Coming off their most difficult and biggest loss of the season, the Oakland Raiders (4-2) look to right their ship against the streaking and improving Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3) in Week 7’s Sunday afternoon matchup at EverBank Field.
The Raiders scored a season-low 10 points, notched only 285 offensive yards, and quarterback Derek Carr tossed just his second interception of the season in Week 6’s 26-10 loss to AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs, while the still struggling defense allowed 406 total offensive yards and had no answer for the Chiefs' rushing attack.
The letdown halted Oakland’s three-game winning streak, it’s longest in five years, and failed to match a winning streak as long as the five consecutive games won by the Raiders AFC Championship season in 2002. Still, the Raiders remain locked with Denver for first in the division and are just one of five teams with a perfect road record (3-0) so far this season.
But Oakland was missing top running back Latavius Murray for the second-straight week due to a turf toe injury, and it’s possible Murray comes back against Jacksonville after returning to practice as a limited participant in Wednesday and Thursday’s sessions.
"I think he got a handful of plays out there (on Wednesday)," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said before Thursday’s practice to CSN Bay Area. "I think he’s looking to get better each and every day and hopefully it’s good enough by the time the next game arrives."
Rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have each received more carries in Murray’s absence, but with the Oakland secondary struggling to contain opposing quarterbacks neither has been able to gain more than 50 yards in the last two games, dropping the Raiders to 13th in the NFL in rushing yards per game.
The Raiders rank last in the NFL against the pass (312.7 yards per game), 30th against the run (132.2 yards per game), and are last in total yards and yards allowed per play, a shock considering head coach Jack Del Rio’s expertise and the addition of offseason free agents. The Raiders are also tied for the second most penalties (52) for 411 yards. Oakland has had seven defensive holdings, tied for the most with the Los Angeles Rams.
"Because of the big names and the draft picks, everybody was like, 'Y’all going to be so dominant,'" defensive tackle Justin Ellis said, according to San Jose Mercury News. "But it takes a lot more than paperwork. Right now we’re just working at it."
All that work will be necessary against a Jaguars offense that has overall underachieved compared to last season, but has won two straight games and hopes to reach .500 for the first time this season after dropping its first three games.
Jacksonville pulled out its first road victory of the year by erasing Chicago’s 13-point fourth quarter lead behind quarterback Blake Bortles' 51-yard touchdown pass to Arrelious Benn with 2:49 left in the game.
The Jaguars would win 17-16 for their first consecutive set of victories since Weeks 10 and 11 last season, but the offense has only plugged along rather than build on Bortles’ growth from last season.
Jacksonville was 14th in points scored and 18th in offensive yards last season, but are now No. 30 and No. 31 respectively, failing to help a defense that does have some playmakers is actually fourth in total defense.
Bortles, in particular, has struggled the entirety of the blame can’t fall on him. His seven interceptions through five starts are tied for third-worst in the NFL, but Bortles has received little help from Jacksonville’s No. 31-ranked rushing attack.
Running back Chris Ivory’s medical issue early in the season forced Jacksonville to rely on second-year back T.J. Yeldon, who’s averaging only 3.3 yards per carry and put up 176 yards and one touchdown on 54 attempts. Bortles is second on the team with 90 rushing yards and a score, however, he also ranked second in rushing last season with 310 yards and two touchdowns.
The health of Jacksonville’s offensive line could be the culprit. Tackle Luke Joeckel, who was underperforming anyway, required season-ending knee surgery after he was hurt in the win over Indianapolis in London, while Kelvin Beachum missed one game with a concussion in Week 3.
This week, Beachum is dealing with a knee injury and he’s listed as questionable after participating on a limited basis in Wednesday and Friday’s practices. However, Beachum did sit out Thursday’s session.
Offensive tackle Jermey Parnell (hip) is also on the injury list but he was a full participant Friday.
Game Time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Betting Odds: Pick via Bovada.lv
Over/Under: 47.5 points
Prediction: Oakland over Jacksonville, 31-29