Raiders playing at home at last
OAKLAND — The Raiders have taken nine long flights, traveled about 20,000 miles and overhauled the bottom portion of their roster since last playing a game at the Oakland Coliseum.
Having survived the nearly seven-week odyssey by winning two of five games to remain in the thick of the AFC playoff race, the Raiders (3-4) are excited to return for a three-game homestand that will determine how long they will stay in contention.
It all starts Sunday against the Detroit Lions (3-3-1).
“It’s going to be rowdy, I know that,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “I think our fans miss us, and I think we miss them. We need a home game. We need to see each other, that’s for sure. We miss one another.”
The Raiders opened the season with back-to-back home games then started off on their trip with games at Minnesota and Indianapolis, followed by a “home” game in London against Chicago, a bye week, and then trips to Green Bay and Houston.
It wasn’t the easiest ordeal for coach Jon Gruden.
“I hope they do it to everybody in our division next year,” he said. “I think everybody should have an opportunity to go on the road for six weeks. Somebody had a great idea for us to do it, I think everybody ought to do it next year. Honestly, it was tough. It was tough because they weren’t close trips. They were overseas trips, they were across-the-country trips, every one of them. So, it was a challenge, but it allowed our team to bond and spend some time together and we benefited from it.”
It’s been so long between home games that the Raiders have 10 players on their 53-man roster who have never even played a regular-season home game in Oakland.
Left guard Richie Incognito is particularly excited, especially after having a few run-ins with the fans in the Black Hole as a visitor, including one memorable one after a touchdown with Buffalo in 2016.
“I remember going to grab the running back and celebrating and everything getting launched out of the stands,” he said. “Bottles and hats and everything. It felt good back then putting it on the Black Hole but now we want to play well, score a bunch of points and get those guys rowdy.”
Detroit’s Matthew Stafford has started 135 straight games, a streak that trails only the Chargers’ Philip Rivers (216) among active quarterbacks and he is nearly a season of games ahead of Seattle’s Russell Wilson on the list. Stafford moved past his friend, Matt Ryan, in Week 8 when Atlanta’s quarterback ended his 154-game starting streak in the regular season because of a sprained ankle.
“It doesn’t mean anything other than just I want to be available for those guys,” Stafford said. “I was actually texting Matt last week, trying to figure out if he was going to go or not. I’m buddies with him. I wanted him to keep history going because I know he is a tough guy that has played through a lot in his career.”
On the line
The strength of the Raiders this season has been the offensive line despite not playing an entire game with the starting unit. Left tackle Kolton Miller is the only starter to remain available all season with Incognito missing two games for a suspension, Gabe Jackson missing five with a knee injury, Trent Brown missing one entire game with a calf injury and center Rodney Hudson leaving with a sprained ankle last week after 10 plays.