Speaking the Truth: Oakland Raiders a Fair-Weather Team?

After a potentially season-saving victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, it seems that the Oakland Raiders took that momentum and drove it straight over the side of Niagara Falls during a 34-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

The winter weather conditions in Orchard Park, New York were a massive factor in the lopsided loss. Nearly all of the Raiders ball handlers experienced issues securing the football including fumbling it four times, losing two of them. Footing was at a premium as Raiders were slipping and their playoff hopes sliding all over Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Derek Carr piled up yardage early (31/49 349 yards 1TD and 2 INTs), but after a marvelous opening drive, the tables would turn and the Buffalo Bills defense would force turnover after turnover. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t as bad as some would want to believe.

At this point in nearly every example we have seen, weather continues to be a factor that Carr struggles with, especially the cold. It’s funny to hear about the weather being an issue, but when it’s never approaching freezing and raining in most of Northern California, sudden immersion in irreplicable situations throws this offense into chaos.

One might say the Raiders organization is a mess right now, rife with dysfunction and living in an upside-down land.

A basic offense, with some basic route concepts, and players being unable to properly execute a zone blocking scheme is suddenly the situation facing the Raiders. The majority of the pass routes are either straight lines or routes with an end. What the significance behind that is, in the NFL everyone is an athlete. Yes, even the likes of Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson, for as slow as they are criticized for being, chances are they’ll beat the general public in a footrace. Straight-line routes are designed to win 1v1 matchups and possibly a 1v2 if the safety is late. Routes that end are usually designed to attack a zone and an overly anxious defender, as the route is designed to be a timed throw where the sudden stop creates a natural window. The key to both of these particular concepts is being able to successfully beat your man early.

But in a soft zone, which has been the defense stymieing the offense. Hook, curl, and fade routes run directly into the teeth of the defense. The rub routes so prevalent in the league for years have no effect on teams that don’t have their defensive backs press the receivers at the line of scrimmage. Carr is getting rid of the football way too fast to execute his offense consistently against off coverage. Defensive coordinators have had a chance to study Carr and the Raiders offense and have clearly honed in on his tendencies.

Interestingly enough, in a piece written by RaidersBeat.com, they offered a different perspective stemming from something Rich Gannon said.

Honestly, this take is one I don’t particularly agree with in terms of principal. If a coordinator is calling plays in a game that aren’t being presented in practice then why the heck are they being called? But retrospectively speaking, for the last couple of weeks, we have been treated to wide receivers meeting in the middle of defensive coverages. It’s clear they are at best, not comfortable with what they’re doing; at worst, they don’t know what they’re doing. However, difficulties in aligning properly while running routes without correct spacing would lead one to believe that is exactly what’s happening.

Hump Week – We made it halfway

At this stage in the season, the halfway point, sitting at a 3-5 record getting ready to run the gauntlet no one foresaw the situation the team currently faces. The defense has been a surprisingly solid defense. It has exchanged last years turnover margin, for this year’s overall solidity as a unit, but it has been a pleasant surprise. The defense has been ravaged by injury and hampered by overexposure averaging 32:33 minutes a game on the field.

This week features an inherently winnable game against the Miami Dolphins who honestly have lost all conceivable clue of what it is they are doing. Adam Gase is sending a message to his team by trading and potentially cutting all the stars on his team that doesn’t buy in. My memory is a little hazy but… oh wait, no it’s not! We have seen this before about four years ago with Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. Interestingly enough the Eagles are currently the best team in the league but they dumped Kelly as a coach at the end of the next season.

The Dolphins, however, are only a game behind first and second place New England and Buffalo in the division. Trading Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi, while playing without your starter (Ryan Tannehill), high-priced back up (Jay Cutler) and down to third-string quarterback Matt Moore is not a wise move. Especially on the heels of Moore leading the team to a 40-0 loss against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Dolphins are at an equal crossroads to their season. The fate of both teams playoff hopes hangs on the thinnest of silken threads swaying in the wind. Both teams need this win, both head coaches seats have become noticeably hotter. A loss for either side is most likely going to result in their respective teams falling into the abyss of playing out the string.

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