Despite looking surprisingly human in recent weeks, the New England Patriots are a safe bet to have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Is there any team capable of going to Foxboro and winning?
Steve Wyche thinks so, but it’s not the Steelers or Ravens or any other franchise that has given the Patriots fits over the last decade. No, it’s the Oakland Raiders.
“This is a team that can hang 30 on anybody,” the NFL Network analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “They can get into a shootout, they can run the ball, they have got six or seven weapons at the skill positions, and they play very good situational football, meaning that when it matters, Khalil Mack, a Bruce Irvin or somebody shows up to make a play that lets them win a close game.”
Oakland (9-2) has won five straight games and will finish with a winning record for the first time since 2002, when Rich Gannon led the Raiders to the Super Bowl. We’ll see if Derek Carr can do the same, but the 25-year-old – who has thrown for 3,115 yards, 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions – looks like a top-five quarterback.
“You’ve got a mature quarterback, but you’ve also got a stud,” Wyche said. “Derek Carr is a very, very good player. Jack Del Rio has also instilled a no-excuses mentality in these guys. Here’s the way they’re built, which is fantastic: You look at the free-agent veterans. They brought in. Kelechi Osemele. He’s won with Baltimore. Rodney Hudson, the center, won with Kansas City. Bruce Irvin won with Seattle. So now you’ve got guys with four or five years under their belts. They’ve played in very big games before. So now Bruce Irvin can take a Khalil Mack and say, ‘Hey, just because we’re leading the division doesn’t mean you need to go shoot a commercial right now. Let’s win first and then you’ll have two commercials to shoot after the season.’ So the way that they’ve been structured, the perfect placement of veterans in the right positions – not in the glamour positions, but in the necessary positions – has really, really helped the Raiders.”
So has Michael Crabtree, who has 60 catches for 711 yards and six touchdowns this season.
Said Wyche, “He’s probably been the biggest example of somebody who shows up every Sunday and delivers.”
Oakland hosts Buffalo (6-5) this Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET.