What to Make of the Oakland Raiders
The Raiders have been everybody’s off-season darling this year, and it’s easy to see why. They have some legitimate talent on offense, with Derek Carr developing nicely at the quarterback position. It helps that he has some excellent talent at receiver to throw to, with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree providing a nice 1-2 punch in the receiving corps. In addition, their defense signed some solid talent in the offense to bolster what was a fairly mediocre unit in 2015. Reggie Nelson, while hardly in his prime, should lend some maturity to the secondary. Closer to the line of scrimmage, Bruce Irvin has proven to be a solid pass rusher whose coverage skills are actually fairly underrated. One would think that with these additions, plus an extra year together for the Triple C’s (Carr, Cooper and Crabtree), would mean the team would make the next step and get into the playoffs. So, will they?
In a word, no. This is due to a variety of factors, the first being the division they play in. Questions at quarterback or not, Denver’s defense is still a horrible matchup for this Raiders team. The Raiders’ offensive line is less than stellar, and Denver’s D-line might be the best in the league. Denver’s secondary is also excellent, which means they can drag Oakland into a low scoring slugfest. This is not the kind of game the Raiders were built to win. Then you have the Chiefs. Arrowhead is one of the most difficult venues to play in, so you can chalk that game up as a loss already. The Chiefs’ offense is actually good enough to keep pace with Oakland’s, and their defense is better. Finally, you have San Diego, which hasn’t been very good the past few years. In spite of that, I actually think San Diego will have a bounce-back year and be competitive in the division. Philip Rivers is still going to put up numbers, and the defense shouldn’t suffer nearly as many injuries as they did a year ago.
The Raiders may actually be a better football team this year than they were last year, but don’t expect the record to show it.