ALAMEDA — As the Raiders prepare for their final home game, they have something going for them.
Oakland’s offense has thrived in the confines of O.co Coliseum, and the defense isn’t too shabby there either.
Derek Carr has thrown twice as many touchdown passes at home than away — he has six touchdown passes on the road versus 12 at home — and a quarterback rating of 85.5 in Oakland, nearly 20 points higher than when he travels.
Carr couldn’t put his finger on what happens at home, or at least wouldn’t say, but did allude to something extra when playing in front of his home crowd:
“Obviously, we play with a lot of passion and energy at home, and that’s something that we need to, obviously, learn to do on the road. Bringing that same passion and energy we play at our home field with, bringing into the other stadiums.”
His protection unit has performed better in Oakland than on the road, allowing only four sacks in six home games against 16 in seven road games.
What’s more, the Raiders have played host to Kansas City, San Francisco, Denver, Houston and Arizona, a who’s-who of the league’s toughest defenses.
The Raiders will host to the best defense in the NFL for their home finale as the Buffalo Bills come to town. Buffalo’s front four have sacked the quarterback 37 times this season and their linebackers add another three.
Now more than ever, the Bills will be fighting hard as they scratch and claw towards a wild card berth.
It’s perhaps the offensive line’s biggest test of the season, and is something a little different than they’ve seen this season. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said:
“It’s really the first 4-3 front that we’ve played all season, this team here. We got a little bit from Seattle. I think those guys and where they’re lined up, they’re seeing the same kinds of guys and alignment. Where your help is coming from is coming from a little different place up front.”
Olson added that because the Bills keep to a simple defensive scheme, every offensive player will need to bring their A-game in order to win.
Bills linebackers can drop in coverage on almost every snap thanks to the ferocity of their front four, and their secondary gets a little more oxygen as well.
Getting the ball out quick — something that’s saved Carr from getting hit and covered for what looks like a sub-standard offensive line — may not be good enough to keep Carr out of the muck.
Latavius Murray, too, who burst on to the scene in the Raiders’ first win of the season, will need to be elusive as ever.
If Carr’s home numbers are to prevail, he’s going to need help across the board. In turn, Carr will need to be the leader he’s expected to be as a starting NFL quarterback.
Further, Carr might need to put on his best game yet if there’s still a shot general manager Reggie McKenzie can retain his current position.
The numbers don’t lie, though, and the odds lean that way this week.
The Coliseum is where Carr and his teammates have played their best football, especially after blowout losses. Only time will tell if that keeps up. But one thing is certain: the nearly half-century-old stadium has been one of the rookie quarterback’s best friends this year.