It has been a tumultuous season so far for the Las Vegas Raiders, and with six weeks left it seems like a miracle that the team is still in the AFC playoff hunt.
First, head coach Jon Gruden suddenly resigned due to controversial statements he had made in some emails several years earlier. Shortly after, the unfortunate events involving wide receiver Henry Ruggs took the organization on another emotional roller coaster ride. Despite all of this, the Raiders find themselves in a three-way tie for second place in the AFC West division with a 6-5 record.
Week 12 saw the Raiders play in their first Thanksgiving Thursday game since 2013, and only the eighth in the team’s history. In a matchup of two of the league’s most iconic franchises, the Raiders traveled to Dallas to take on the Cowboys. Dallas has been a Thanksgiving staple for the NFL and has played on the holiday every year since 1966. The Raiders entered the game as more than a touchdown underdog to the high-octane Dallas offense that had been stifled in Week 11 against Kansas City.
The Las Vegas injury report heading into Week 12 was surprisingly clear for the Raiders, with only interior linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski, cornerback Keisean Nixon, and guard John Simpson missing practice this week. Kwiatkowski and Nixon had already been ruled out for the Raiders before Thursday. It’s rare to see such a clean injury report at this point in the season for any team, especially if you compare it with the Cowboys who were missing their top two receivers CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper.
The Raiders started Thanksgiving off with a bang, as the team scored on its first possession off of a 56-yard catch and run to newly signed receiver Desean Jackson. The veteran deep threat started the season with the Los Angeles Rams, but requested to be traded or released after not playing a large enough role in the offense. The 34-year-old receiver proved he still had the downfield speed that made him such a dangerous player with the Philadelphia Eagles earlier in his career. Jackson would finish the game with three catches on four targets for 102 yards and the touchdown.
Jackson’s touchdown seemed to open the flood gates for both teams. Dallas answered with the first career touchdown from Dallas tight end Sean McKeon, just four minutes later. Josh Jacobs replied for the Raiders at the end of the first quarter, followed by an Ezekiel Elliott score with 23 seconds left in the first half. The coaches were bringing out the playbooks in the second half as backup Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota rushed in a touchdown, while Tony Pollard returned the ensuing kick-off for 100 yards and a score back the other way. At the end of regulation, the two teams were knotted at thirty-three and were heading to overtime. Over bettors were rejoicing as the game had flown past the posted total of 51.5.
Overtime saw a painful first drive by the Cowboys who went three and out to start the extra frame. The Raiders took full advantage of the Cowboys gaffe and it was none other than Desean Jackson drawing the fourth defensive pass interference penalty against Dallas cornerback Anthony Brown, to put the Raiders in field goal range. Daniel Carlson iced the game with a 29-yard chip shot, completing the upset as Las Vegas stunned AT&T Stadium.
While the Week 12 injury report for the Raiders was relatively clean, the team did not escape Thanksgiving without adding some more injuries. Most concerning was a knee injury to Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller, who was unable to return to the game. While there are always fears surrounding knee injuries, it seems that Waller avoided a season-ending injury, and just strained the IT band in his knee. Waller may miss some time, but he should be back before the end of the year. Defensive end Carl Nassib left the game with a knee injury of his own, although no update has been provided as of yet. Impressive cornerback Brandon Facyson also left the game with a concussion and will have to pass the league’s concussion protocol before being able to play in Week 13.
The win puts the Raiders one-win away from a push and two wins from the over of the preseason DraftKings Sportsbook win total futures bets. Las Vegas has one of the most difficult schedules left out of all NFL teams, with games against Washington, Kansas City, Cleveland, Denver, Indianapolis, and the Chargers left to play. For bettors looking at cashing the over, the Week 13 matchup against Washington is a must-win. The Raiders odds are stacked that much higher against the team, especially with the key injuries that were suffered against the Cowboys. Make sure to check the Raiders latest odds at DraftKings sportsbook before looking to place a bet for their Week 13 game against the Washington Football Team.
The Raiders will want to get Waller back as soon as possible if they are going to stay in the hunt for an AFC Wildcard spot. Filling in for Waller will be Foster Moreau and Daniel Helm at tight end. Replacing Waller’s production on the field is a difficult task for any team, but the Raiders find themselves especially short-handed at the pass-catcher positions after the team parted ways with Ruggs. Wide receivers Hunter Renfroe and Bryan Edwards have stepped up in recent weeks and will need to do so even more without Waller on the field.
Washington remains the only team below .500 that Las Vegas will face for the remainder of the season. The Football Team will be coming off a Week 12 bye and making the cross-country trip to take on the Raiders. This is followed by a difficult set of back-to-back road games against the division leading Chiefs and the Cleveland Browns. The Week 16 matchups against the Broncos may be what the season win total over bettors will be circling on their calendars. The fact remains that if the Raiders do not get their players back from injury sooner rather than later, they will once again find themselves on the outside looking in at the AFC playoff race.