In a stunning, and frankly bewildering move, Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniel has decided to bench their starting quarterback Derek Carr for the final two games of the NFL season.

In his place, back-up Jarret Stidham will start as the Raiders complete their season against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night and then a week later they face another playoff-bound team in the Kansas City Chiefs.

The news has seen the Raiders odds of winning in both their remaining games, plummet with McDaniel’s team now 15/4 on the moneyline to beat the 49ers (who are 1/5) while they are also the heavy underdogs against the Chiefs (4/1 on the moneyline).

Those prices are available at the time of writing with bet365 Sport but there is a chance that they may change in the built up to the games.

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So what has happened to turn what should have been a dream season for the Raiders and Derek Carr in particular, into a nightmare scenario?

A Positive Pre-Season

In the competitive AFC West, the Las Vegas Raiders knew that they needed to make a statement ahead of the 2022/23 season in order to be able to compete with their divisional rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos.

With the Broncos bringing in Russell Wilson to kick start their offense (another experiment that didn’t work) and with the Chargers making several major upgrades to their offensive and defensive line and backfield, the pressure was on for the Raiders to make their move.

And the first piece of that jigsaw was persuading Derek Carr to sign a new 3-year, $121,500,000 contract, of which $65.2m of that was guaranteed.

That move was an important one as it meant that incoming coach Josh McDaniel had his QB for the season sorted and there is no doubt that Carr’s relationship from College football with Davante Adams smoothing the way for Adams to make the switch from Green Bay to Las Vegas.

The Carr-Adams link up, alongside Darren Waller at Tight End, Josh Jacobs at running back and along with other talented receivers in Hunter Renfrow, Mack Hollins and Keelan Coe,was supposed to forge the way for the Raiders to be genuine contenders in the ultra-tough AFC West this season.

Only things have not turned out that way.

Promising Pre-Season Gives Way To Stumbling Start

As one of the two teams that played four NFL Pre-season games, the Raiders notched up wins over the Jaguars, Vikings, Dolphins and Patriots in their four warm up games, perhaps serving notice that they were ready to make a real challenge this season.

However, things started poorly when the real action got underway as defeats to the Chargers, Cardinals and Titans saw the Raiders start 0-3 on the season.

Better followed as the Raiders beat the Broncos and narrowly lost to the Chiefs before defeating the Texans to move to 2-4. Not an ideal start, but one that could be recoverable.

However, the Raiders lost their next three to the Saints, Jaguars and Colts, all teams that were worse than 0.500 on the season, before they recovered to put their best run of form together of the season.

Wins over the Broncos (again), Seahawks and Chargers gave the Raiders a slight chance of the playoffs, but then two defeats in their last three games, to the Rams and Steelers, with a narrow win over the Patriots sandwiched in between means that the Raiders are 6-9 on the season  and out of playoff contention.

It is their road form that has been the major issue, with Las Vegas winning just two of nine games away from Allegiant Stadium, whereas at home they have won four of their six so far (and have two home games to finish the season).

Is Derek Carr To Blame For The Raiders Issues This Season?

Carr’s stat lines this season are certainly not his best. He has hit a 60/8% completion rate and nas 3,522 yards passing for 24 touchdowns but there have also been 14 interceptions over the course of the season too.

His passer rating at the time he was demoted from the Raiders starting role was 86.3.

However, it is telling that he has had a QB rating of over 100 just once in his last nine games and in two of his last three, his QB rating was 36.9 (v the Rams) and 42.2 (v the Steelers).

Furthermore after throwing just 5 interceptions in the opening ten games of the season, he has thrown nine in his past five games for the Raiders, the same amount as touchdowns he has thrown over the same period.

So, there is some evidence as to why Carr has been made the scapegoat for the Raiders lack of success this season, but is he solely to blame?

Key Issues For The Raiders

Defensively, the Raiders have had many issues thuis season. They are ranked 27th in the NFL in passing yards conceded (3664) and passing yards per game conceded (244.3).

They have also committed the 9th most number of penalties in the league (60) leading to claims that they lack discipline, mainly on offense, which means that they are often in difficult positions on third-and-long or similar which cuts down Carr’s options on the playbook.

It’s also fair to say that flashes of brilliance aside, the Adams/Waller/Renfrow receiving corps just has not worked and after spending $223.3 million on the trio before the season started in terms of extensions to their contracts, that is a huge payout for little production.

Part of that has been the fact that the trio have rarely been on the field together due to one or more suffering injuries. Just 62 snaps this season according to the stats. With Carr denied two of his top targets for the majority of the season, it is little wonder they have struggled.

That’s especially the case when you consider the Raiders offensive line remains porous in pass protection. Run blocking, they are solid (which has helped Josh Jacobs post NFL leading numbers)  but Carr has been hit 50 times this season and they rank 23rd in the NFL in pressure rate.

Combine that with a defense which does not force many turnovers, let alone score any points on defense, and which also conceded an average of 23.3 points per game and it means the pressure is on Carr to throw for at least four touchdowns in a game in order to stand a likely chance of success.

Add into that some of the questionable playcalling, for which McDaniel himself must shoulder the blame,  abysmal defense when trying to stop third-down conversions, poor performances in close games, losing three of four games where they have led by 17 points or more and a porous secondary and you can see why the Raiders have struggled.

What Now For Carr?

With Jarrett Stidham now installed as starting Quarterback, the question remains what will happen to Derek Carr in the off-season?

Having just signed a big money extension last summer, moving on Carr will be expensive for the Raiders and any potential suitor, but it is one that Carr must be considering after what has happened this season.

It is unfair to blame all the Raiders ills on the quarterback but it seems Derek Carr is taking the fall for a lot of players, and staff, in Las Vegas who have underperformed this season.