(CBS San Francisco) — The Oakland Raiders have endured one of the NFL’s tougher schedules so far this season. Every opponent, save for the Denver Broncos (2-6) and the Chicago Bears (3-4), are currently above .500. The Green Bay Packers (7-1), Kansas City Chiefs (5-3) and Indianapolis Colts (5-2) all lead their respective divisions. The Raiders’ record stands at 3-4 going into their Week 9 matchup with the Detroit Lions.
Even with a losing record, and coming off two consecutive losses, the Raiders somehow still seem relevant in what feels like a down year for the AFC West. The Chiefs, who lead them by two games in the division race, are treading water until Patrick Mahomes returns. The Los Angeles Chargers (3-5) can’t seem to buy a close win. And the Denver Broncos (2-6) forgot to field an offense this season.
The Raiders offense has come together behind Derek Carr as the season’s progresses. Carr continues to have a quietly productive year, completing 72.1% of his passes, among the NFL’s most efficient. And he’s done that with his best receiver, Tyrell Williams, banged up. A strong running game behind Josh Jacobs certainly helps open up the passing game. Jacobs, for his part, is averaging 88.6 yards per game, fifth-best in the League.
With their next four games against sub-.500 opponents, the Raiders have a path to success in front of them. They just have to actually win some games. Easier said than done.
CBS Minnesota sports anchor Mike Max doesn’t think they can do it. “When we saw the Raiders here in Minnesota, the Raiders were terrible,” says Max. “Since then, they have played better, they beat the Bears over in London, and that seemed to give them a little spring in their step. But, when we just talk about talent here, you have to like the Lions.”
The Lions, at 3-3-1, are certainly no pushovers. Any conversation about Detroit has to start with Matthew Stafford, who is having yet another stellar season. He’s tossed 16 touchdown passes so far, tied with Aaron Rodgers for second best in the NFL, and he’s averaging 299 passing yards per game, with puts him fourth best.
As Max points out, “he has found himself, and he understands who his receivers are right now.” Kenny Golladay exploded for six catches, 123 receiving yards and two TDs against the New York Giants last week. Danny Amendola caught eight passes for 105 yards the week before against the Vikings. And Golladay torched the Packers for five catches and 123 yards the week before that.
The Lions running game is iffy at best, particularly with Kerryon Johnson out. But even Johnson was hit-or-miss when healthy, logging only one 100-yard game and 3.3 yards per carry. It all still comes back around to Stafford on offense.
“I like the Lions,” says Max. “I think they have played a good schedule so far, and I don’t think the Raiders are that good. If you play well, I think you win.”
The Raiders play the Lions Sunday @ 1:05 ET.