DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA — NFL 2019 Week 15 stretches out before us. And as the 2019 NFL regular season enters its home stretch, a beloved institution leaves us, most likely forever. For one final time, the Raiders will host a game in Oakland. The AFC West crown and a home playoff game are out of reach. When the Raiders host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, it will be the end of the black hole, the final Oakland farewell.
The final Oakland farewell
The Oakland Alameda County Coliseum lost the Raiders once before, but this Oakland farewell is different.
Los Angeles was never a true home for the Raiders. Even when Marcus Allen raced 74 yards to the end zone in the Super Bowl, it was not the same. Even when Lyle Alzado pumped his fist as a champion, it was not the same. And even when Derrick Jensen blocked a punt and Jack Squirek intercepted a pass, it was not the same. The 1983 Raiders were champions, but Los Angeles was just a temporary stopover.
Oakland is the Raiders, and the Raiders are Oakland. But, in 2020, the breakup is permanent. In 2020, the Raiders move into their new two-billion-dollar Las Vegas palace.
Viva, Las Vegas! (?)
Las Vegas has everything. Oakland is the town that Gertrude Stein incorrectly described as “There’s no there there.” Oakland was always seen as the ugly kid sister to San Francisco. This was also untrue. Oakland boasts wealthy suburbs and gritty inner cities. Yet the one thing that unites people of all races, religions and ethnicities in Oakland is the Raiders. The Raider Nation is everyone. The black hole is football. It is built on toughness and loyalty.
Raiders fans travel well. They traveled to Los Angeles, and they will travel to Las Vegas. The team will always belong to Oakland. Even after this weekend’s Oakland farewell.
Read last week’s NFL preview: NFL Week 14 Preview and Bettor’s Guide: The Big Dogs come out
Down the Oakland Farewell Memory Lane
Led by Darryl “Mad Bomber” Lamonica, the Oakland Raiders won the 1967 American Football League championship, The Oakland Raiders thrived under the leadership of Jim Otto, Art Shell and Gene Upshaw. And let’s not forget Phil Villapiano, Ted “Mad Stork” Hendricks, John “The Tooz” Matuszak and the rest of the renegades. Al Davis declared war on everyone. John Madden barked out the orders. And the players got the job done. They were the Oakland Raiders.
Oakland in 1974 is where the Raiders ended the reign of Miami when Clarence Davis caught a miracle touchdown mist a “sea of hands.”
Oakland in 1976 is where the Raiders finally shook off the big game demons and crushed their hated rival Pittsburgh in the AFC Title Game.
Lest we forget, Oakland in 1980 is where the very first Mexican head coach, Tom Flores, and Mexican quarterback Jim Plunkett won their first Super Bowl together.
Oakland today as the team packs its bags for Sin City
The star players in 2020 will be the same ones as in 2019. Derek Carr and Josh Jacobs will both wear Silver and Black. Even the coach remains the same. Jon Gruden embodies the Oakland Raider through and through. He won a Super Bowl ring against the Raiders. But he still remains the prodigal son who returned home because of unfinished business.
The Immaculate Reception and the Tuck Rule both happened on the road. So did the Holy Roller and Ghost to the Post. Yet they exist forever as part of Oakland lore. No other city identifies with all four of those games.
The Raiders this week teeter on the brink of playoff elimination. The city of Oakland teeters on the brink of permanent elimination from hosting NFL football. But for one final NFL Sunday, the fans of Oakland will embrace the team they love. Wherever the Raiders go, they will always be the Oakland Raiders.
Finally, with that, here is the NFL 2019 Week 15 Preview and Bettor’s Guide. Point spreads provided by FootballLocks.com and all times Eastern.
Thursday, December 12, 8:20 p.m.
As usual, the league kicks off NFL 2019 Week 15 on Thursday night.
New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens (-14.5) —
The 11-2 Ravens are in the driver’s seat for home field throughout the playoffs if they win out. They are not going to look past the woeful Jets. Forget the high spread. This game could effectively wrap up by halftime. Ravens cover.
Sunday, December 15, 1:00 p.m.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5) at Detroit Lions —
Neither of these teams have a chance of making the playoffs. Jameis Winston always seems to throw a ton of passes to both teams. Yet the Lions continue to play incredibly uninspired football. Without Matthew Stafford, the Lions are rudderless. Bruce Arians is a better coach than Matt Patricia. Buccaneers win but fail to cover.
Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5) at Washington Redskins —
The 6-7 Eagles actually lead the NFC Least by default. Washington remains awful. But the Eagles barely squeaked past the horrendous Giants. Eagles win but fail to cover.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-4.5) —
The 7-6 Bears are fighting for survival. Meanwhile, the 10-3 Packers remain one game up in the NFC North and still have a shot at home field throughout the playoffs. No one can stop Aaron Rodgers, and his defense keeps playing well. Packers cover.
New England Patriots (-9.5) at Cincinnati Bengals —
When it comes to cheating and spying, it remains hard to trust the Patriots. But we doubt they need to cheat to beat the Bengals. As Bill Belichick says, “We’re on to Cincinnati.” The 10-3 Patriots have lost two straight and continue to sputter on offense. The Bengals are a better team with Andy Dalton, but not good enough to beat New England. A garbage touchdown could beat the point spread. Patriots win but fail to cover.
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (-3) —
Tied at 8-5 atop the AFC South, these teams play each other twice in the last three weeks. Tennessee possesses the momentum. Ryan Tannehill continues to play well, and Derrick Henry remains in December football form. Titans cover.
Seattle Seahawks (-6) at Carolina Panthers —
The Panthers are a mess. Seattle at 10-3 is one game back in the NFC West. Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson have won several times over the years in Carolina when the teams were more evenly matched. This Seattle team is clearly superior to a Carolina team that started strong but fell apart. Seahawks cover.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (-10.5) —
The 9-4 Chiefs have locked up the AFC West. But they remain behind in the race for a first round bye. However, their win at New England was impressive. Patrick Mahomes is human highlight reel. Denver may be out of it, but Drew Lock looked like the second coming in his first two NFL starts. After leading the Broncos to a 35 point lead at Houston, it seems hard to trust this high spread. Chiefs win but fail to cover.
Miami Dolphins at New York Giants (-3.5) —
The Giants could not get a win for Eli Manning on the road last week. But at home, the Giants have a legitimate shot to break their nine game losing streak. Both teams are horrendous. But this week the Giants should do just enough for Eli. Giants win but fail to cover.
Sunday, December 15, 4:00 p.m.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders (-6.5) —
As horrendous as the Raiders have been the last three weeks, Jacksonville has been awful all year. For their likely final farewell to Oakland, the Raiders can expect an emotional crowd jacked up to capacity. The Raiders have everything to play for, and for one week can no doubt play like it. Raiders cover.
Cleveland Browns (-2.5) at Arizona Cardinals —
The 6-7 Browns actually remain barely alive in the playoff race, but the Cardinals do not. Despite having everything to play for, it feels hard to trust the Browns when they cannot string together consecutive great games. Upset special, Cardinals win outright.
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers (-11) —
After an inspired road win at New Orleans, the 11-2 49ers now lead the race for home field throughout the playoffs. Atlanta has improved in recent weeks. This game has mismatch written all over it. But if the 49ers come out hung over from last week, Atlanta could get off to a quick start and beat the spread. 49ers win but fail to cover.
Los Angeles Rams (-1) at Dallas Cowboys —
The Rams at 8-5 remain on the outside looking. Meanwhile, the 6-7 Cowboys find themselves actually tied for the NFC East lead. The media has overrated the Cowboys all year. But the Rams finally woke up last week when they hosted Seattle. Rams cover.
Sunday, December 15, 8:00 p.m.
Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers (-2) —
In NFL 2019, Week 15, the 9-4 Bills find themselves only one game out in the AFC East. The Steelers were once 0-3 and 1-4, but now boast an 8-5 record in what some might regard as Mike Tomlin’s best coaching job. Buffalo boasts a very good defense and Josh Allen makes plays. While going against a Tomlin-coached team at home in December offers a major challenge, Buffalo owns the better defense and the better quarterback. Upset special, Bills win outright.
Monday, December 16, 8:00 p.m.
Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints (-9) —
The once 5-2 Colts have collapsed to 6-7. A gut-wrenching home loss to San Francisco puts the Saints at 10-3. They will be angry, hostile, and at home. The Saints remain one game out of the race for home field throughout the playoffs. All of which puts the team in Super Bowl or bust mode. In other words, they’re primed to take out all their frustrations out on the overmatched Colts. Drew Brees will move the Saints offense at will. Saints cover.
And NFL 2019 Week 15, the “Oakland farewell,” comes to a close.
— Headline image: Live cam screen shot of soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Courtesy of the current Oakland Raiders official NFL Web Site.