Maybe. Just maybe.
Maybe the Oakland Raiders can make a winning go at the NFL playoffs without Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Carr, whose broken leg two weeks ago left his team’s Super Bowl considerations twisting in the autumn wind.
Maybe the Raiders find a way to win in Houston in Saturday’s AFC wild-card game, because the only reason the Texans are even in this tournament is because somebody had to not lose the sorry AFC South.
Maybe Raider fans can enjoy their first playoff game since the 2002 AFC Championship Game (because we know you didn’t enjoy the 2002 Super Bowl that followed).
Maybe Carr can learn how to throw on crutches, knowing he will be well protected behind an offensive line that allowed an NFL-low 18 sacks.
Maybe this isn’t the right time to mention Pro Bowl offensive left tackle Donald Penn didn’t practice all week with a knee injury and on Friday was declared inactive for this weekend. Maybe you’ll remember the only sack Penn has allowed was the one that broke Carr’s leg.
Maybe third-choice quarterback Connor Cook will surprise us all as the first quarterback to make his first career NFL start in a playoff game. Or, maybe he’ll make you pray and fast for Matt McGloin’s injured shoulder to heal, that is, when you’re done praying for Carr’s fibula to be made whole.
Maybe Oakland’s three-helmeted rushing offense will relegate Cook to nothing more than a ball hander-offer.
Maybe Cook pulls a Jim Plunkett, who came off the bench when the starter broke his leg and helped make the 1980 Raiders the first wild-card team to win the Super Bowl. Maybe the Raiders should pull Plunkett off the in-house studio set and see if there’s anything left in his 69-year-old arm.
Maybe Oakland’s three-helmeted rushing offense will relegate Cook to nothing more than a ball hander-offer. Maybe Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will remember running back Latavius Murray ran for 788 yards at 4 yards per pop despite sharing time with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington.
Maybe that’s the key to improving on those 13 first downs in 15 offensive drives since Carr broke his leg. Maybe it’s worth mentioning that, for all of Carr’s wonder working in the fourth quarter, the Raiders ranked sixth in NFL rushing.
Maybe that is Oakland’s only chance against a Texans defense that, though ranked No. 1 in overall defense and No. 2 in passing defense, was 12th against the run.
Maybe Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack makes such a quick work of (Brock) Osweiler, the Texans wind up turning to backup quarterback Brandon Wheeler, which will do nothing to further their Round 2 aspirations.
Maybe the Texans will have their own problems scoring with a quarterback (Brock Osweiler) who was benched three weeks back after throwing 16 interceptions and just 15 touchdown passes since signing a $72 million contract in the offseason.
Maybe Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack makes such quick work of Osweiler, the Texans wind up turning to backup quarterback Brandon Weeden, which will do nothing to further their Round 2 aspirations.
Maybe someone other than Mack and defensive end Bruce Irvin – who have 18 sacks between them – can help turn quarterback pressures into sacks for a defense with a league-worst 25 this season.
Maybe it still won’t matter that the Raiders allow more yards per play (6.1) than any team in the NFL because they still have not allowed a point in the final three minutes of any fourth quarter this season – which is to say, they win close games.
Maybe it’s worth mentioning the Raiders won that sort of tight game Nov. 22 in Mexico City, 27-20 over the Texans.
Maybe the Raiders beat the Texans 19-17 because one quarterback does not a 12-and-4 team make. But then, maybe one quarterback does when he goes by the name of Derek Carr.
OAKLAND RAIDERS AT HOUSTON TEXANS
- Saturday: 1:35 p.m. at NRG Stadium (72,220)
- Regular-season records: Raiders 12-4, second in AFC West; Texans 9-7, first in AFC South
- TV/radio: KFSN (Ch. 30.1), ESPN/KFPT (AM 790), KCBL (1340)
- Line: Houston minus-4, over/under 36.5 via Westgate-Las Vegas