Is Raiders’ 1-4 hole too deep to escape from?

Can the Las Vegas Raiders recover from their slow start and salvage their season?

LAS VEGAS — There has been time to reflect, heal up and contemplate their collective fate. Now, it’s back to work and reality for the Las Vegas Raiders, who have dug themselves a 1-4 hole to start their 2022 season.

The question is, “Was the hole too deep to extricate themselves from?”

We’ll find out quickly, starting Sunday at Allegiant Stadium when the Silver and Black host the 1-3-1 Houston Texans. The Raiders are 7-point favorites and it’s a game they should win, even if they continue to play shorthanded.

After that, they’re at 2-4 New Orleans, at 2-4 Jacksonville, home to 3-2-1 Indianapolis, at 2-4 Denver, which the Raiders already beat for their lone victory to date, and at Seattle, which is 3-3.

Conceivably, Las Vegas can run the table during this stretch which would get them to 7-4 and back in the playoff hunt. Even a single stumble would not be the end of the road. But anything less would basically be a death knell for a return to the playoffs.

Naturally, nobody who is coaching or playing is thinking that way. The company line is focusing on the Texans, as it should be. But the reality is the Raiders can’t afford many more missteps. Everything needs to be better — from Josh McDaniels’ play-calling and coaching, to Derek Carr’s quarterbacking, to the overall defense getting stops when it needs to and ending opposing drives before they manifest themselves into points.

The Raiders will tell you they could easily be 5-0 or 4-1 instead of 1-4. A play here, a stop there and they’re right there with Kansas City atop the AFC West. But that’s the problem. The Raiders didn’t come up with the big play or plays in order to win those four games they ultimately lost, which is why they’re in the predicament they’re currently in.

Running back Josh Jacobs is having a big year, averaging 5.4 yards a carry and has 490 yards so far, third in the NFL behind Cleveland’s Nick Chubb (649) and the Giants’ Saquon Barkley (616). What’s more impressive about Jacobs is he’s doing it running behind an offensive line that struggles to find any sense of continuity week to week due to injuries.

Defensively, Maxx Crosby has been a beast. He has six sacks, tied for second in the NFL and that’s despite being double- teamed most snaps. He is the Raiders’ inspirational leader on that side of the ball.

But it’s going to take more to get this done. The Raiders miss Darren Waller, their all-pro tight end, who has had a hamstring issue and has just 16 receptions. Davante Adams is getting extra attention from opposing defenses and Carr has to look to alternative targets, such as Mack Hollins, who has played well and is second to Adams with 17 receptions while being targeted 29 times thus far.

Adams has not been disciplined by the NFL for the postgame incident in Kansas City where he shoved a cameraman to the ground while exiting the field following the 31-29 loss to the Chiefs on Oct. 10. If he gets suspended by the league, it only makes the Raiders’ task that much tougher.

Hunter Renfrow, who returned against Kansas City after missing two games with concussion issues, could be a difference-maker against the Texans on Sunday. Waller could be good to go, having had a week to get treatment on his hamstring. Having Waller back on the field contributing would really help Carr, who has a 61 percent completion rate and has not played all that badly and doesn’t deserve all of the blame for the Raiders’ current predicament. That said, he admits he has to be better in his decision-making and McDaniels can help him out with better play-calling from the sideline and the coaches’ booth.

The secondary is also beat up and have been allowing big plays.Losing corner Nate Hobbs to a broken hand for the next four weeks doesn’t help matters. I’m not sure how that gets fixed when you’re dealing with multiple injuries and trying out guys and signing other teams’ rejects. Maybe Crosby gets some help when it comes to putting pressure on the opposition’s quarterback. It’s a tough situation for defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

That said, it’s all about trying to win one football game on Sunday at home against a beatable team. You have to start somewhere and for the Raiders, as George Allen used to say, the future is now.

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