Insiders

Slow Down on the Oakland Raiders Hype For Now

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It’s been a while since Raiders fans had a legit reason to be excited, 14 years to be exact, which is the last time Oakland witnessed postseason football. However, the tide is starting to shift in the Bay Area. Through five games, Oakland is sitting atop the AFC West alongside the Denver Broncos with a record of (4-1). Considering the amount of talent Oakland possesses, no one should be surprised for various of reasons.

First and foremost, anyone with common football knowledge was well aware of how dynamic this young offense could be. Dating back to last season, quarterback Derek Carr showed flashes of a signal caller capable of becoming elite one day, while helping wide receiver Michael Crabtree get his career on the right path and how could we forget former Alabama standout Amari Cooper?

In 2015, Oakland finished 17th in total points per game (22.4), while ranking 24th in total yards per game (333.5). Thus far, Oakland ranks fifth in points per game (28.4) and fourth in total yards per game (391.6) and what makes this offense even more impressive is how they have dealt with pressure. In Oakland’s four wins, they’ve won by totals of one, seven, one and three respectively. Oakland’s lone loss was by a total of seven points against the Atlanta Falcons.

Therefore, if Oakland does indeed snap their postseason drought, playing in these close games will only help them during the long-run and new head coach Jack Del Rio totally gets it.

“Well, we talked last year about learning how to compete and stay in the fight in every game,” Del Rio stated. “I thought we did that with all [games with the] exception of the opener against Cincinnati. Every game from then on, we kind of understood what felt like and what it was to stay in the fight and battle the whole day. I think this year, we wanted to take a step forward in terms of understanding how you flourish in those situations and make the winning plays. We work hard at it and we’ve been successful to start the year. That means that we have a lot in front of us that we have to continue to do and do well as a football team to find ways to close the games. The NFL is about close games. Most of our games are one score games and you have to play well in those critical moments in order to win.”

Also, it’s been the aggressive nature of Jack Del Rio that’s rubbed off on his players, especially Carr. Week one, instead of tying the game up and going to overtime against the New Orleans Saints, Del Rio elected to go for the win and it paid off. This past Sunday, Oakland trailed San Diego by five late in the third quarter while in the red zone, but versus cutting the deficit to two, Oakland went for it and benefitted once again.

Del Rio spoke on the decision.

“It’s like all these situations, you make the call, what you think is best for the team and then you count on your guys going out and executing. Crab [Michael Crabtree] got open and made a nice play.”

The way Del Rio thinks is starting to become familiar with Carr.

“I’m starting to kind of think like him,” Carr stressed. “I kind of was like; he’s going to go for it. He looked at the kicker and said no get off. And in my head, it’s just natural. 4th and 2 in the red zone and we’re going to go for it. I’m starting to think, we’re getting on the same page, which is pretty cool.”

As we know, offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships. After the first two games, Oakland surrendered 34 points and 35 points respectively, while only getting two turnovers. Over the next three games, Oakland’s defense has allowed 22.6 points per game, but they’ve turned their opponents over seven times during this span.

Now, one must admit, if Oakland’s defense continues to improve as the season goes on, this team could cause serious havoc in the AFC. However, we must hold the breaks on proclaiming Oakland as bonafide Super Bowl contenders for now.

Sure, 4-1 is 4-1, but when analyzing the teams Oakland has defeated, you must question the level of competition to this point. The combined record of the Saints, Titans, Ravens and Chargers is a measly (7-12). By the same token, we might not find out how good Oakland truly is until postseason play (assuming they make it) because as of right now, Oakland only has three opponents on their remaining schedule with records over .500.

Clearly a lot can change from now and December, but considering their fairly light schedule and offensive prowess, you can expect for Oakland to be in just about every single game. Correspondingly, as mentioned before, if the defense continues to show steady growth, then not only will Oakland will be in every game, they’ll have a great shot at winning the AFC West and to potentially go deep into the playoffs.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.