As their schedule has gone, so have the Raiders.
Oakland snapped a 4-game losing streak earlier this season by beating Kansas City 31-30, but the Chiefs were headed into an autumn slump of their own. Over the past 6 games, the Silver & Black have beaten the Broncos, Giants and Dolphins…and lost to the Patriots and Cowboys while falling at KC in the rematch.
Still, the Raiders are alive – somehow – despite 8 losses. Derek Carr, who struggled early this year, has thrown only 2 interceptions in his last 150+ attempts, and veteran tailback Marshawn Lynch is averaging 4.3 yards per carry after 3 straight solid outings.
The Eagles, set to host Oakland on a Christmas version of Monday Night Football, will be anything but intimidated. Despite losing star QB Carson Wentz to a brutal injury, Philly has lost only once since September…and that was against the Seahawks in the noisy hornets’ nest of CenturyLink field.
Things weren’t so smooth last week, as the Birds of Prey needed a comeback to get past the lowly New York Giants after a putrid performance in the 1st half. Still, Vegas odds-makers have made Philadelphia a heavy (-400) favorite headed into a very Merry home game.
Who: Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles
When: Monday, December 25th, 8:30 PM EST
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA
Lines: Oakland (+9) at Philly (-9) / O/U Total: (47)
As brilliant as the Eagles have been over a 12-2 run, there’s no denying a disturbing trend with the defense. If faced with a struggling or impotent attack, the Birds shut it down. But when an opponent – even one with a losing record and no postseason prospects – manages to run and pass the ball with any kind of efficiency, the Philly ‘D looks painfully average.
Look at the past several weeks. The Eagles battered offenses from Denver, Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco – all teams that were having problems putting up points against anyone. When the Rams hosted Philadelphia 2 weeks ago it was another story altogether. Los Angeles gained only a modest amount of total yards and lost 2 fumbles, but the Philly defense was helpless in the Red Zone as the Rams scored 4 touchdowns on 4 attempts.
Last week, the story was Nick Foles taking over for the injured Wentz. Foles looked good at times and threw for 4 scores in the close win, hitting Pro Bowl TE Zach Ertz for 6 completions and a TD. But clumsy coverage helped Eli Manning look like his old self again with 400+ yards through the air, and the Eagles even allowed New York a semblance of a running game.
The Raiders could be a sleeper upset-pick on the money line for several reasons. One is motivation – though every losing team describes any game as a “must win,” this could be one of the few times in NFL history a visiting 6-8 team is higher for a contest than a top-ranked host headed to the postseason. Philly has easily clinched its division, cliched a 1st-round bye and will face an eliminated Cowboy team next week. Oakland may feel lucky to be hanging around with a losing record, but they’ll play knowing this is a chance to shock pundits and salvage the season.
Defense has quietly improved for the Silver & Black. But just as crucial as Oakland’s pass rush – led by Khalil Mack with 10+ sacks – is that the OL is doing a masterful job of protecting Carr. With Lynch and other rushers finally beginning to out-play their counterparts, there is no reason the Raiders can’t score enough points to pull off an upset.
Finally, there’s Amari Cooper. The fast, talented WR is healing and on track to start on Monday night. The 6’1″ wideout will give an improving Carr another excellent target in Philly.
We’re liking the Oakland Raiders to beat the spread and possibly even upset the Eagles straight-up. It will have no real bearing on Philadelphia’s upcoming playoff run, but the conditions are ripe for a surprise.
Take the visiting Raiders for an ATS winner on Christmas night.