(CBS San Francisco) — The Oakland Raiders come into their first post-bye game with a little something to prove. Since their Week 5 win over the Chicago Bears in London, they’ve become a contender in the AFC. That is insofar as any team not named the New England Patriots or Kansas City Chiefs can claim to be a contender (and even the Chiefs seem surprisingly vulnerable lately with two recent losses and the Patrick Mahomes injury). The storyline surrounding this team has shifted.
The Raiders have entered that second-tier conversation about flawed teams with potentially high ceilings. The Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans all fall into this category. And with wins over the Colts and Chicago Bears, the Raiders deserve to be taken seriously. This is a team that’s found an identity and is starting to believe.
They will have another chance to elevate themselves this Sunday, when they go out on the road — again. “The Oakland Raiders head to Green Bay for the first time since 2011,” notes Katie Johnston, digital anchor for CBS Local. “The Raiders had a little break last week, while it’s a shorter week for the Packers following a thriller Monday night.”
That two weeks of rest, as opposed to a short week, could matter a lot for two teams with slim margins for error. The Raiders have won their games by an average of just six points. Three of the Packers’ five wins have been by no more than seven points. “Most of these [Packers] games came down to the wire,” says Johnston. “And Monday night was arguably decided based on the officiating crew, another down-to-the-wire matchup there.”
The Raiders bring a strong run game, relying on rookie running back Josh Jacobs. He’s averaging a healthy 4.9 yards per carry, which is enough to keep an offense moving. And given the defenses he’s faced — the Minnesota Vikings, Bears, and even the Indianapolis Colts — those have been some tough yards. Jacobs best showing came against the Bears, right before the bye, which saw him touch the ball 29 times. His 26 carries yielded 123 yards and two touchdowns.
The Packers can be vulnerable against the run. But let’s remember who will be leading their offense. “Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are consistently a gritty team,” said Johnston. “Right now there’s a chance Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison could sit with injuries. And the team doesn’t have the most impressive offense to begin with. But all those moving parts seem to really be working in unison.”
And Rodgers is having another Rodgers-type season, doing what his team needs. That could mean jumping out to an early lead over the Vikings or putting the Packers in the position to beat the Detroit Lions late, or racking up 422 passing yards against the Philadelphia Eagles. He should be able to exploit the inconsistent Raiders who, despite three impressive wins, have been blown out twice.
“Green Bay has this one in the bag,” says Johnston, “but in typical Packers fashion, it will probably come down to the fourth quarter.”
The Raiders play the Packers Sunday @ 10 a.m. PT on CBS.