Derek Carr continues to have a resurgent season for the Raiders. He has been accurate and efficient, sitting near the top of the NFL in completion percentage. Carr has done everything the Raiders have asked of him. The Lions have asked much more of Matt Stafford, and he’s playing at an elite level.
This one’s not even close. Josh Jacobs quickly is becoming one of the NFL’s best running backs. The Lions don’t know who their primary ball carrier is with Kerryon Johnson on injured reserve. Tra Carson got the surprise start last week but was placed on IR on Saturday. Ty Johnson should get the first look, with J.D. McKissic handling third-down duties.
Tyrell Williams returned last week and picked up where he left off by scoring a touchdown. He has scored in every game in which he has played this season. The Raiders have seen several other receivers step up at various times, but nobody has done so consistently. The Lions have stars Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. playing at a high level. Darren Waller gives Oakland a big edge at tight end, but Detroit’s Jesse James and rookie T.J. Hockenson are fine.
These units have been fairly similar, as both have exceeded expectations. Both also have injury concerns. Guard Graham Glasgow, perhaps Detroit’s best offensive lineman, was listed as questionable Friday but was downgraded to out Saturday. Raiders centers Rodney Hudson and Andre James are questionable. If they don’t play, Richie Incognito would move to the position for the first time in almost a decade. The possibility that either Hudson or James plays gives Oakland the nod.
P.J. Hall and Jonathan Hankins have been pretty good on the interior, a big reason the Raiders have become suddenly difficult to run against. They’re still not getting enough from the defensive ends, though rookie Maxx Crosby continues to improve. “Snacks” Harrison is a playmaker for the Lions, who also are stout against the run, and he gets perimeter help from Trey Flowers and Devon Kennard
The Raiders re-signed Brandon Marshall this past week after the Cimarron-Memorial High School product was released following training camp. He will help solidify a corps that has stepped up to fill in for the loss of the suspended Vontaze Burfict. 2017 first-round pick Jarrad Davis has been a disappointment for the Lions.
It’s a close call because the Lions allow a lot of yards passing, mostly because teams throw the ball so often against them. The metrics indicate the unit is pretty good, but there has been a drop-off the past few weeks with several injuries and the trade of Quandre Diggs. The Raiders also made a trade, sending former first-round pick Gareon Conley to Houston. Rookie Trayvon Mullen played well in his absence. Oakland gets the nod based on health.
The Raiders continue to be solid on special teams. Kicker Daniel Carlson is pretty much automatic, and rookie A.J. Cole is in the top 10 in gross punting, though he’s near the bottom in net average. Detroit is on another level. Football Outsiders has the Lions No. 2 in their special teams rankings.
The last time the Raiders took the field at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was Sept. 15, when they lost 28-10 to the Chiefs. It would have been tough to imagine then that they would return from the brutal trip on the fringe of the playoff picture. Carr said the fans missed the team and the team missed the fans. It should be rowdy in the Black Hole.