At this point last year, the Las Vegas Raiders had the same 6-4 record but finished the last six games 1-5. Do they have what it takes to turn that around in 2020?
What went wrong for the Raiders last year?
In 2019, The Raiders were coming off a three-game winning streak against the Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers, and Cincinnati Bengals that pushed them into playoff contention. Hopes were high but fans now probably see the problem with that streak as those teams finished the season with a combined 10-37-1 record.
The Raiders were winning, but not against good teams. Reality set in when they went to play a 3-7 Jets squad and lost 34-3. Falling down to earth and injuries to key players were the main components in last year’s collapse. Also, the running game wasn’t the same when the team shut down Josh Jacobs to heal his shoulder. Meanwhile, the secondary struggled without Karl Joseph. In their final season in Oakland, the Raiders finished 7-9.
Where are they now?
Flash forward into today, The Raiders are in the same position but look a lot more comfortable. Unlike last year, this Las Vegas team has dealt with a difficult schedule beating several teams with winning records. Before this season, Jon Gruden only secured two wins against teams with a record .500 or better since his return. As of now, the Raiders have three wins in that category.
This team is much more competitive and is well equipped for a strong finish as long as they stay consistent and healthy. What also helps is that there is now a seventh seed, which makes the playoffs even more reachable. There is an issue though as there are plenty of other teams still in the mix with varying situations.
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Teams who pose a threat for the Raiders in the upcoming weeks
First off are the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts, who have identical 7-3 records. Tennessee had been struggling the past few weeks until an impressive overtime victory in Baltimore. In a perfect world, The Raiders would rather see the Titans win the division as Las Vegas can hope to defeat the Colts in Week 13. A Colts victory over the Raiders can create a dent in their playoff chances.
The Miami Dolphins are interesting as well. After winning five straight, the Broncos upset them 20-13. The Raiders play Miami at home in Week 16 for what could dictate whether or not they make the playoffs as both teams are 6-4 right now.
The Browns have overachieved a bit this year as they are 1-3 against teams with a winning record and 6-0 versus teams with a losing record. The rest of their schedule is easy as well besides the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. Speaking of the Ravens, they are in the hunt at 6-4. Expectations were high and Baltimore’s offense has become predictable and injuries won’t help either. Things can spiral out of control if improvements are not made which will make one less team for the Raiders to worry about.
As said before, this is a much different team from last year. Derek Carr has been playing the best football in his career. Even when losing to the Chiefs last Sunday, many fans and critics alike saw that the Raiders are no team to brush over no matter the opponent. They are very determined to turn heads and make plenty of noise in the playoffs.
What could determine their season will be their three-game home stretch against Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Miami. If they can win two of those games, they are in and that’s very feasible. Their other three games which are Atlanta, New York, and Denver are games they should win. If all goes well, the Raiders will finish 11-5, clinch the sixth seed and make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
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Top Photo: Ashley Landis/Associated Press