Look how quickly fortunes can change in the National Football League.
After their summer on “Hard Knocks” and their opening-night victory over Denver, the Raiders were one of the darling teams of the league. Everybody talked them up. And they responded by jumping out to last Sunday’s 10-0 lead.
Then the roof caved in against the Chiefs.
We know how Patrick Mahomes threw for 278 yards and four touchdowns just in the second quarter of that 28-10 victory. But overlooked in the Mahomes avalanche was the number of injuries that could affect the Raiders going forward. They are a huge reason why a line that opened eight has gone to the Raiders catching nine.
Right tackle Trent Brown hasn’t practiced all week because of his sore knee. Remember, he signed a four-year, $66 million contract that was the richest in the league for an offensive lineman. The Raiders went out and got him after he was Tom Brady’s blindside protector last season at New England. Brown was a big reason why the Rams didn’t touch Brady in the Super Bowl. Now he’s questionable for Sunday at Minnesota.
One of the strengths for the Raiders the past couple years has been terrific return man Dwayne Harris. But he is doubtful because of an ankle injury that he suffered on a kickoff return last week. So the Raiders made a trade for wide receiver Trevor Davis from the Green Bay Packers, giving up what was reported to be a sixth-round draft pick. Davis steps in now to return kicks and punts.
First-round draft choice Josh Jacobs said he has lost 10 pounds this week because of an illness. He has been limited in practice, and the Raiders have nowhere else to go for a running back with a pair of 5-foot-8 replacements.
Defensively, the Raiders must control Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. He leads the NFL with 265 yards on 41 carries for a 6.5 average. That’s the most in first two weeks since the Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray out of Bishop Gorman had 285 in 2014. But more important is that Cook has 185 yards after contact, forcing seven missed tackles. He will be more than a handful for the Raiders.
Kirk Cousins is under fire in Minneapolis for his horrendous first-and-goal interception against the Green Bay Packers. But history is against the Raiders with Cousins, who was still with Washington for his one game against them on Sept. 24, 2017. He went 25 for 30 for 365 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 27-10 victory.
Under Mike Zimmer the Vikings are 27-7 straight up and 24-9-1 ATS as a home favorite. In other words, we are all Raiders fans. But buyer beware.
Off my chest
There are too many yellow flags being thrown around the NFL. Whether it’s too many rules or too many officious officials, it’s gotten ridiculous.
Games are being decided with calls like last week’s dubious roughing-the-passer penalty at Denver. Coaches have no idea what is or isn’t pass interference with the ridiculous challenge rule that was put in place.
And offensive holding has reached epidemic proportions. Counting Thursday’s flagfest at Jacksonville, it has been called 185 times in the first 33 games this season, an average of 5.6 per game. At the same time last year it was 3.5. Of the 18 penalties enforced and declined Thursday, 11 were for offensive holding.
There were so many flags in the Jaguars’ win over the Titans that even Brady posted a tweet that said, “I’m turning off this game. I can’t watch these ridiculous penalties anymore.”
We don’t want this to become the National Flag League.
Brent Musburger’s betting column appears Saturday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He is host of “My Guys in the Desert” weekdays from 2 to 4 p.m. on VSiN.com, SiriusXM 204 and 920 AM The Game.