The Las Vegas Raiders begin the second half of their season Sunday afternoon against the visiting Denver Broncos with back-to-back victories and in the thick of the playoff picture.
Not bad considering the original offensive line has played a total of just 10 snaps together.
Consider that both starting tackles, Trent Brown (COVID-19) and Kolton Miller (ankle), as well as road-grading left guard Richie Incognito (Achilles), missed last Sunday's 31-26 victory against the Chargers in Los Angeles.
Incognito remains on injured reserve, and reports this week suggested Brown might miss a month with COVID-19 complications, yet, the Raiders continue to have quality offensive line play with nine different players having started so far.
The Raiders (5-3) have still managed to win three of their last four games, including a 40-32 win at defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City, behind the standout play of quarterback Derek Carr.
Carr has completed 180 of 258 passes for 2,002 yards, 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His 110.0 passer rating ranks fifth in the NFL behind Aaron Rodgers (117.5), Russell Wilson (117.1), Patrick Mahomes (115.9) and Drew Brees (110.3).
But in an AFC West that features the reigning Super Bowl MVP in Mahomes and the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year honors in Justin Herbert of the Chargers, Carr has been somewhat overlooked.
Not by the Broncos, however. Denver (3-5), coming in off a 34-27 loss at Atlanta, has allowed an average of 35.7 points over its last three games and knows it needs to find a way to slow down the seven-year veteran from Fresno State.
"I've seen (Carr) since he came into the league," safety Kareem Jackson said. "Obviously he's playing at an elite level right now in his career, but even when he was a younger he was doing some great things."
Carr had a season-high 391 yards and a touchdown in the last meeting between the teams in Week 17 last season, but Denver held on for a 16-15 victory when defensive end Shelby Harris batted down Carr's two-point conversion pass for Hunter Renfrow with seven seconds left. It was the Raiders' final game before departing Oakland for Sin City.
"He can make every throw, and he has some elite talent around him," Jackson said. "He's getting those guys in the right sets and the right plays, and they're rolling. And he'll run a little bit as well. He's an elite talent and a great leader for that team, and it shows on Sunday."
Carr won't have to worry about Harris batting down any of his passes this time around. Harris, who sat out the loss to Falcons while in self-quarantine following close contact with someone who had contracted COVID-19, tested positive for the disease on Wednesday morning and will not play Sunday. He is third on the team with 2.5 sacks to go along with 15 tackles.
"It's a big blow anytime you lose one of your better players," said Denver coach Vic Fangio. "I think he's probably having the best season of his career."
Three other Broncos didn't practice on Wednesday: safety Justin Simmons (not injury related), tackle Demar Dotson (groin/hand), and standout rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (shoulder). Corners A.J Bouye (concussion) and Bryce Callahan (ankle) were limited but are expected to start Sunday.
For the Raiders, Miller missed practice Wednesday and was joined on the sidelines by center Rodney Hudson (non-football), defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (ankle) and corner Trayvon Mullen (hamstring).
Fullback Alec Ingold, who watched the second half of Sunday's win over the Chargers in the hospital getting his ribs X-rayed, did practice but was limited while rookie cornerback Damon Arnette, placed on injured reserve on Oct. 2 with a thumb injury, also practiced.
"He's been out a long time," Las Vegas coach Jon Gruden said of Arnette, a first-round pick out of Ohio State. "No guarantee he'll play, or start, or be a factor in the game yet. He's got to determine that himself and show us (in practice) tomorrow and Friday."
--Field Level Media