The Oakland Raiders Will Make The Playoffs
For the Oakland Raiders, the 2017 season did not start the way that anyone had hoped or expected. A 2-0 start, including a dominant win over the New York Jets, had the Silver and Black looking forward to the Super Bowl. However, after a four game skid, the Raider faithful had shifted their focus to the off-season and beyond.
The 27-10 loss to the Washington Redskins on national television was devastating, and then they dropped close games to division rivals, the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers. On Thursday Night Football, it looked like the Raiders had turned the season around by stealing a win from the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs, but ten days later, they were blown out by the Buffalo Bills. At 4-5, the post-season isn’t a guarantee for the Oakland Raiders, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of the question.
The good news is this: the AFC isn’t very good. If the season ended right now, two 5-3 teams, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills, would be in as wild card teams, and the Chiefs would take the West at 6-3. The Raiders didn’t expect to lose five games all season, let alone in the first half, but right now they’re still alive at 4-5. That means they’re only two games out of the wildcard, and with the Thursday Night Football win over the Chiefs, a game and a half out of the division title race. Is it really all that hard to believe that those three squads will win all of their games? The Jaguars live and die on the arm of Blake Bortles, and the Bills still have to play the Chiefs, Broncos, Saints, and the Patriots twice. As for Kansas City, they’ve lost three of their last four, and seem to have lost a step.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Raiders have hardly looked like a team that’s going to take advantage of any of the favors the aforementioned teams give them.
They made Jay Cutler look like an elite quarterback, and they just can’t seem to stay consistent on offense. The frustrating part is that it changes from drive to drive. One drive, they effortlessly glide down the field, scoring easily. The next, they go three and out. Part of it is the ineffective run game, but ultimately, the blame has to fall on the coaching staff. Unimaginative, repetitive, and sometimes baffling play calls, particularly on third down, have stunted one of the NFL’s most talented offenses. However, this is a blessing in disguise.
While it’s true that the coaching is holding the team back, it is a very talented team. On paper, this Raiders squad is one of the most talented in the entire league. While head coach Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Todd Downing have done their best to limit the offense, they still do break out occasionally. If the coaching staff can tweak just a couple things, this team can be elite.
It’s easy to say what-if, but if you really look at Oakland’s losses, quite a few easily could’ve been wins. If Jon Condo doesn’t screw up the snap in Los Angeles, that’s a win. If Derek Carr doesn’t get hurt in that game against Denver, both that loss and the loss against the Baltimore Ravens could’ve been different. You could even take the fumbles out of the Buffalo game and it’s a totally different outcome. However, there’s another side to that argument, as the win over Kansas City could’ve easily been a loss dozens of times, but that’s not the point.
Nobody is saying it’s going to be easy, and nobody is saying it’s always going to be fun, but the Raiders should still make the playoffs. They’re just too talented to be held back, and the competition just isn’t as great as you might think.
After all, if the Chiefs lose just one game to another opponent, Oakland controls their destiny in the AFC West. Oakland’s next game against the New England Patriots will be huge. If they lose, the road to the post-season gets a lot steeper, but if they win, then they’re .500 again, and looking pretty.