The Oakland Raiders are in a pretty good spot to make the postseason.
Yes, you read that correctly. The Oakland Raiders were, before the year, and continue to be at this point of the season, a playoff team in my mind.
Despite having looked absolutely miserable at times, Oaklans is not in as dire a position as it may seem. Although they have been blown out and embarrassed, the Silver and Black sit at 3-4 after this past Sunday’s blow-out victory in Kansas City over the Chiefs. That win makes it three solid performances in a row, including an overtime home win over Jacksonville and a hard-fought three-point road loss at the hands of the only remaining undefeated team in Atlanta.
The Raiders are certainly not a team bereft of actual play-making talent. The new Al Davis-less front office has put emphasis on items quite contrary to those stressed by the legendary boss. They don’t make the mistakes, turnovers or penalties that became synonymous with the franchise. After mortgaging their future to get Carson Palmer, he has actually looked pretty good this season. His numbers reflect that—after seven games, he has almost 2,000 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions while completing over 60 percent of his passes.
Granted, five picks in seven games is not exactly Pro Bowl-caliber, but remember this is the same guy that had thrown 36 INTs in his past 26 total games.
With such a young receiving group, it is only inevitable that with improved chemistry will come more dominating passing performances. Running back Darren McFadden has yet to dominate this year, but even he has shown an upward trend with over 240 yards in his past three games.
With all that in mind, it begs the question—why not Oakland?
But this story is almost equal parts about the rest of the competition in the AFC as a whole, as it is about an improving football team. Take a gander around the conference: Beyond Houston, New England, Denver, Baltimore and maybe Pittsburgh, there isn’t much competition. In an effort to ascertain the “next level” of teams that would threaten for the postseason, teams like Miami (4-3) and Indianapolis (4-3) surely don’t do much to impress. Why not Oakland?
If we agree that New England, Houston, Denver and either Baltimore or Pittsburgh will take the divisional crowns, that leaves just one postseason spot remaining. Giving either the Ravens or Steelers the first wild card spot, the last place in the postseason is completely still up for grabs.
Cincinnati (3-4), San Diego (3-4) and Buffalo (3-4) are far from mathematically eliminated at just a game under .500. Of the five other teams in that “other group,” only the Bengals made the playoffs last year, and their negative trending over the past couple weeks has been disconcerting. Miami and Indy are being led by talented but inexperienced rookie quarterbacks. San Diego has played six of the worst quarters of football since holding that 24-point lead on Monday Night Football against the Broncos. And Buffalo is still Buffalo.
Why not Oakland?
The Raiders travel to both Cincinnati and San Diego, in addition to having very winnable home games against Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Kansas City. Mixed in there are tough home games against New Orleans and Denver, as well as road games at Baltimore and Carolina. Finishing the season at 8-8 or 9-7 is not completely out of the question and that mark would certainly put them right there in the playoff hunt.
So, why not Oakland?