Fans feel like they’ve waited long enough. It’s time for the Oakland Raiders to reach the playoffs. What must happen for them to do it?
Keep Matt Schaub upright
So many things can go into why a quarterback suffers through a bad NFL campaign. More often than not the primary reason is constantly getting hit and hands in his face when trying to pass. Matt Schaub gets a lot of grief for his play in 2013, which is fair, but it’s also important to note that in just eight starts he was sacked 21 times. That’s not counting hits and pressures by opposing defenses. If the Oakland Raiders wish to recover that Pro Bowl form he used to have, the best avenue is keeping him on his feet. After that it’s mostly a mental game.
At least break even in the AFC West
A reality of the present is that the Western divisions are widely considered the best in the league. They represented the two conferences in the Super Bowl and featured five playoff participants with another that missed out despite going 10-6. If Oakland has any prayer of navigating their way to the playoff, it starts with running the AFC West gauntlet. Obviously have a winning division record would go a long way, but conservatively the Raiders must at least break even at 3-3 to have a chance, preferably with one victory over Denver, San Diego and Kansas City.
Don’t be afraid to attack with Sio Moore and Khalil Mack
One way to win in that division is to realize the success runs through the quarterbacks. Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith were all primary reasons that their teams made it to January. For Oakland, that means attack them with a relentless pass rush. While veterans Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley hold that responsibility as the new starting defensive ends, the Raiders also have nimbly add extra rushers at linebacker with Sio Moore and Khalil Mack. Within reason, they can’t afford to be afraid about unleashing those two to go after the passer. Teams don’t reach the playoffs by being timid.
Win NFL contests they are supposed to
Another key the Oakland Raiders haven’t fulfilled for a long time is beating teams they are expected to beat. Winners always do that and make it look like routine. Granted, talent issues have hampered the Silver and Black in the past but that is no longer a pressing problem. There will be a number of games on the NFL schedule that experts will circle and say “The Raiders should win that one.” Doing so will take so much pressure off the tougher games to follow.
Yes, it’s in all caps and lots exclamation points. That’s because no single factor is more important in a playoff run than health. It is a problem that has dogged Oakland for years, especially recently from the ongoing headaches with Darren McFadden to the unfortunate rookie year of 2013 first round pick D.J. Hayden. There is no possible way for the Raiders to know what they have if too many players are in the ward nursing various ailments. Chemistry isn’t built that way. Winning in that division will take the very best they have, and it starts and ends with their top stars staying on the field.
If the Raiders meet all this criteria…