When fans saw Raiders quarterback and Fresno State alum Derek Carr lie motionless on the turf in Mile High Stadium in Denver, no doubt many were thinking: Oh no. Not again. Please not again.
That’s what happens when your franchise quarterback is in the middle of his bounce back campaign after breaking his leg at the end of last year’s regular season.
According to multiple media reports, Carr was diagnosed on Monday with a fractured transverse process in his back and is expected to be out of action for two to six weeks. He was injured on a sack in the third quarter Sunday in the 16-10 loss to the Broncos.
Perhaps it’s too early to sound the alarm bells – it is only Week 5 coming up after all – but when your team that you have loved all your life is coming off of its first winning season in over a decade, you can’t help but let the panic set in.
The impact of the injury to Carr is twofold. Obviously there’s the injury itself, but also it certainly doesn’t help that Oakland plays in one of the toughest, if not the toughest, divisions in the NFL – the AFC West along with the Broncos, Chargers and Chiefs.
All four teams in the division have been given serious consideration to make the playoffs by various pundits throughout the media.
For now, Oakland will rely on veteran backup EJ Manuel, a first round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2013.
Manuel has shown flashes of talent during his career, including when he was called into action without notice on Sunday. That, by the way, is the only reason why you shouldn’t completely lose all hope for the Raiders making the playoffs.
Manuel has a 6-11 record when starting, with 19 touchdowns and 16 interceptions for his career. Not great, but not horrible either.
And it’s not exactly as if the team has an excellent defense to help prop Manuel up.
While it has definitely been better than it was anticipated to be before the season, the defense still ranks 20th out of 32 in yards allowed per game at just a shade under 340 and 13th in points allowed per game, surrendering 19.8 per contest.
It certainly will be tough. If the worst-case scenario plays out and Carr misses six weeks, he would return Nov. 26 at home, ironically against the team that put him out in the first place, the Broncos.
In between, Oakland will play Baltimore, San Diego, Kansas City, Buffalo, Miami and New England. Those teams have a combined record of 12-11 with San Diego being winless at 0-4.
The Raiders will have to take advantage of playing the weaker part of their schedule, and if all goes well, it is reasonable to expect the team to go 3-3 in those games and have Carr return to the lineup with Oakland at a 5-5 record. Best-case scenario, they go 4-2 and end up at 6-4.
By then will the division title be too far out of reach and will the Raiders be left with the wild card as their only option to get into the postseason tournament?
Only time will tell, but it’s reasonable to say that the Raiders end up going 3-3, and Carr will come back to save the day and keep his team in playoff contention. Of course, that is if he misses the full six games. If not and he returns sooner, all the better.