Can the Raiders Find Momentum and Playoff Mojo in Houston Sunday?

Chaz Osborne
oakland raiders derek carr josh jacobs houston texans

Sitting at .500 entering their seventh week of the season, the Raiders have the opportunity to build momentum with a big road win in Houston on Sunday.

Momentum, a term used in physics, refers to, as Webster’s defines it, “the quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity.”

In sports, the term is used to describe teams who have shown an ability to build on successes to find even greater success during a defined period in time.

In the case of the Oakland Raiders, the team found itself returning from London with some momentum heading into Green Bay. It had just won two-straight road games (technically Lond was a “home” game, but who is the NFL fooling) and went into the bye week having positive momentum on their side.

In London, the Raiders were cruising along with a 17-0 halftime lead against the over-hyped Bears defense and their former defensive end Khalil Mack. They had the momentum.

After a quick three-and-out by Chicago to start the third quarter, the Raiders appeared to have complete control of the game. A subsequent “miscommunication” between Carr and Josh Jacobs resulted in a fumble recovery for the Bears on the Raiders 14-yard line. What happened after that was the definition of losing that positive forward motion.

I don’t remember any Raider fans complaining in 2002 when Rich Gannon was on his way to an MVP award and a Super Bowl berth with a 7.6 yards per attempt average. – on criticism of Derek Carr’s 2019 7.5 yards-per-attempt average

Déjà vu last Sunday in Green Bay: After a back-and-forth first half that saw three lead changes, the Raiders were about to make it a fourth when Carr fumbled into the end zone resulting in a game-changing turnover. With under two minutes to go in the half, the Packers drove the field for their third first-half touchdown. They then followed it up with a five-play, 78-yard touchdown drive to start the second half to pull out of reach for good.

The Raiders have had momentum at times in 2019, but can they create enough of it Sunday in Houston to carry them into true playoff contention?

So many questions surround this 3-3 team. Were the wins against lesser opponents or overrated teams? Did the Raiders underachieve in losses? Is Oakland developing to where we expected them to be in this second season under Jon Gruden?

Let’s start with where we know the Raiders have some momentum in what has been an up-and-down process in rebuilding their roster. First-year Raiders players Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller are rewriting the Raiders record books and stand as an example of the roster remake working.

darren waller raiders texans oakland
Tight end Darren Waller has been a huge addition to the Raiders offense during their rebuilding process. Photo: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Jacobs has 554 yards rushing through six weeks surpassing Bo Jackson for the most rushing yards by a Raiders rookie over his first six games. Waller’s 44 catches on the season eclipse Tim Brown for most receptions over the first six games as well. Both of these players are fueling this Raiders offense – when it can stay on the field – to score points and be efficient.

The Raiders offense ranks 8th in the league in offensive efficiency and 13th in yards per game. They’re putting up some big numbers but rank 22nd in scoring and 18th in touchdowns. They’re clearing moving the ball well, but that isn’t resulting in a lot of touchdowns.

Carr always seems to take much of the blame when the Raiders offense stumbles. Yet Carr has the highest completion percentage in the league. On the flip side, his 7.5 yards per attempt is the third-lowest in the NFL. Does that matter? Some think it’s indicative of a quarterback that isn’t good enough to win.

Is there any truth to that? I don’t remember any Raider fans complaining in 2002 when Rich Gannon was on his way to an MVP award and a Super Bowl berth with a 7.6 yards per attempt average.

A place where the Raiders don’t seem to find any consistent momentum is on the defensive side of the ball. Although they looked to improve their roster heading into the season, injuries, disappointing play by returning veterans (see: Conley), and the suspension of LB Vontaze Burfict, have all played a large role in the defense underachieving. They simply need more bodies that have more talent to be consistent.

Football is absolutely a momentum-driven sport as the season lasts just 17 weeks and the postseason is a win or go home proposition. 

Can one big midseason road win catapult a team from playoff pretender to playoff contender? Raiders fans may get the answer after Sunday’s game in Houston.