Last week while I was looking at how great my beloved Raiders fared this year, I was more writing about being a successful playoff team, using the Raiders and even Cowboys, both of whom were riding streaks going into two Sundays ago, and both of whom lost as examples. My point was, playoff bound or not--it is hard to win five games at anything in a row, and even harder to win six.
So, the Raiders streak came to an end, at the hands of the Chiefs, who had won five in a row before the Bucs beat them, and then three more in succession when they took the Raiders, only to lose the following week to the Titans.
Part of my point was it is hard to bear the burden of such a streak when entering the playoffs, no matter how good your team is, for a down week is likely out there somewhere (as in the Browns did indeed win Sunday, beating the much better Chargers).
For, it is important for a team to be hot during the playoffs, and maybe even streaking, but the team should be playing at its peak, and that is hard to gauge and sustain during a prolonged winning streak.
But, experience also matters, and part of my point too was the Raiders would likely learn more from the loss to the Chiefs than had the team come out on top. But, the Raiders, also like the Cowboys, are a young team, and young teams and players tend to make more mistakes, meaning if I had to pick between the Raiders--or Cowboys--and Patriots this post-season, I would take New England every day of the week.
Oakland, however, was dealt a further conundrum on Sunday when star quarterback Derek Carr left the game with a broken leg on what looked like the most benign of tackles as it happened, and that means the season now rests with Matt McGloin. Huh? Surely, Carr, aside from being the team's best player, is Oakland's heart and soul, and that is difficult to replace, and ultimately, my thoughts that Oakland would make the playoffs this year but be serious Super Bowl contenders next season still holds fast.
However, strange things do indeed happen under the aegis of backup quarterbacks. Think about Earl Morrall, who guided both the Colts and then Dolphins to successful post-seasons subbing for John Unitas and Bob Griese, respectively. Or Jeff Hostetler, who took over for the injured Phil Simms and won Super Bowl XXV, or Jim Plunkett, who took over an older Raiders team when Dan Pastorini went down and similarly took his team all the way.
Not that I think McGloin has the experience or resume, but similarly, Kurt Warner, who led the Rams, was an unknown quantity under similar circumstances a couple of decades ago and strange things do happen.
It is situations like that--losing a critical season game, covering for an injured star--that often helps a team reach a little deeper when we least suspect it, and I am not saying I think the Raiders will do any better with McGloin, but it does add an interesting variable. And, there is no denying Oakland has more weapons than any of us would have imagined heading into Week 1.
And well, in pro sports, weird things do indeed happen.
So, as we go into the final week, I want to spend the final few columns before we shift back to baseball mode looking at guys I will target for next year when the football drafts again resume.
Tyler Lockett (WR, Seahawks): This kid is just fast, and he has great hands. And, while sometimes the explosive punt return guys don't make such fantastic position players, Lockett has some really big games in him, and he and Russell Wilson will prove it next year. Since he is out the rest of this year, if you are in a keeper league, you might get him on the cheap.
Malcolm Mitchell (WR, Patriots): Tom Brady shows no signs of slowing, and as much as I love Julian Edelman, he can only get pounded so long, and Brady will need a second wideout. Mitchell is the guy.
Bilal Powell (RB, Jets): Powell has certainly shown he can bear the brunt as starting RB, and he can indeed catch. Matt Forte has to be winding down, and Powell could be a fun late pick to freeze from this year. I certainly am doing just that in three leagues!
Todd Gurley (RB, Rams): Do I think the Rams will be as bad next year as this? No. And, I think maybe we all expected too much from Gurley, who clearly, as my mate Lord Zola would say, "has the talent." I am grabbing him while the rest of the world is disappointed. I do this all the time in Fantasy Baseball, after all. And, the Rams have a good defense and an interesting potential leader with Jared Goff.
Cameron Meredith (WR, Bears): Kind of under the radar, and the Bears too have an improving defense. The question is at quarterback, but the undrafted Meredith has four scores and 827 yards gained on 62 receptions this year. Not sure I would freeze him, or trade for Meredith, but you should be able to draft him as a third or fourth wide receiver next year and that will be a deal.
Breshad Perriman (WR, Ravens): First round pick in 2015 who was then hurt all of that season, making this his real rookie year. Perriman has worked his way more steadily into the playbook, scoring all three of his TDs since November 10. He has also gained most of his yardage after that date despite never grabbing more than three passes a game over the whole of the season. Expect him to pick up next year.
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