The Raiders (5-5), once considered one of the N.F.L.’s top teams, have nose-dived, losing three straight games as other controversies engulfed them. Weeks after Jon Gruden resigned as head coach in October after The New York Times reported on racist and homophobic emails he sent before joining the team, the Raiders released their 2020 first-round draft picks, Henry Ruggs III and Damon Arnette, for separate off-field incidents.
Quarterback Derek Carr has struggled to adjust without Ruggs, who commanded defensive attention as a speedy deep threat, and Las Vegas’s offense has not scored more than 20 points in a game during the skid.
Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints, 8:20 p.m., NBC
The Bills (6-4) were once thought to be Super Bowl contenders who were building on last season, when they appeared in their first A.F.C. championship game since the 1993 season. Buffalo can still be one of the better teams in the conference, but it has lost two of its last three games to inferior opponents, and ceded the A.F.C. East division lead to the New England Patriots. Losing to the Colts last week pointed out the Bills’ concerning problems with penalties, risky decisions by quarterback Josh Allen, and a top-ranked defense that atypically gave up 264 rushing yards.
The Saints (5-5) were expected to regroup after quarterback Drew Brees’s retirement this off-season, but New Orleans has been unbearably inconsistent because of ravaging injuries. The top receiver Michael Thomas, who was expected to miss six weeks, instead is out for the season and Brees’s successor, Jameis Winston, tore an anterior cruciate ligament in Week 8, leaving journeyman Trevor Siemian in charge of the offense.
The team has lost three straight games, and over that span has been beset by even more injuries to offensive playmakers. The versatile running back Alvin Kamara (knee) will not play on Thursday, and his backup, Mark Ingram, is also recovering from a knee injury. Tight end Adam Trautman (knee) was placed on the injured reserve list.
Both teams are on a downward skid, but this game is more important for the Saints. A loss would decrease New Orleans’s chances of reaching the postseason to 44 percent, according to the Playoff Simulator. Maybe they’ll play like it.