It’s been nearly four decades since the Oakland Raiders (5-2) have started a perfect 5-0 on the road, but Derek Carr and Co. can do just that and create some separation in the AFC West standings when they meet a Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) squad hoping to get above .500 for the first time this season Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
Oakland hasn’t posted a 5-0 road record since 1977, according to the Associated Press, and is fresh off a 33-16 blowout win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Carr connected with receiver Michael Crabtree for a touchdown for the sixth time this season, running back Latavius Murray rushed two more scores after missing time with a toe injury, and Oakland never trailed the Jaguars.
Rather than hike back to California, the Raiders opted to stay in Florida for the week and train at IMG Academy, a prestigious prep school for elite high school players, just south of Tampa.
“The biggest thing is not to have to fly back and forth,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio told reporters. “As far as being here and acclimated I don’t know that you’re ever acclimated in the short time that we’re here. We understand what we’re up against. We’ve traveled to Tennessee before and played in similar conditions in terms of heat.”
Reducing his defense’s mileage on the road could be beneficial to Del Rio’s Raiders. The 16 points Oakland surrendered to Jacksonville was the second-lowest it’s allowed all season, compared to the five other times its surrendered at least 26 points. The Raiders also continued to flex their might on third down, allowing the Jaguars to convert only four of their 13 attempts. Oakland had previously allowed opponents to convert 25 third downs off of 71 attempts, one of the best marks in the NFL.
Oakland also generated three turnovers, with safety Reggie Nelson and cornerback David Amerson each snagging their second interceptions of the season. Though the Raiders defense has faced justifiable criticism this season, sitting last in the NFL in total yards and passing yards allowed, they are tied for fourth with 13 total takeaways and next meet a Bucs offense that’s given the ball away 12 times.
Nine of those turnovers came off the hands of Tampa Bay’s second-year quarterback Jameis Winston, who’s tied for third-most in the NFL. But the 22-year-old has taken better care of the ball the last two games, tossing only one pick to four touchdown passes, and the Bucs have won each time to reach .500 after a three-game slide.
While hitting star receiving Mike Evans for scores twice, Winston fired off total three touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s 34-17 romp of San Francisco last week, but he’s also received a huge bump from the backfield even with regular starting running back Doug Martin still sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Recently signed running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who played under first-year Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter in Atlanta, pounded the 49ers for 154 yards, his second straight 100-yard game. In the last two games, Rodgers has averaged 4.5 yards per carry off 56 total attempts and he figures to get a similar workload against Oakland’s No. 28 rush defense.
Martin sat out practice all week and is listed as "out" on the Bucs official injury report, along with starting defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who’s also dealing with a hamstring injury.
Tampa Bay, ranked seventh in total defense and against the pass and 15th versus the run, has also listed Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy as questionable due to a calf injury.
Oakland, too, will lack some depth on the defensive line. Second-string defensive tackle Stacy McGee missed practice all week and was listed as out in Friday’s final injury report.
But running back Taiwan Jones (knee), who’s missed three games this season, returned to practice as a limited participant on Thursday and Friday after missing Wednesday’s session.
Start Time: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Betting Odds: Oakland -1 via Bovada.lv
Over/Under: 49.5 points
Prediction: Tampa Bay over Oakland, 34-27