It looked good for the Oakland Raiders in Week 1 after defeating AFC West rival Denver 24-16.
But now the Raiders are looking ugly after a home loss to Kansas City and a road loss to Minnesota.
Now the task is another road game, this time against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
The Raiders are already in must-win mode.
After the Colts game, Oakland will remain on the road for the next three weeks (vs. Chicago in London, bye, Green Bay and Houston). Those teams have a combined 7-2 record.
Indianapolis is 2-1, but still dealing with the retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck just before the start of the season. In other words, if there’s “soft” team in the next four games on the Raiders schedule, this is it.
The NFL Power Rankings back that up: No. 5 Green Bay, No. 8 Chicago, No. 12 Houston, No. 13 Indianapolis.
The Raiders might have to pull out two wins on the road to salvage hopes for the season before returning to Oakland on Nov. 3 against Detroit.
“We need to hold each other accountable,” Raiders linebacker Tahir Whitehead said after Sunday’s loss to the Vikings, “and make sure nobody is comfortable after this loss because there is a lot of things that need to be fixed.”
The Raiders will finish the season with 5 of 7 home games.
For the Raiders to win Sunday, these three things must happen:
▪ Raiders quarterback Derek Carr needs to come out strong like he did in Week 1 against the Broncos, and for a quarter against the Chiefs.
A costly interception and sacks didn’t help his cause the last two games (interception in the end zone against Kansas City and an overthrow ball to Foster Moreau against Minnesota that led to a Vikings touchdown drive). The Raiders offense ranks 26th through three weeks.
▪ The Raiders need to avoid giving up big plays and costly penalties that give other teams scoring chances.
The Raiders ranked 25th in defense, 20th in most penalties.
▪ Most importantly, better play calling by the coaches, particularly Jon Gruden who took ownership of the issue during his meeting with media on Wednesday.
“We take responsibility as a play caller,” he said. “I’m calling the plays and designing some of the stuff, so I put it on myself. (Carr) is doing a good job. Getting stuffed on fourth-and-a foot isn’t his fault. He didn’t miss the blitz pickup in the red zone. We had a ball that could have been caught, could have set up points at the end of the half. He’s doing some good things. I’m not going to sit here and say that we are a finished product yet.”