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Lions vs. Raiders Q&A: Nobody expected the Oakland offense to take off this fast

We talked with Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride about the Raiders' 2015 season.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

We spoke with Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride to discuss the Oakland Raiders' surprisingly successful season and how they match up against the Detroit Lions this week. Check out his responses below:

1) How surprised are you by the Raiders' relative success this season?
I have been quite surprised. I expected improvement simply by virtue of Derek Carr coming into his second season and more draft picks added to the mix, but I don't think anyone expected the offense to take off as it has in the past month. Even the free agent additions have been paying dividends. The defense is as shaky as it was feared to be, but the offense has burst onto the scene. That being said, it's a long season and there's still a chance the rest of the NFL discovers the weak spots and exploits them. Last week the Vikings seemed to have the Raiders' number. We'll see if that was simply a very well coached Vikings team or a sign of teams cracking the code.

2) Derek Carr appears to be having a breakout season. What do you attribute his success to and where do you rank him among NFL quarterbacks right now?
There are several things that go into Derek Carr's leap in his second season. He is very smart and this offseason he put in the work to improve upon his weak areas. Having started 16 games as a rookie and then being able to absorb everything during a full offseason without the rigors of the NFL season allowed him to improve as a quarterback. He also feels more comfortable as a leader on this team now that he is no longer a rookie. He has better weapons around him, including two new starting receivers who are better than any receiver he had last season. He has a better overall offensive line, including a new center who is among the best in the league. He has a better offensive coordinator who fits his strengths and the two of them have both gotten better as they have worked together. I would put Carr at or near the top ten.

3) Lately the Oakland defense seems to be struggling (allowed 30+ points in three straight games). Where is this team vulnerable on that side of the ball?
That answer is becoming more and more difficult to come to. If you'd asked me a couple weeks ago, I'd have said the secondary. But since then, the Raiders have also shown an inability to stop the run. They were the second ranked run defense in the league prior to the game against the Steelers. Then they gave up 170 yards to DeAngelo Williams and 203 yards to Adrian Peterson. And all this on top of their previous weird weakness -- which they still have -- of leaving the tight end uncovered for easy catches. There are a handful of solid defenders but more weaknesses than strengths means those solid players are rendered helpless to cover for those who are not.

4) Who are a few Raiders that many NFL fans may not have heard of, but could make a huge impact against the Lions?
I'm gonna go a bit off the range here and say Benson Mayowa. Not because he is great, but because he is the man who will be filling in for the recently suspended Aldon Smith. Mayowa will have an impact on this game, but it seems more likely it would not be the positive kind. I suspect the Lions will be looking to take advantage of him when he is on the field. If you would like some good under the radar players, I would say Gabe Jackson on the offensive line and TJ Carrie at cornerback.

5) What is your prediction for the game on Sunday?

I think the Raiders take this one. I see them putting up similar points to what they did in Pittsburgh, but the Lions don't have the firepower to outscore the Raiders as the Steelers did. Let's go Raiders 30, Lions 24.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.