NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Week Early
by Dennis Ranahan

Jon Gruden’s return to the coaching sidelines has been a rocky road.

Before he got to coach his first game in his second stint with the Oakland Raiders the story was all about the loss of linebacker Khalil Mack. The decision was a business one, and one that had to be made given the commitments the Raiders had already contracted with quarterback Derek Carr.

If the Raiders would have offered a contract like the one the Chicago Bears delivered, they would have had two high priced players and not enough cap room to fill in the other positions with front line people. The dividends for the Raiders on this trade will be cashed in the next two years and what they do with those first round draft choices they acquired from Chicago for Mack.

With the future of the Raiders on a proper trajectory, the present Raiders are still not finding ways to compensate for the loss of Mack, and the offense is often out of sync while quarterback and coach don’t yet seem to be on the same page.

This week, the NFL has banished them out of the country for their game against the Seattle Seahawks in London.

Fortunately, they are kicking off in London at local time 5:00 p.m., which equates to 10:00 a.m. on the Pacific Coast and the normal 1:00 p.m. East Coast kickoffs. Next week, the Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers play in London, and the 1:30 p.m. local start has the game beginning at 6:30 a.m. in Las Vegas.

Last week, the Raiders were in Los Angeles to play the Chargers, and smart money was all over the Silver and Black while pulling the spread down as much as two points despite public wagering clearly favoring the home standing Chargers.

The public beat the wise guys last week on that game, as the Chargers dominated the contest and won by 16 points, 26-10. Often, if the wise guys lose, the team that beat them comes back with a big effort the following week. Their jump on the Raiders could just have been a week early, but if it was warranted, then Oakland becomes even an better bet this week.

In regards to the Seattle Seahawks, I’m still questioning whether or not this team could fall to the ranks of the bottom five. Russell Wilson is still there, but he is finding it more and more difficult to get insurance while his job requires him to work behind the Seahawks offensive line. He is so special, but may fall into an Archie Manning scenario, where great talent at quarterback can’t make up for an overall bad team.

What made the Seahawks champions was not only Wilson, but more importantly, their dominating defense. It was already depleted before Earl Thomas was lost for the year, probably his career in Seattle, with a leg fracture. Even during their best years, the Seahawks lacked an outstanding offensive line, and their decline has included a bad offensive line.

When a team is as suspect as the Seahawks are coming off a game that offered confidence even in defeat, they are unlikely to elevate their play. Seattle has won in the spots they were most likely to gain a win, at home against Dallas and on the road against a weak Arizona Cardinals team. Last Sunday’s, 33-31 loss to the undefeated Rams, elevated the Seahawks appraisal of their own team.

There is always a problem when a team gains satisfaction from a close loss to a highly regarded opponent. What they don’t account for is they were bad enough so the better team could toy with them before winning in the end.

A loss is a loss.

A loss taken on the chin, like the one the Raiders suffered last Sunday in Los Angeles, offers no holes in which to sluff off the loss to a good effort or moral victory. This week, the Raiders will not be looking for a moral victory, and the Seahawks narrow loss to the Rams is but a prelude to another loss today.

Qoxhi Picks: Oakland Raiders (+2½) over Seattle Seahawks