There are also several Raider players who will be looking to make a statement as their season ends. Though they have no playoffs to fight for any longer, their season still have 60 minutes left in it– 60 minutes they don’t intend to waste.
Darren McFadden is the first of those. He was named a Pro Bowl alternate this week after posting one of the best seasons among runningbacks. It has not been announced what level alternate he is just yet. For all we know, it has not been decided. McFadden was held out of practice on Wednesday due to an ankle injury he sustained in last Sunday’s game against the Colts. However, I don’t think he will be letting that stop him from playing against the Chiefs.
McFadden is currently 2nd in the AFC in yards per carry (5.2), 4th in yards per game (89) and his 1157 rushing yards is good for 7th in the AFC just behind his former Arkansas teammate Peyton Hillis. If both backs run for their season average, McFadden will move into 6th in the AFC. McFadden ran for exactly his game average (89) in the last meeting with the Chiefs and Hillis will be trying to run against the Steelers and their NFL best rushing defense.
McFadden is also 3rd in the AFC in receiving yards among runningbacks (507) and he has already become the first player since Marcus Allen in 1985 to amass at least 1000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in a season. McFadden needs just 12 yards rushing to move past Allen into sole possession of the 4th best single-season rushing performance in Raider history. McFadden needs 117 yards to move past Mark Van Eeghan into 3rd place and if he can gain 138 yards in Sunday’s game, he will have the 2nd best all-time Raider rushing performance. He has surpassed 138 yards twice this season so it is entirely possible.
Jacoby Ford is another player looking to further make more history. He set the Raiders single season kick return record last week when he returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. One of Ford’s kick returns this season came against these same Chiefs in the week 9 win. He did it before so he is certainly capable of doing it again. If he did return a kick for a touchdown, he would be the Raiders all-time single season return leader in either category– punts or kickoffs. Both previous kick and punt return marks were set in 2008 when Justin Miller had two kick return TD’s and Jonnie Lee Higgins had three punt returns TD’s. But not Raider has had four return TD’s in a single season. Ford is currently tied with Leon Washington for the most kickoff return touchdowns in the NFL this season.
Sebastian Janikowski is now the current leader in field goals made on the season (32). Those numbers have him named as a Pro Bowl alternate. He was worthy of being a Pro Bowl starter last season when he had the best field goal percentage in the NFL along with making more field goals from long range than any other kicker. But alas, he was not name to the Pro Bowl roster. His numbers weren’t quite as good percentage wise, but his sheer number of made field goals and his strong leg are as good as ever. He also leads the AFC in kickoff yardage with better averages in every category over David Akers, the only kicker with more kick yardage on the season. Seabass will look to prove he was worthy yet again of being a Pro Bowl starter and nothing short of first alternate.
Jason Campbell will be looking to finish off his first season as a Raider with a performance that will cement him as the Raiders everyday starter next season. Coach Cable went back and forth this season between Campbell and Gradkowski until Gradkowski was lost for the season with a seperation in his throwing shoulder. If Campbell doesn’t play a great game on Sunday, the Raiders could look to find a suitable insurance plan if not an outright replacement this offseason. This means that Campbell will need to show that he is willing to take a chance downfield now and then. This offense will not succeed with just checkdowns.
For many of us, the season seems like it just started the other day. For the NFL players it has been a much longer journey. Their bodies are sore and their hopes are dashed but you can bet they will be mustering up every ounce of strength to leave everything on the field before the last tick of the clock that sends them into the offseason. Don’t tell these guys there is nothing left to play for. If pride weren’t enough, then looking at their season totals and knowing, no matter the end result, they did everything they could to give this team a chance to win will make the long offseason that much easier to bear. It also gives each player a mark to build upon for next season.