It’s amazing to think it’s been 12 years since the Oakland Raiders had a playoff run in the NFL. Can they finally break that streak this season?
Matt Schaub and James Jones must prove worthy
Part of the problem that the Raiders really haven’t solved since that time is the quarterback position. Since the retirement of former MVP Rich Gannon the team has trotted a series of underachievers, has-beens and busts onto the field including JaMarcus Russell, Daunte Culpepper, Bruce Gradkowski, Carson Palmer and Terrelle Pryor. Not only has it not worked they haven’t even gotten close to the playoffs. Their latest attempt though might be their best. Veteran Matt Schaub arrives via trade from Houston. He has playoff experience and is a two-time Pro Bowler. He knows what it takes to get to the mountaintop. The same goes for his newest weapon, wide receiver James Jones who won a Super Bowl in Green Bay. These two must not only play well, but lead the way for the other young players on the roster if the Oakland Raiders are to win.
Dennis Allen needs his new defense to produce
That same burden also falls on head coach Dennis Allen. As any man who has been a head coach can say, patience always wears out by the third season. If a coach has suffered through two losing campaign, he must win in his third one or he will be fired in favor of somebody else. Allen now stares his third season down. Can he get the team to play? A lot of it rests on his newly rebuilt defense. Thanks to a furious free agency that brought in veterans like Justin Tuck, Tarell Brown and LaMarr Woodley and a draft that added Khalil Mack his unit, on paper, looks ready to go. Obviously they need to execute, but it falls to Allen as a defensive coach to lead the way until his equally new offense can begin to gel.
Navigating brutal schedule rests on division
Naturally though everything hinges on how the NFL schedule falls for the Oakland Raiders in 2014. There is no getting around reality. It is a brutal gauntlet for a rebuilding team to face. Among their slates includes visits to the New England Patriots and world champion Seattle Seahawks, places that are hard even for contenders to win. How the Raiders play in those venues will show whether they are on the right track. Meanwhile, their ultimate fate rests as it always does on the AFC West. If they want any hope of reaching January they have to post a winning division record, which is a tall order considering Denver, Kansas City and San Diego all went to the playoffs last year.
In the end the Raiders are left with the same statement their late, beloved owner Al Davis made for so many years as the answer. Just win, baby.