One of the biggest stories during the off-season was how the Oakland Raiders were going to move to Sin City, Las Vegas, for the 2019 season. Immediately following the announcement, the odds on the Oakland Raiders to win Super Bowl 52 dropped to a ridiculously low 8 to 1. Eventually, the odds on Oakland to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy settled at 10 to 1.
Oakland, so many believed, had the best shot of upsetting the New England Patriots in the playoffs. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way for the Raiders. Oh, they aren’t eliminated from the AFC Playoffs. Not yet, anyhow.
But, with 2 games left in the NFL Regular Season, the Raiders have become a mediocre football team. How did it happen? Keep reading!
Oakland Raiders 2017 Update
I answer some of the questions I posed in my 2017 Oakland Raiders Preview. Then, I offer my bottom line analysis of the soon to be Vegas Raiders.
Will QB David Carr Improve?
During the off season, David Carr signed the richest contract in NFL history. Eventually, Detroit Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford signed a contract that eclipsed David Carr’s. Still, being the second highest paid player in the NFL is pretty darn good. How lucrative was David Carr’s contract? The Raiders are paying Carr $125 million over 5 years. That’s a lot of dough.
Has Carr lived up to the contract? Not really. Not this season. Carr’s overall stats just aren’t that impressive. He’s thrown 20 TD passes to 10 interceptions. He’s completing 63.1% of his passes. He’s thrown for 3,113 yards. His QB rating is a pedestrian 88.4.
Carr’s only thrown for 300 yards or more 3 times this season. In Week 7, a 31 to 30 overtime win against the rival Kansas City Chiefs, Carr threw for 417 yards and 3 TDs. In Week 8, a 14 to 34 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Carr threw for 313 yards and a TD. Then, in Week 9, a 27 to 24 win over the Miami Dolphins, Carr threw for 300 yards and a TD.
That’s it. 3 games of 300 yards or more in 13 games of 15 games started this season. Not great for a $125M QB. To make things worse for Carr, in the games where he produced a 300 yard or better game, he found different ways to be ineffective. Against Kansas City, he only completed 55% of his passes. The Raiders were lucky to win that game. Carr thew 2 interceptions in the loss to Buffalo. He even threw a pick in the 3-point win over Miami.
What’s going on with David Carr? For starters, I’m not sure he’s had a healthy back at any single point this season. Second, the rushing attack, I get more into that in the next section, hasn’t been hasn’t been all that great this season. Finally, Carr’s top two wide receivers, Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, aren’t as great as we all thought they were.
Still, Carr must take some of the blame. He’s made some boneheaded plays this season. The worst was in Week 15. With a shot to take the lead over the Dallas Cowboys in a game the Raiders had to win, Carr rushed towards the end zone. Instead of tucking the ball, Carr tried to extend it over the goal line. He ended up fumbling the ball out of the end zone. Dallas maintained possession and won.
There was no way Carr was going to get the ball over the goal line. Those are the sort of boneheaded plays that $125 million dollar quarterbacks shouldn’t make.
How Much Does Marshawn Lynch Add to the Raiders Offense?
Answer: Not much.
Marshawn Lynch was supposed to be the answer at running back. That hasn’t been the case. It’s not all Marshawn’s fault. One of the best running backs to play in the NFL in the past decade, has often found himself struggling behind a so-so offensive line. Not only that, but Marshawn has never been a great pass-catching running back. Because the Raiders’ defense is horrible, Oakland has had to play from behind way too often this season.
Marshawn’s incredible skill set is wasted when you must play from behind. In fact, I don’t blame Lynch for anything that’s happened to the Oakland Raiders offense this season. Everyone knows what they’re getting when they sign Beast Mode. He’s not going to lead your football team. He’s going to talk trash. He’s going to argue with refs. He’s going to argue with coaches.
Pete Carroll could handle Marshawn. It doesn’t look like Jack Del Rio really can. What’s upsetting if you’re a Raiders fan is that last season’s starting running back, Latavius Murray, was perfectly capable of being the starter this season.
Lynch has been okay. He’s rushed for 695 yards and 7 TDs with 2 games left. Oakland expected Marshawn to be the savior. That, he is not. Never was. Never will be.
Can the Raiders Defense Become a Top Unit?
The Oakland Raiders were supposed to field a much better defense in 2017 than it fielded in 2016. Although the Raiders went 12 and 4 in 2016, many expected improvement in Oakland’s defense. The Raiders ranked twenty-sixth overall in total yards allowed per game. Opponents averaged 375.1 yards per versus the Raiders D. Opponents averaged 257.5 passing yards. They averaged 117.6 rushing yards. The Raiders allowed an average of over 24 points per game last season.
Based on stats, the Raiders defense is better this season than last season. It’s not close to being a Top 10 defensive unit, though. Oakland allows 349.3 total yards per game. Opponents average 238.6 passing yards. They average 110.7 rushing yards. Opponents score 23 points per game on average versus Oakland’s D.
Good? No. Decent, maybe. Definitely, not good. More like mediocre. The problem is that Oakland’s defense shouldn’t be under performing. The Raiders defensive starting line-up is a who’s who of name players. DE Khalil Mack, CB Sean Smith, SLB Bruce Irvin, and FS Reggie Nelson all have reputations as being the best at their positions. Mack is considered one of the best overall defensive players in the NFL.
Heck, the Raiders even signed MLB NaVorro Bowman after the San Francisco 49’ers cut him early this season. Bowman went to Oakland specifically because he felt that the Raiders could win the Super Bowl.
I’m not sure why the unit has struggled so much this season. My one guess is that the line is built to rush the quarterback. It’s not built to stop the run. That could be why the Raiders allow opponents to rush for 110 yards. There’s also the question of schedules.
2016’s non-AFC West opponents were New Orleans, Atlanta, Tennessee, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Houston, Carolina, Buffalo, and Indianapolis. This season’s non-AFC West opponents have been Tennessee, the New York Jets, Washington, Baltimore, Buffalo, Miami, New England, the New York Giants, and Dallas. The Raiders battle the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16.
Bottom Line: Same Old Raiders
The bottom line with Oakland is that they’re the same old Raiders. Oakland has been mediocre since they lost the Super Bowl to Tampa Bay in 2002. The Raiders actually haven’t won the AFC West since 2002. Last season, they went 12 and 4. That was good enough for a wildcard. KC won the AFC West last season.
What must Oakland do to turn things around? The first thing they must do is simplify the offense for their multi-million dollar QB. The Raiders vertical passing game is great. It becomes an issue when neither Michael Crabtree nor Amari Cooper is available across the middle.
The second thing, which is actually the most important thing, is for Oakland to change their defense. Although there are a number of name players on the Raiders defense, none of those name players have contributed enough. Keep Mack and then think about how best to help him.
Until the Raiders do those things, they’ll continue to be the same team that’s repeatedly failed since 2002.