The Oakland Raiders are off the bye, and are now headed to Mexico City for a clash with the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football at Estadio Azteca.
The Week 11 bout is set to feature two teams atop their respective divisions, and with all the glitz and glam surrounding a primetime game, Monday night should be fun for all of Raider Nation. Heading into the game, you had questions, and now we have answers.
Here is this week's Raiders.com Mailbag presented by BART.
From Ben H: Did the team come out of the bye healthy and do you think everyone is in good shape for the second half of the season?
EP:After nine games, it's hard to categorize any team as fully healthy – the bumps and bruises of an NFL season wear on any player – but coming out of the bye, the Silver and Black are as healthy as can be hoped for with half of the regular season in the books. Although six players were technically listed as limited participants on the team's Week 11 injury report, the Raiders had full participation from their 53-man roster over the past few days, which is impressive at this juncture in the season. The one big question still surrounding the health of the Raiders is defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. The second-year pass rusher is still on the Reserve/Injured list, but there has been speculation over the past few weeks that No. 97 is getting close to making a return to the gridiron. However, as of now, with the team headed to Mexico City for a Monday night showdown with the Texans, Edwards remains out of the mix.
From Jose A: With the elevation in Mexico City, do you think we could see Janikowski try a 70-yarder? How deep is his range?
EP:Well, Seabass certainly has the leg for a 70 yarder in elevation, but only time will tell if he gets the chance. Head Coach Jack Del Rio was asked about Janikowski's range during the week, and he said that even though the team is playing at over 7,300 feet above sea level, Janikowski and special teams coordinator Brad Seely will go through their usual pregame routine to find out just how far No. 11 feels comfortable kicking from. Although Seabass is just a few months shy of his 39th birthday, the veteran kicker still has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, and has shown time and time again that once the Raiders offense crosses midfield, they're essentially in his range. While 70 yards might seem like a stretch for most NFL kickers, Janikowski isn't most NFL kickers, and I'm pretty sure that if the opportunity arises for a lengthy attempt, Seabass will be making a strong case to trot out there and try it.
From Jen E: Early in the season we went with more of a real three-headed rushing attack but now Latavius Murray is healthy and starting to assert himself. Will he be the guy down the stretch?
EP: **Well, I think from Jump Street Latavius Murray has been the desired number one option to anchor the Raiders rushing attack. In the two games that No. 28 was on the shelf recovering from a toe injury, there was a noticeable dip in production from the Silver and Black's backfield. Murray is now back to full health, and with him anchoring the trio of backs the team uses, the Raiders have shown to boast one of the top rushing attacks in the NFL. The narrative has been the same all 2016; if the Raiders dominate the line of scrimmage and get their backs rolling early, the Silver and Black have a dynamic offense that makes them an incredibly tough matchup for most defenses in the NFL. To answer your question though, I'd anticipate seeing a lot of Murray down the stretch of the season, particularly as the weather turns colder and the elements come into play.
From Gregor P: What's up with Amari Cooper? He seems to be listed as limited in practice a lot lately.
EP:Gregor, there are things in this world worth worrying about, but the current health of Amari Cooper is not one of those things. Yes, Cooper has been listed as a limited participant in practice as of late, but there's no reason to bat an eye at that; let's not forget that Charles Woodson rarely, if ever, practiced on Wednesday's last season, and was listed as limited on the practice report, but always strapped on the pads come Sunday. As far as 'Coop' is concerned, I think having him listed as limited on the practice report is more about him getting a little extra rest, as opposed to him actually being injured. If you recall, the then-rookie dealt with a lingering foot ailment in the latter portion of his inaugural campaign in Silver and Black that impeded him down the stretch last year. That's not to say that No. 89 is currently dealing with any injuries right now, but with how good he is, and how good the team is playing right now, I totally understand being safe rather than sorry.
From Daniel H: Did the team do anything special this week to prepare for Mexico?
EP:To a man, from Head Coach Del Rio to the 53rd man on the roster, the Raiders have all been pretty steadfast in their messaging that Monday's game in Mexico City is just the next game on the schedule. Now, everyone wants to talk about the challenges of playing in elevation – and rightfully so – but Head Coach Del Rio and his staff have kept what they're doing specifically to prepare for that variable pretty close to the vest. What we do know is that the Raiders flew into Mexico Sunday afternoon, limiting their time in the elevation that has become one of the big storylines heading into the game. Outside of the amended travel schedule though, it's been business as usual for the team this week.
From Hernan C: What will it take the rest of the season for Derek Carr to win the MVP?
EP:Look, Derek has made it pretty clear that he isn't interested in any type of individual accolades, as long as the team keeps winning, and while that's very noble of 'DC,' that doesn't mean that we can't talk about it, right? Well, as it stands, DC is ranked seventh in passing yards (2,505), and ninth in touchdowns (17), and I think for him to find himself in the MVP conversation come the end of the season, he'll just have to do more of the same as far as his production is concerned. Simply put, in his third year under center for the Silver and Black, Carr has been masterful, and is a big reason why the Raiders are 7-2 and in the hunt to win their first division title since 2002. Last season he showed that he's one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, and so far in 2016, he's looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, period. There are still seven very important games left on the schedule, but if Carr keeps slinging the ball and the team keeps winning, No. 4 will certainly have a plethora of awards coming his way once the season wraps up.
From Tim J: I think the crowd is supposed to be pro-Raiders in Mexico -- will it be louder than the Denver game on Sunday Night Football?
EP: **Tim, great question. Raider Nation did its job and then some during the Sunday Night Football tussle against the Broncos, as the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was rocking. Now, while excitement in Mexico City is approaching a fever pitch for the Week 11 primetime game between the Raiders and Texans, and Raider Nation will no doubt do its job once again at Estadio Azteca, it's going to be hard to eclipse the noise at the OACC from two weeks ago. Yes, Estadio Azteca is a little bit bigger than the OACC, but we have to remember that there will be a good amount of Texans fans making the trip down from Houston for the game too. I hope I'm proven wrong though, and if that is the case, I promise I won't be mad in the least. Regardless though, the environment Monday night should be awesome, and I'm very much looking forward to game time.
From Matt M: Does Brock Osweiler still see Khalil Mack every night in his nightmares?
EP:I can't say for certain, since I haven't had the chance to ask Mr. Osweiler, but truth be told, I'd be kind of surprised if he didn't. The last time Osweiler lined up opposite of No. 52 it was a long, long day for the then-Broncos quarterback, as Mack sacked him an incredible five times. It didn't seem to matter what the Broncos offensive line threw at Mack, the athletic defensive end was on a tear, and could not be stopped from wreaking havoc on Osweiler. Now, asking for another five-sack performance out of Mack is certainly a big ask, but the former Buffalo Bull has been rounding into form over the past month or so, tallying six sacks in the past four games, and that fact alone is probably what's making Osweiler and the Texans lose a little bit of sleep at night.
From Chris T: This isn't a question I just want to say there's only ONE NATION and that's Raider Nation all other teams are just copying and pretending...Go Raiders.
EP:Chris, I love the energy, man, and I couldn't have said it any better myself.