NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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Week Six Takeaways
by Dennis Ranahan

The London duel between the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks clearly revealed that the Silver in Black are in a full fade. This is not Jon Gruden’s team, or at least the men he is going to assemble in an attempt to regain a winning edge.

This is the team he inherited, and he got them at a real bad time.

Two years ago Derek Carr sparked the offense and Khalil Mack was a force on defense. Today, you have a quarterback and coach that seem in conflict with a game plan that neither appears fully committed to. The result is a lot of sideway looks and disappointment in each other.

Carr once looked special, but his game has dwindled under Gruden’s tutelage, like Jared Goff struggled when coached by Jeff Fisher. Once the right coach got with Goff, he has been extra special. Carr was special while Jack Del Rio coached him two years ago, and after their breakthrough season that unfortunately ended for all practical purposes when Carr was injured on Christmas Eve, they faced adversity last year that could have paid dividends this season.

This could have been a bounce back year after last year’s disappointing 6-10 campaign, but it would have had to have been led by the man that changed the culture from a losing to winning one. Instead of having Del Rio in position to guide a winning season in 2018, the Raiders organization opted to bring back a coach that changed the Raiders culture to winning 18 years ago.

One can understand why Gruden would be a special asset in many ways as coach of the Raiders, but the move interrupted a good thing and led to the departure of one of the best defensive players in the league. With Mack in Chicago, the Bears are a force to be reckoned with. Without him in Oakland, the Raiders chorus of finger pointing and second-guessing is eating away at the fabric of what Del Rio had built.

When Gruden has his men in place, when he cashes extra first round draft choices on the players he wants, the Raiders will be good again. It just won’t happen in Oakland, which is another sad tale on the city that only got their initial American Football League franchise because Minnesota dropped out as the eighth team in the league just months before the 1960 opener.

“The greatness of the Raiders is in their future,” Al Davis used to say with an eye on the next goal rather than past accomplishments. But, today he’d be wrong. For the foreseeable future the Raiders are officially a bottom five team.

Shouldn’t be a big surprise, over the past 15 seasons the Raiders have the second worst won/loss record in the league, only the Cleveland Browns are worse.

A week ago, I thought the Seattle Seahawks were the bottom five team in London, now we know it is the Raiders that scrape the bottom of the standings. That still does not eliminate the Seahawks from being a bottom five team, it just confirms that the Raiders are.

The Rams are in a motivation and point spread pattern that almost always has the favorite continuing to lose on the point spread until they lose one straight-up. The undefeated Rams pushed against the Minnesota Vikings three weeks ago in a Southern California Thursday night game, winning the contest by seven while giving seven points on the spread.

Two weeks ago, the Rams downed the Seattle Seahawks by two points while favored by more than a touchdown. Last week, as a touchdown favorite against the Denver Broncos, the Rams won by a field goal. This week, the Rams meet the 49ers in San Francisco, a likely spot for them to pick up their seventh straight win but fail to cover the double-digit point spread.

The Chicago Bears are now better than people think they are, just as they weren’t as good as people thought about them just a week ago, before their upset loss to the Dolphins in Miami.

On my charts the Bears are a perfect team. They are good enough to win in the spots they should, and not good enough to overcome situations that favor their opponents. They bounce off a horrible spot in Miami, where they lost, to a great spot at home against the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots.

The Bears could win the NFC North and the Packers could miss the playoffs all together.