If the Raiders are serious about making a playoff push, the next three games will tell the tale.
After a two-month absence from the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the Raiders (3-4) return Sunday to play the Detroit Lions (3-3-1). The Raiders are 2½-point favorites with a total of 50½.
Let’s be perfectly clear: The Raiders have not had a good record lately against the NFC North. They had lost three of their last four against Chicago before beating the Bears in London. Their loss to the Vikings was their third in four meetings. They have lost their last eight to the Packers. Now here come the Lions, who have beaten the Raiders the last four times they have played since 2003.
Detroit is improving but definitely not a playoff contender. Matthew Stafford is a capable quarterback. He isn’t a superstar, but he will put points on the board. He completed 25 of 32 last week for 342 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in a 31-26 victory over the Giants.
After Sunday, the Raiders have a quick turnaround to a Thursday night home game against the Chargers at the Coliseum.
The Chargers have underperformed and fired offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt this week. Quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen, who played the position at UNLV, is their new play-caller. We’ll see how that works out, because frequently Philip Rivers is stubborn about what he wants to do.
Like most NFL teams, the Chargers have struggled with injuries, but they’ve had an inordinate number to their offensive line. They were missing three starters for most of the season, but Russell Okung should be back at left tackle this week.
Ten days after the Chargers game, the Bengals visit Oakland. The Raiders will be heavily favored, so if they can sweep the three games of this homestand, they could be on their way to Las Vegas by way of the NFL playoffs.
Hope you skipped my three-team teaser last week. I expect the Raiders to win and cover, so I hope you take that to the bank and cash some tickets.
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.