The Oakland Raiders have crossed the halfway mark of the 2016 NFL season, and hold a record of 6-2. The team has been impressive so far, and have proved that they are capable of fighting through adversity. After the first eight games of the season, Eddie Paskal and Kyle Martin of Raiders.com break down the second quarter of the regular season.
**Your Second Quarter MVP Is…
KM:The undisputed MVP of the second quarter is clearly Derek Carr. The Raiders signal-caller has not only solidified himself as my second quarter MVP because of his stellar play, but has gained widespread media attention across the league as a possible NFL MVP-candidate. He has helped propel the Silver and Black toward the top of the AFC West with a record of 6-2, and currently is tied for third in the NFL for passing touchdowns. On top of that, Carr has thrown for 2,321 yards which is fifth in the league, and limited his interceptions to three. After erupting for a franchise record 513 passing yards with four touchdowns on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he continues to showcase his talent and prove that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Carr will be tested against arguably the best defense in the league this Sunday, as he tries to lead his team to victory over the Denver Broncos at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
EP:Forget just the second quarter of the season, after his performance the past few weeks, Derek Carr legitimately belongs in the conversation for the 2016 NFL MVP. Yes, I know that we're just halfway through the 2016 regular season, and oftentimes the MVP race doesn't really take shape until December, but statistically speaking, No. 4 has been tremendous this season. Over the past four games, Carr has thrown for 1,255 yards and eight touchdowns, leading the Silver and Black to a 3-1 record over that span. Overall, the third-year quarterback ranks fifth in passing yards, (2,321), third in touchdowns (19), and tenth in passing rating (100.9) in the league, and has established himself as one of the best, young quarterbacks in the NFL. The Raiders are off to their best start since 2001, and the play of Carr is a big reason why.
What Are You Looking Forward To In The Third Quarter?
KM:I'm excited to see how the AFC West picture shakes out in the coming weeks, by the end of the third quarter things should be pretty interesting. The Raiders open up Week 9 with an important game at home against the reigning Super Bowl champions, and share the top spot in the AFC West with the Broncos. Both teams are currently 1-1 in the division and although this might not hold a lot of weight now, but down the line Sunday's game could potentially play an impactful role. Also not trailing far behind are the Kansas City Chiefs who are 15-2 since Week 6 of the 2015 season. Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid has turned this team into a potential playoff contender and are a force to be reckoned with. Each week will reveal more about the immediate future, but I anticipate the AFC West being a footrace until the end, with the Raiders coming out on top.
EP:Over the next month and change, I'll be looking to see if the Silver and Black can right the ship at home, and take advantage of playing in front of Raider Nation at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. After a travel-heavy beginning to the season, Head Coach Jack Del Rio's squad will "technically" play their next four games at home, although their Week 11 matchup will be played at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. In a bit of a statistical oddity, the Raiders boast a 5-0 record on the road, while they're just 1-2 back in Oakland. While their struggles at home haven't come back to bite them just yet, the Raiders know that if they want to make a legitimate run at the AFC West title, they'll have to stack wins in front of their home fans. The Raiders are 6-2 with a slew of home games coming up, so I'll be watching to see how the team handles its business at the OACC.
The Most Impressive Highlight Of The Second Quarter Was…
KM:The most impressive highlight of the second quarter was Carr's performance in Week 8. The Raiders tallied an NFL-record 23 penalties, costing the team an astounding 200 yards. Despite the struggles, Carr managed to throw a jaw-dropping 513 yards with four touchdowns. Not only did the Raiders achieve its fifth win on the road, but Carr broke the team's franchise-record for most passing yards in a single game. His record-breaking performance was capped off by a game-winning touchdown to wide receiver Seth Roberts on 4th and 4 in overtime. Carr connected with Roberts over the middle of the field for the first down, Roberts then proceeded to shed a pair of tacklers and take the reception 41 yards to the house.* *
EP:I have to go with Seth Roberts' 41-yard overtime touchdown last weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not only was Roberts' score the result of an impressive individual effort, but it also came at a time when the Silver and Black absolutely needed a big play. Facing a 4th and 3, with under two minutes left in overtime, the Raiders needed a spark, and as has become the norm, Roberts provided one. His game-winner was his fourth touchdown of the regular season, and even more impressively, it was Roberts' third game-winning score of his career. Fun fact too: the Oakland Raiders are 8-0 when No. 10 finds the end zone.
**What Was The Most Surprising Aspect Of The Second Quarter?
KM:I'm not sure I'd consider it "surprising," but the Raiders ability to close out games has been impressive. Last season, the team struggled to finish out the final moments of games. Head Coach Jack Del Rio has stated on multiple occasions that last year the team was learning how to compete, but this year the team is learning how to win. The growth over the last couple seasons has been exponential, considering in Khalil Mack and Derek Carr's rookie season the team started the year 0-10. Since bringing in Del Rio, the maturity, development, and overall improvement has stood out. This is a team that has grown together and supports each other, no man is left behind. During the second quarter of the season, it appears as though the Raiders have taken a step forward. They are hungry, determined, and ready to win, I don't expect that trend to stop any time soon.
EP:To me, the most-surprising aspect was just how well the Raiders played away from home. After so many years of the Raiders well-documented struggles winning on the road – particularly in the Eastern Time Zone – Derek Carr and Co., have completely bucked that trend in 2016, as the group has yet to lose on the road. In the second quarter of the season, the Silver and Black won all three of their road matchups, including back-to-back wins in the State of Florida, after spending the week in the Sunshine State. One thing is certain at the midway point of the 2016 regular season, these Raiders are battle tested, and even for the best of teams, 5-0 on the road is an impressive feat.
Which Under-The-Radar Player Will Have A Significant Impact In The Third Quarter?
KM:For my under-the-radar player I'm going to roll with the undrafted rookie, Jalen Richard. The running back out of Southern Mississippi has been an x-factor for the Raiders on multiple occasions, most notably his 75-yard touchdown run in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints. Of the trifecta of running backs, Richard has the least amount of rushing attempts with 35 carries. Regardless of the fact he has had the least amount of opportunities, he has averaged the best yards per carry with 6.2. Richard can provide a much needed spark at times, his ability to burst through running lanes and make defenders miss adds a different dimension to the Raiders running-game. Going forward, Richard should continue to see ample playing time and will make the most of each opportunity. He has also proven his worth as a return man in the special teams game, and is averaging just a little over 24 yards per return. His effort on kick returns has helped the team gain solid field position on several occasions.
EP:I'm going to have to go with tight end Mychal Rivera on this one. After being inactive for the team's first three games of the regular season, Rivera has played the past five weeks, and secured his first touchdown of the season last Sunday against the Buccaneers. Following the team's placement of Lee Smith on the reserve/injured list, stability at the tight end position has become all the more important, and I feel like Rivera could be poised for a big second half of the season. The already dynamic Raiders offense could become even more dangerous with some productivity in the middle of the field, and Rivera could be the one to fill that void.
What Number Stands Out To You The Most?
KM:5-0. This season the Oakland Raiders are undefeated on the road, the best away record in the NFL. If you break down each game away from the Coliseum, the Silver and Black have shown their resiliency and relentless determination to pull out late victories. All three of the Raiders game-winning drives have come on the road, and Carr has remained poised in the face of adversity. When the lights are the brightest and the game is on the line, the Silver and Black come to play. It doesn't matter where the game takes place, this team is hungry and it wants to win.
EP:Here's one – through eight games, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree lead all wide receiver tandems in both receptions (99) and receiving yards (1,356). Simply put, Crabtree has been outstanding this season, and combined with Cooper, the Raiders currently boast one of the most-dynamic receiving corps in the NFL. Heading into the 2016 regular season, we knew that Cooper and Crabtree were poised for big seasons, but it's been surprising just how good both of the wideouts have looked thus far. Number one wide receivers are hard to come by in the NFL, and the Silver and Black are lucky enough to have two of them.