The Oakland Raiders have two chances left this year.
After 14 regular season games, and just three wins to be found, the Silver and Black are down to their final opportunities to go out and show the type of football team that they can be.
Now, the fact remains, even if Derek Carr and Co., go out and handle business on Monday Night Football next week against the Denver Broncos, then wrap up the season with what would be an incredibly impressive road win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the Raiders would still finish six games under .500, but in a league where chances to showcase your best come just once a week, a strong bookend to 2018 would be a most welcome sight.
“I want to keep battling, keep playing,” said Head Coach Jon Gruden following Sunday’s 30-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. “We’re one possession down with five minutes, six minutes left in the ballgame. I want to see us finish with authority, as much as juice as we have, as much heart and soul as we can showcase out there.”
Yes, the Raiders currently own a 3-11 record, and have yet to finish any of the first three “quarters” of the 2018 regular season with a winning mark, but now sitting at 1-1 in the fourth quarter of the season, a pair of wins would not only give the team a 3-1 mark over their final four, but also provide some positive momentum headed into an offseason that is already rich with optimism and anticipation.
“We have to start fast and finish strong,” veteran running back Doug Martin said. “We have two more games left, and I know we’re going to play these next two games the best that we can.”
It’s no secret that the pesky injury bug has feasted on Coach Gruden’s group more than others across the league; the team’s wide receiving corps has seen its fair share of personnel over the past several weeks, and Sunday afternoon – against one of the best interior rushes in the NFL – the Raiders were without the services of both their starting guards.
But, for all the moving pieces that have been thrown in and out of the lineup, there hasn’t been any quit in the 2018 Raiders, and while that constant influx and outflux of players has certainly born mixed results, Coach Gruden was pleased once again in the fight his team showed Sunday.
“It’s hard to function with a lot of the moving parts that we have right now,” Gruden explained. “It’s a credit to our team, moving the ball, keeping us in the game.”
Several times during his postgame press conference, Gruden discussed the theme of “finishing,” and when asked about his head coach meant by that, quarterback Derek Carr said that while, yes, finishing the last two games of the year strong was important, that theme applied to everything the team did.
“Our effort. The way we train. The way that we practice. The way that we play,” Carr explained. “There’s no denying – he [Gruden] is an offensive guy from the heart, he’s talking to us especially, he tells us our effort, and our finish, our grittiness, obviously, it’s not an ideal situation right now, but he just wants us to finish with everything in us.”
“We’re fighters, man,” added Doug Martin. “This team has a lot of good people on it, and we’re playing to win. These next two games, I can’t wait to see what we’re going to do.”
Two wins down the stretch won’t necessarily change the story of the 2018 Oakland Raiders; they’ll still be on the outside looking in at the postseason at season’s end, but a quality final chapter of the season, would uncertainly go a long way in building up some positive momentum headed into 2019.
“We don’t have any quitters,” Carr said. “We have a lot of good dudes, and we’re going to finish the right way. Every team that plays us – we have two more – they know that we’re going to bring it. They know that we’re going to play football, and that’s what he [Gruden] expects.”
The first of those two remaining chances will come in primetime, as the Raiders will wrap up the Week 16 NFL slate with a Monday night clash against the Broncos at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on Christmas Eve.