View from the other side: Lions at Raiders

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Lions at Raiders

► Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. Sunday, Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.

► TV/radio: Fox/760

► Records: Lions 3-3-1, Raiders 3-4

► Line: Oakland by 2

Derek Carr

View from the other side

Josh Dubow covers the Raiders for the Associated Press. He breaks down the Raiders for The Detroit News heading into Sunday's game against the Lions. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshDubowAP.

► Question: Remember when the Raiders traded for Antonio Brown? Feels like a decade ago. That fiasco hasn't hindered Derek Carr from posting some of the best numbers of his career. Of all the factors, what has played the biggest role in the quarterback's performance?

► Dubow: Carr is a lot more comfortable in coach Jon Gruden's offense this season but the biggest factor has been the improved play on the offensive line. Tackles Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker were tied for the most sacks allowed a year ago with 14 apiece, leading to 52 on the season for the Raiders. With free agent Trent Brown replacing Parker on the right side and Miller allowing only one through seven games on the left side, Carr has been sacked just eight times all season.

Carr has always had problems dealing with pressure, so having that extra time has allowed him to thrive. He has also been much more effective using play action this year because of the improved running game with rookie Josh Jacobs and the better protection.

► Question: The Raiders are allowing an opposing passer rating of 115.5. Seattle's Russell Wilson is leading the NFL with a passer rating of 115.5. So, in essence, the team's back seven has allowed opposing signal-callers to collectively play like the best quarterback in the league. What is going on with the pass defense over there?

► Dubow: The pass rush has improved slightly from last year, when the 13 sacks were less than half the total of the next worst team. But it still ranks near the bottom of the league and is not nearly effective enough to make up for a suspect secondary. Former first-round cornerback Gareon Conley was traded away after being torched by Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and second-round pick Trayvon Mullen has yet to establish himself as a dependable option. Daryl Worley has been the bright spot playing both cornerback and safety at times but has had little assistance. It hasn't helped that Oakland has already played Patrick Mahomes, Rodgers and Deshaun Watson this season either.

► Question: How much could injuries disrupt the recent hot play of the offensive line?

► Dubow: The Raiders have had their projected starting offensive line together for only 10 plays all season, with Richie Incognito dealing with a two-game suspension to start the year and injuries to center Rodney Hudson, right guard Gabe Jackson and right tackle Trent Brown. That lack of continuity hasn't hindered the offense too much yet, and Oakland moved the ball well after Hudson left the game in the first quarter last week. He's expected to miss this week's game, as well, but the Raiders are confident undrafted rookie Andre James or Incognito call fill in if needed without too big a drop-off.

► Question: There are several local connections on the Raiders roster, including four defensive contributors who either played for the Lions or at a Michigan college. Among that group is edge rusher Maxx Crosby. Why has the Day 3 draft pick been able to have such an impact as a rookie?

► Dubow: Gruden basically summed it up this week by praising Crosby's stamina that allows him to play at full speed all game long without any let-up. That has allowed him to post a team-high 17 pressures this season and now the key is turning those into more sacks than the two he has. Crosby has also been much better than advertised, allowing him to stay on the field more.

► Question: The Raiders win this game if …  

► Dubow: They can protect Carr long enough to win some of the one-on-one matchups he should get against Detroit's secondary and limit the big plays allowed in the passing game to Matthew Stafford and the Lions. Oakland is tied for second-worst with allowing 35 pass plays of at least 20 yards.

Players to watch

► Derek Carr, QB: Despite the Raiders’ 3-4 record, Carr is putting up decent numbers. He’s thrown for 1,695 yards, 11 touchdowns and just four interceptions. It’s only the second time in Carr’s six-year career that he’s had the same offensive coordinator (Greg Olson) for more than a year straight. A stronger offensive line has given Carr more time to make decisions – he hasn’t been sacked since Week 4. The Lions rank last in the NFL in pass defense, giving up 289.7 yards per game.

Darren Waller

► Darren Waller, TE: Waller has had an up-and-down career since getting drafted by the Ravens in 2015, with an injury cutting short his rookie season in October of that year and a substance-abuse suspension benching him for a year before the start of the 2017 season. Waller has just five career TDs – and three of those came in the last two games. Waller now has those three scores, 46 receptions and 496 yards on the season. With injuries and trades depleting some key spots in the Lions defense, there may be a struggle to contain the young TE on the rise.

► Maurice Hurst, DT: In his second season, the former Michigan Wolverine who battled past heart-related health issues to play in the NFL, has 10 tackles and two sacks, both against Bears quarterback Chase Daniel in Week 5. The second sack helped clinched a 24-21 win over the Bears in London. The Lions have done an average job at protecting Matthew Stafford, allowing 16 sacks and 35 hits through Week 8.

Julie Walker Altesleben contributed to this report.