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Did Derek Carr salvage Las Vegas Raiders career with last-minute win?

Vincent Frank

There’s been a lot of talk about Derek Carr and his future with the Las Vegas Raiders. They headed into Monday’s postponed game against the Cleveland Browns with a 6-7 record and on the outside looking in when it comes to the AFC Playoff race.

For Carr and Co., it’s been another late-season meltdown with the Raiders having lost five of six following a Week 8 bye. This is the same Raiders squad that finished last season losing five of seven after winning six of nine to open the campaign. Back in 2019, the Raiders closed up shop with five losses in their final seven games.

Taking on a COVID-ravaged Browns team in a game that was postponed from Saturday, Derek Carr and the Raiders were about to take another loss. This time, from none other than Nick Mullens.

That’s when Carr stepped up big time. The three-time Pro Bowler took the ball from his own 29 yard line and less than two minutes left in the final stanza down by the score of 16-14.

Related: Las Vegas Raiders schedule and game-by-game predictions

Carr proceeded to completed 5-of-7 passes for 51 yards with one of the incompletions coming on a spike to set up a game-winning 48-yard field goal from kicker Daniel Carlson. This drive included an absolutey huge 15-yard strike to Zay Jones — putting Vegas in field goal position.

The end result was a hard-fought 16-14 road win and some renewed hope of postseason football in Las Vegas.

The question now becomes whether this huge win was enough for Carr to salvage his career with the Raiders?

Las Vegas Raiders still have to make the playoffs

derek carr, las vegas raiders beat cleveland browns
Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

We have absolutely no idea who will be calling the shots for the Raiders next off-season. Head coach Jon Gruden resigned in disgrace back in October. General manager Mike Mayock is in no way on firm footing after some major struggles during the draft.

What we do know is that the status quo is not working for these Raiders. Short of winning out and earning a spot in the playoffs, it’s hard to envision Carr being back with the Raiders next season. That’s especially true with the likes of Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers all potentially being on the trade block.

This playoff run continues Week 16 at home against the division-rival Denver Broncos. It concludes Week 17 on the road against the Indianapolis Colts followed by a home outing against the Los Angeles Chargers on Jan. 9.

All three of these teams are vying for one of the three wildcard spots in the AFC with Derek Carr and the Raiders. Realistically, Las Vegas must win out and get some help in order to earn a playoff spot.

Current AFC Wildcard standings

5. Indianapolis Colts: 8-6

6. Los Angeles Chargers: 8-6

7. Buffalo Bills: 8-6

8. Baltimore Ravens: 8-6

9. Pittsburgh Steelers: 7-6-1

10. Las Vegas Raiders: 7-7

The good news? These Raiders hold the tiebreaker over the Ravens and Steelers due to head-to-head wins. The bad news? They currently lose the tiebreaker to the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers.

Related: Sportsnaut’s updated NFL power rankings

Derek Carr as anything more than a stopgap

las vegas raiders' derek carr
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Statistically, the former second-round pick has been darn solid during his career with the Raiders. Since joining the team back in 2014, he’s averaging 3,852 yards to go with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions per season.

But it’s about a lot more than that. The Raiders have earned all of one playoff appearance during this span. Prior to Monday’s win, Vegas posted a 6-16 record after November with Carr under center since the start of the 2017 season. He’s been that one common denominator.

It’s easy to overreact to a win in December, especially with all eyes focused on an individual game. However, Derek Carr has yet to do anything to prove his worth as the Raiders’ starter beyond the 2021 season. It’s going to be all about how this team does over the final three weeks of the regular season and whether they earn a spot in the playoffs.

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