The Oakland Raiders are now in Kansas City, just hours away from their Thursday Night Football matchup against the Chiefs tonight at Arrowhead Stadium.
Before the Silver and Black take the field for a critical primetime clash with Andy Reid and Co., you had questions, and now, we have answers.
From Chris H: With the Raiders set to face the Chiefs this Thursday, is this the biggest rival for the Silver and Black?
EP:Well, there certainly is a lot of history between the two teams as Thursday's matchup will be the 113th time the Raiders and Chiefs have squared off on the gridiron during the regular season. For what it's worth, the Chiefs currently lead the all-time series 59-51-2, but I don't think that any of the players or coaches put much stock into that number. What I'm sure they all remember though, is the Week 6 game between the two teams that ended in a 26-10 loss for the Silver and Black. While there is certainly no love lost between the Raiders and Chiefs, you could also say the same thing about how the Raiders feel about their other AFC West rivals, the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers. Winning division games is absolutely critical, and the importance of the primetime clash has not been lost on Head Coach Del Rio or his players. Fans probably get more into these rivalries than the players do – and understandably so – but make no mistake about it, the Raiders are locked in, and ready to handle business when they line up against the Chiefs this evening.
From Jenny V: When can we expect Mario Edwards Jr. to be back on the field?
EP: **Well, technically, Edwards has been back on the field since Monday when he participated in his first practice since injuring his hip in the Raiders preseason opener back in August. However, I have a feeling that you're asking about when he'll get back on the field playing in a game. As of now, the versatile defensive end is currently on the Reserve/Injured Designated For Return list, which means that the Raiders have 21 days to either activate him, or have him spend the rest of 2016 on the Reserve/Injured list. General Manager Reggie McKenzie said last week that Edwards' rehab will be largely based on how he feels the day following a workout, and Edwards himself reinforced that point earlier this week when he spoke to the media. No. 97 only has three days of practice under his belt right now, so it might be a bit of a stretch to see him getting any run tonight, but with the Raiders next game 10 days out, it's feasible to think he could see some time against the Chargers.
From James W: Where is the love for Andre Holmes? He makes plays on special teams, and I think he's one of the best number four receivers in the NFL.
EP:James, we have plenty of love for Andre Holmes, don't you worry. You're dead on in your assessment of No. 18 too, as he is a huge asset on special teams, and a tall, athletic target for Derek Carr, paritciuarly in the red zone. While Holmes' stats might not blow you away – 10 catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns – he fills his role on the offense well, and is a quality chip for special teams coordinator Brad Seely to utilize on the coverage units. Not only that, but at 6'4" – and boasting an impressive wingspan – Holmes has been mere inches away from having several punt blocks this season. Derek Carr loves to spread the ball around, that's no secret, and having a player like Holmes out wide shows just how deep the Raiders are at wide receiver. Holmes also has a penchant for making acrobatic catches, so you never know when he's liable to make a highlight reel catch.
From David H: If we win Thursday, do you think we'll have the AFC West wrapped up?
EP:First of all David, that's a big if, as the Silver and Black will have quite the challenge in front of them this evening when they take on the Chiefs, but just for the sake of answering your question, let's imagine that they are victorious, and fly back to the Bay Area with an 11-2 record. If that were indeed the case, the Raiders would own a two-game lead over the Chiefs with three to play, and while that would make winning the division an uphill battel for Andy Reid and Co., nothing would be set in stone. Over the final three games, the Raiders still have a pair of divisional games on the schedule, and those games always seem to be close, especially during December. What we do know though, is that the winner of tonight's game will find themselves in the driver's seat for an AFC West crown, so a win tonight would go a long way in helping the Raiders bid to win the division for the first time since 2002.
From Lauren C: I love the Raiders punter. What will it take to get Marquette King to the Pro Bowl?
EP:For the KickSquad President, I think he needs to just keep doing what he's doing if he wants to earn his first Pro Bowl berth at the end of the season. King has been statistically dominant this season for the Raiders, and he's proven week in and week out to be a valuable weapon for the Silver and Black in flipping the field, as well as pinning opponents deep in their own territory too. Having a player like King is a luxury that many NFL teams aren't fortunate enough to have, and I'm happy that this year in particular, folks around the league are wising up to what the excitable punter does on a weekly basis. Now, are people taking more notice of Marquette because of some of his, shall we say, antics, on the football field? Absolutely. With his celebration dances, social media presence, and just his general uniqueness, people have begun to take more notice of No. 7, but don't be fooled by the dabs and fire tweets, King is one of the best punters in the NFL, and he is squarely on his way to garnering some well-earned postseason awards.
From Sal S: What kinds of challenges do the Raiders face with playing on Thursday Night Football?**
EP:There are several challenges of operating a short week, so let's list a few. 1. There's just less time to accomplish everything that typically goes on in a game week, ranging from game planning, to practice, and film study. Think about it this way, what the Raiders typically get done in a six-day period, they've been forced to get done in three this week, and a task like that would prove challenging to anybody. 2. The player have less time to get their bodies back to where they would usually be for a game. Look, it's Week 14, so there probably aren't many – if any – players that are as healthy as they'd like to be, but cutting down their recovery time by 72 hours is nothing to take lightly. Head Coach Del Rio said this week that many of the team's veteran players would come into Thursday's game with a little soreness, but Del Rio and his staff have had a plan for every obstacle the team has encountered this season, and I fully expect they have something in place to deal with the fatigue prior to tonight's game. 3. Not only do the Raiders have to operate on a short week, but they have to travel as well. Yes, the Raiders have been a dominant force on the road this season, but traveling in the NFL is a challenge. Regardless of who you're playing, and whether or not you're traveling, playing on a short week is hard, but I fully expect the Silver and Black to be ready to rock tonight at Arrowhead Stadium.
From Dan M: Should we be concerned with some of the drops that seem to be plaguing Michael Crabtree?
EP:A valid point Dan, but I wouldn't lose too much sleep over Crabtree's drops. While over the past few weeks it has seemed like the usually sure-handed wide receiver has had some spurts of dropping passes, it hasn't really effected his production all that much. King Crab still leads the Raiders with seven receiving touchdowns, and while he'll be cutting it close, he also looks to be on pace to hit the 1,000-yard mark this season as well. Look, I know that seeing Crabtree drop a pass here or there can be a little disconcerting, but Derek Carr has said time and time again that he trusts his guys, and if one of them drops a pass, he has no qualms about going right back to them. Crabtree is no exception to that rule, so don't worry about No. 15; he'll be just fine.