Cook is my MVP.
EP: For me, it’s going to be Marshawn Lynch. At 32 years old, “The Beast” has essentially told Father Time to go home through the first four games of 2018, and while I know it’s only been four games, No. 24 is on pace to smash the numbers he put up in his first season in Silver and Black.
Headed into Week 5, there are only three players who have tallied more rushing yards than Marshawn’s 300, and all of those players – you guessed it – are several years the junior of Mr. Lynch.
Also, real quick; Lynch’s 300 rushing yards are impressive, but a closer look at exactly how those yards have come, make what he’s doing even more mind boggling.
The man is running hard, like really hard, so Marshawn is my first quarter MVP.
What was the best moment of the first quarter?
KM: Since I know Eddie is going to pick Jordy Nelson’s two-point conversion against the Browns, I’m going to pick a play from the same game, just a little bit later.
After missing two field goals earlier in the game, rookie kicker Matt McCrane lined up to take what would be a 29-yard field goal. With all the support of his teammates, No. 3 delivered the game-winning field goal, awarding the Raiders with the first win of the season.
The moment he split the uprights not only lifted a burden from his shoulders after missing on two earlier attempts, it also served as an exclamation point on a hard-fought battle between the two AFC foes.
EP: I’m going to say Jordy Nelson’s two-point conversion in the final seconds of the fourth quarter against the Browns to ultimately force overtime.
Sandwiched between Jared Cook’s touchdown, Reggie Nelson’s interception, and then Matt McCrane’s game-winning field goal, Nelson’s conversion has seemed to fall a bit by the wayside. But, fear not, as I’m here to give it the credit that it deserves.
Let’s think about this for just a second; if Nelson doesn’t haul in that pass, if the Raiders don’t convert that try, the Silver and Black are staring down at a 0-4 record headed into a really tough Week 5 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers. That’s a world none of us want to live in, and because of Jordy’s clutch catch we don’t have to.
What needs to be better?
KM: Fourth quarter scoring.
The Raiders late rally against the Browns aside, the team was getting outscored 37-3 in the three previous games. Headed into the fourth quarter of the Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins games the Raiders were in the lead, but weren’t able to keep up with the opposing offense. It was refreshing to see the Raiders put up 21 points in the final 15 minutes of regulation, and if they can keep that momentum going it should result in more wins in the coming weeks.
Consistency is key, and making sure the offense stays productive in the fourth quarter will close out games.
EP: Defensive consistency.
Look, I feel like I have to say this right off the top; watching the Raiders play defense in 2018 compared to last year is like night and day. Let’s not let the 42 points the Silver and Black’s defense surrendered last week sway your opinion too badly; this is a vastly-improved group from a year ago.
Now, are there things that Paul Guenther would like to be cleaned up over the next quarter? Absolutely – surrendering big plays is one that immediately comes to mind – but we’ve seen glimpses of what this defense can be.
Give the group credit; when they absolutely needed to force a three-and-out last weekend against the Browns they were able to, I think we’d just like to see 60 minutes of that type of play going forward.
What are you most looking forward to in the second quarter?
KM: How the team builds upon its first win.
The Raiders will only play three games in the second quarter of the season, with matchups against the Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, and Indianapolis Colts. I personally think each of these are winnable games, and even though they might not be easy victories, I think it’s possible for the Silver and Black to go on a run prior to the halfway point of the season.
It’s all about taking each week in stride; we’ll see how Head Coach Jon Gruden and the team fair in their AFC West showdown this Sunday against the Chargers on the road.
EP: The team’s trip to London.
I’ve been fortunate enough to head to Mexico with the team the past two years, but the experience of watching an NFL game in Europe will be a new one for me.
Everywhere the team travels, fans of the Silver and Black follow, and I expect that to be the case once again at Wembley Stadium.
Throw in the fact that it’s going to be a heck of a football game, and October 14 is a day I have circled on my calendar, big time.