The Raiders (5-5), once considered one of the NFL’s top teams, turned a nosedive, losing three straight games as other controversies surrounded them. After John Gruden resigned as head coach in October, The New York Times reported on racist and homophobic emails sent before he joined the team, with the Raiders revealing their 2020 first-round draft picks, Henry Rugs III and Damon Arnett gets isolated off-field incidents.
Quarterback Derek Carr has struggled to adjust without Rugs, who focused defensively as an intense deep threat, and the Las Vegas offense scored no more than 20 points in a game during the skid.
Buffalo Bills in the New Orleans Saints, 8:20 PM, NBC
The Bills (6–4) were once considered a Super Bowl contender, building on the previous season, when they appeared in their first AFC championship game since the 1993 season. Buffalo may still be one of the better teams in the conference, but it has lost two of its last three games to inferior opponents, and has handed the AFC East Division lead to the New England Patriots. Losing to the Colts last week pointed to the Bills related to penalty problems, risky decisions by quarterback Josh Allen, and a top-ranked defense that dropped an unusually high 264 rushing yards.
The Saints (5-5) were expected to rejoin the group this off-season following the retirement of quarterback Drew Brees, but New Orleans has been unbearably inconsistent with injuries. Top receiver Michael Thomas, who was expected to miss six weeks, is instead out for the season and Breeze’s successor, Jameis Winston, tore an anterior cruciate ligament in Week 8, putting Trevor Simian in charge of the offense. .
The team has lost three straight games, and the offensive playmakers suffered even more injuries in that period. Versatile running back Alvin Kamara (knee) will miss Thursday and his backup Mark Ingram is also recovering from a knee injury. Tight end Adam Troutman (knee) was placed on the injured reserve list.
Both teams are slipping to the bottom, but the game is more important for the Saints. According to the playoff simulator, a loss would reduce New Orleans’ chances of reaching the postseason by 44 percent. Maybe that’s how they play.