Raiders QB Derek Carr will finally reach an elusive career milestone on Saturday when he takes the field in Cincinnati for the first playoff game of his eight-year career. On the opposite sideline, QB Joe Burrow will also make his playoff debut in only his second season after being selected by the Bengals with the #1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Carr earned his playoff opportunity this season, leading his team to a 10-7 record while passing for a career-high 4,804 yards with a 23/14 touchdown to interception ratio. Carr was the steady hand through all of the Raiders’ ups and downs including scandal, tragedy, and eventual triumph. After eight years of service and five years since a broken leg ended his season just two weeks before the team’s last playoff appearance in 2016, Carr has finally put it all together for the Raiders and will get his shot in the playoffs.
“It’s nice, but don’t forget we’ve already done it. This is the second time, I just get to play this time,” Carr said Tuesday about making the playoffs. “For me, it’s an exciting time. It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was drafted. That’s all I’ve wanted to do is get to the playoffs and try to win a championship.”
Burrow, on the other hand, has taken the league by storm and has transformed the Bengals from being perennial cellar-dwellers to legitimate AFC contenders in only two short seasons. Burrow threw for 4,611 yards in the regular season (in only 16 games) with a 34/14 touchdown to interception ratio, leading the Bengals to 10-7 record and the team’s first AFC North division title since 2015.
Due to a severe knee injury, Burrow’s rookie season was cut short after only 10 games. After resting last week against the Browns, Burrow is set to make only his 27th NFL start Saturday against the Raiders, but Burrow is no stranger to big games.
“I’ve played in a lot of big games,” Burrow said Tuesday. “Not just throughout my college career, but this year as well. The last five or six games for us have been playoff games. We’ve got a lot of experience in those kinds of situations.”
Burrow is only two seasons removed from one of the greatest offensive seasons in college football history. In 15 games as a fifth-year senior at LSU in 2019, Burrow threw for 5,671 yards with a 76.3 completion percentage and a 60/6 touchdown to interception ratio en route to an undefeated season and National Championship. Burrow’s 60 touchdowns still stand as an FBS record.
Burrow’s partner-in-crime at the NFL level, rookie WR Ja’Marr Chase, also put up eye-popping numbers as Burrow’s college teammate at LSU in 2019, catching 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. This season, Chase’s 1,429 yards broke Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson’s rookie receiving yards record, who was also a member of that unreal 2019 LSU Tigers team.
While there’s no doubt that the Bengals are one of the league’s fastest ascending teams, Carr and the Raiders are one of the gutsiest. The Raiders competitive level in 2021 has been critical to their playoff run, fighting and scrapping tooth and nail for every last win. Previously unsung heroes such as interim head coach Rich Bisaccia, WR Hunter Renfrow and K Daniel Carlson are now shining in the spotlight after coming up huge with their opportunities this season.
“Beating the Chargers (and QB Justin Herbert), that means they had to go home and all that,” Carr said Tuesday. “We have a tough matchup with Joe (Burrow) and their team this week, and they beat us already.”
“There’s no pressure on us, man. I’m just going to go out there and do my best as a 30-year-old old man, I guess,” he said with a smile.
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