The Oakland Raiders have a chance of winning their first playoff game since the AFC Championship game that sent them to the Super Bowl back in the 2002-03 season. I know that may sound crazy considering how poorly the Raiders played against the Denver Broncos on Sunday but Oakland got lucky with their draw for the first round.
The Houston Texans are probably the worst team to make the playoffs this season thanks to being in one of the worst divisions in the NFL. Similar to the Broncos, the Texans have a good defense and a bad offense. But unlike the Broncos, the Texans don’t have an elite playmaker on defense with J.J. Watt not healthy. Jadeveon Clowney is very good and has the potential to be great, but he isn’t there yet.
But if the Raiders want to beat the Texans, they can’t play like they did against Denver. That was an ugly performance, the likes of which we had not seen from the Raiders this season.
Clearly the offense is much better with Derek Carr in the game, but the loss of Carr is much bigger than just his arm. He was and is the emotional leader of this team. Without Carr, the entire team looked deflated, not just the offense. From the very first possession of the game, the Raiders looked like they had already conceited defeat.
That kind of mentality and performance won’t get them a win over Houston on Sunday, and Derek Carr won’t magically return to lead them to the win. But the Raiders have another player who could lead them to a win and it’s time for him to step up to the plate.
Khalil Mack isn’t known for being a vocal leader, preferring to lead by example on the field. But that’s not what this team needs right now. They need someone who can lead them both in the locker room and on the field. Unfortunately, Mack didn’t appear to lead the team very well on either front in Denver.
Aside from a couple of tackles for a loss late on Sunday after the game was well out of hand, we really didn’t see much from Mack on a day when the Raiders needed him the most.
As Derek Carr likes to say, there’s a reason the Raiders chose Khalil Mack before him in the first round. And if Oakland wants to surprise everyone and beat the Texans, they will need Mack to make sure the Texans know why he was taken before the player that the Raiders appeared dead in the water without.