The biggest NFL game in the history of Las Vegas is Sunday night as the Raiders look to complete a season sweep of the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Should Vegas pull the upset as a 7-point underdog, it would hugely boost the team’s playoff chances. A loss, though, and Kansas City all but clinches a fifth straight AFC West title.
Raiders Defense On COVID-19 List | 2020 NFL Expert Analysis
Let’s just hope the game is actually played. That’s because on Wednesday, the Raiders had to put eight defensive starters – yes, eight! – on the reserve-COVID-19 list. Defensive end Clelin Ferrell tested positive, and all those other guys were in close contact with Ferrell and thus had to go on the list. The good news is that while Ferrell will not play this week, all those other guys could as long as they test negative the rest of the week.
The Raiders have had issues with COVID-19 all season – earlier this month, the team was fined $500,000 and stripped of a sixth-round pick in the 2021 draft and coach Jon Gruden was fined an additional $150,000 by the NFL for “brazen and repeated violations of [COVID-19] protocols.”
Earlier in the year, the team had been fined $250,000 and Gruden $100,000 for his not wearing a mask properly during the team’s Week 2 home opener, and the team was fined an additional $50,000 for allowing a non-credentialed employee access to the locker room following that game.
In addition, the Raiders’ entire offensive line had to quarantine in Week 7, but four of the five starters were able to play that week.
Needless to say, the Raiders not having their entire defense able to practice this week only helps Kansas City’s chances Sunday. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is quite motivated as it is. Mahomes has lost to an opponent multiple times in the same season just once, against the Patriots in 2018. The Patriots won the teams’ regular-season matchup before eliminating Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game. Thus, no divisional rival has swept him yet.
“Any time you lose to anyone, the next time you play them you want to win the football game,” Mahomes said this week. “We’ll be ready to go, I promise you that. … We don’t like losing to teams twice, so we’ll have the right mindset.”
Mahomes ranks third in the league with 25 touchdown passes this season, while only throwing one interception. Before having a bye last week, Mahomes recorded four touchdown passes and zero interceptions in Week 9 and five touchdown passes and zero interceptions in Week 8. With at least four touchdown passes and zero interceptions on Sunday night, he will become the first player in NFL history to record at least four touchdown passes and zero interceptions in three consecutive games.
On Monday, the Chiefs placed three offensive linemen on the reserve-COVID 19 list: left tackle Eric Fisher, right Mitchell Schwartz and backup Martinas Rankin. Fisher and Schwartz were close contacts of Rankin, which would allow both to return following five consecutive days of negative tests.
With COVID-19 infection rates rising rapidly throughout the country, the NFL announced that starting on Saturday all 32 teams will operate for the rest of the season under the league’s intensive protocol. One part of protocol prohibits team or player gatherings away from the facility, a particularly important prohibition with Thanksgiving next week.
Lions Expecting Both Golladay, Stafford
The Detroit Lions (4-5) can get to .500 for the first time this season with a win at Carolina on Sunday, and Detroit is a 3-point road favorite. While the Panthers will be without All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey yet again, the Lions are expecting Pro Bowl wideout Kenny Golladay to return from injury and QB Matthew Stafford to play through one.
Golladay, who was a breakout star in 2019 but has dealt with injuries seemingly all this season, injured his hip in Week 8 but was back at practice this week. As for Stafford, he has been diagnosed with a partially-torn ligament in his throwing thumb but plans to play through it. He may not practice much if it all this week, though.
“We’re just trying to be smart with it,” Coach Matt Patricia said. “Obviously, I think we all know how tough Matthew Stafford is, and he’s going to do everything possible. And, for the most part, it’s probably me just trying to slow it down through the course of the week. Sometimes he gets out there and gets competitive and likes to do what he knows that he can do. From that standpoint, we’ll take it day-by-day.”
Carolina is hoping to have its QB, Teddy Bridgewater. He suffered a “somewhat mild” MCL sprain on Sunday but has not been ruled out for Week 11 against the Lions. If he can’t go, former XFL star P.J. Walker would receive a spot start.
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