Coming off yet another game-winning rally, the Oakland Raiders (8-2) look to cement their current standing as the AFC’s No. 1 seed as they host the uneven and injury-riddled Carolina Panthers (4-6) and quarterback Cam Newton in Sunday’s Week 12 matchup at Oakland Coliseum.
Quarterback Derek Carr rifled three touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter, to silence the Houston Texans and claim a 27-20 victory Monday night in Mexico City.
Though there were some questionable calls in the game, Oakland improved to 8-2 on the season and now stand just ahead of the New England Patriots for the AFC’s top playoff spot. The squads have an identical record, but the Raiders are ahead due to a stronger winning percentage in common games.
Down 20-13 with about 11 minutes left in the final stanza, Carr hit fullback Jamize Olawale for a 75-yard touchdown strike to tie the game and then found receiver Amari Cooper for a 35-yard score that proved the difference. Carr went 21-for-31 for 295 yards and he now sits behind only Detroit’s Matthew Stafford with four fourth-quarter comebacks this season.
Still, even in victory, the Raiders offense struggled unlike most other games this year. They generated only 325 total yards, including a season-low 30 rushing yards, and went 4-for-11 on third down.
“In the fourth quarter we made some plays,” Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio told reporters afterward. “I thought we had some opportunities early in the game and didn’t execute. And we had several drops that were kind of uncharacteristic. We have been catching, throwing and catching pretty darn well. I think we were 10-15 in the first half and of those five, I think four of them were drops. So, we executed late and did enough, made enough plays at the end to win the game. But a lot of things, certainly, we’ll need to clean up and get better at and that’s always the case.”
In the case of the defending NFC champion Panthers, who have claimed three of their last four games after going 1-5 to start the season, the Raiders face a difficult task against the multi-faceted Newton.
The reigning MVP Newton threw for 192 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown to receiver Ted Ginn Jr., to build a 23-3 lead over New Orleans heading into the fourth quarter, only to hold a late Saints rally for a 23-20 win.
The win, however narrow, did help Carolina stay in the NFC playoff and NFC South hunts, but it also suffered several key injuries on both sides of the ball. All-Pro linebacker and defensive leader Luke Kuechly went down after taking an awkward hit to his head and crying before being carted off the field, while All-Pro center Ryan Kalil endured a shoulder injury, and defensive end and team sack leader Mario Addison also suffered a foot injury.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera told reporters Monday what he said the day after beating the Saints.
"He’s in the protocol," Rivera said of Kuechly being in the league’s concussion recovery program according to The Charlotte Observer. "I honestly can’t (tell you more). ... And for me to say anything other than that would be unfair. I’m not the health professional in this situation.
"The other thing too, that I want to make sure everybody understands, is that there is no timetable."
Addison, who’s tallied 6.5 sacks, is expected to miss as many as two weeks, The Observer reported, which does leave Carolina vulnerable when it comes to Carr. The Raiders offensive line has kept him relatively clean, allowing a league-best 11 sacks through 10 games.
Betting Odds: Oakland -3.5 via Sportsbook.ag
Over/Under: 48 points