Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

December 14, 2018 at 5:05 pm.

Raiders accustomed to distractions

There are a lot of unknowns surrounding the Oakland Raiders this week.

On Monday they fired general manager Reggie McKenzie and don’t know who they will hire to replace him — or if they will replace him.

On Tuesday, the city of Oakland sued the Raiders and everybody else in the NFL who took part in ratifying the team’s move to Las Vegas for 2020.

On Wednesday, the team responded by rescinding its offer to lease the Oakland Coliseum for $7.5 million in 2019 and said all options for a home site are open next year – yes, including Oakland.

So here is what we do know: Somehow amid the chaos and upheaval, the Raiders, still representing Oakland, must play the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. In terms of playoffs, the game is meaningless with the Raiders at 3-10 and the Bengals 5-8.

But in the context of a week full of unknowns, the fact that everybody knows where the game is becomes notable.

Still it is a game that has its share of uncertainty on the field as the Raiders’ young and injury-plagued offensive line is a mess. Guards Gabe Jackson (elbow, ankle) and Kelechi Osemele (toe) did not practice Wednesday and veteran Jon Feliciano was put on the injured reserve list. With rookies at both tackle spots, that leaves center Rodney Hudson as the only reliable vet up front and he was limited in Wednesday’s practice (ankle, knee).

What to do? First, head coach Jon Gruden hopes his starting guards will be ready.

“I know that both of them are as tough as they come and if there’s a will, there’s a way,” Gruden said Wednesday. “They have the will, I know that. We’ll just hope for the best. Like we’ve done at other positions on offense, we’ll have to rally around the next guy up.”

Who would that be?

“It’s going to be determined here in the next few days,” Gruden added. “We’ll use today to get Chaz Green and Denzelle (Good) and Cam Hunt some work and hope for the best.”

Quarterback Derek Carr understands that his front line may be more critical this Sunday than it has for a while.

“Their front, obviously we know they got good players,” Carr said. “It just is what it is this year. Guys are hurt, guys are leaving the building and we are getting new guys in. It’s next man up, but just the mentality that Coach Gruden and I have together is, however it unfolds we are going to give Cincinnati our best shot.”

But it’s been that way, more or less, all season since the departure of veteran tackle Donald Penn to injured reserve. So, same old, same old but Carr seems to be getting tougher for all the adversity.

After a rough start, Carr has dinked and dunked his stats to read 317 of 456 for 3,434 yards with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions, of which none were given up in the last eight games. That’s good for a 97.2 passer rating and the team seeks its first back-to-back wins after a comeback victory over Pittsburgh, 24-21. That followed a strong showing in a 33-30 loss to Kansas City.

The win over Pittsburgh was Carr’s 16th career fourth-quarter comeback, more than any other NFL quarterback has managed in the time since 2014.

But for now the comeback most on the minds of Raider Nation is the one involving the team itself in 2019, and whether it come back to the Oakland Coliseum for one last year.

SERIES HISTORY: 29th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 18-10, plus 2-0 in post-season games. However, the Bengals have dominated the last two meetings by a combined margin of 67-23, winning 33-13 in Oakland three years ago and 34-10 in Cincinnati in 2012. The Raiders won, 31-28, in a divisional playoff game at Oakland in 1975, and prevailed 20-10 in another divisional game at Los Angeles in 1990.