With a big free-agent haul of capable veterans, a new starting quarterback and a solid draft class, optimism in Raider Nation is higher than it has been in years. There is also some continuity with the coaching staff, something the Oakland Raiders haven’t been accustomed to in quite some time.
Looking through comment sections and forums on various web pages, many of the fans are predicting a 9-7 or even a 10-6 record and a surprising playoff berth, but a lot of things will have to go perfect (and then some) for the Oakland Raiders to grab a playoff spot.
The roster is still lacking with talent and depth throughout. It remains to be seen how Schaub will perform without the likes of elite players such as Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, and after back to back 4-12 records under Dennis Allen, it’s hard to see a dramatic turnaround in the win/loss column.
The Raiders also have the number one most difficult strength of schedule in the entire league, including having to face division rivals Denver and Kansas City each twice, both of which made the playoffs last season. On top of that, Oakland has to go on the road to face New England and Seattle and has tough home games against Arizona and San Francisco, just to name a few of the more difficult games on the schedule.
Oakland will also travel more miles than any other team in the NFL this season, partly thanks to a game in London. So not only is their schedule the most difficult in the league based on last season’s winning percentages, but they will have to travel farther than everyone else along the way.
Taking a closer look at the roster and how the talent stacks up against the rest of the of the conference, it’s apparent that the Oakland Raiders don’t have the talent to compete for a wild card spot, yet alone be competitive in their own division.
Starting with the offense, Schaub is no sure bet to return to form and even if he does, he still may be the worst starting quarterback in the AFC West. Schaub is used to having an elite pass-catching option in Johnson, a steady offensive line, and a top-tier running back in Foster. Oakland at best can only provide one of these, if that.
James Jones and Rod Streater are the two most talented wideouts on the team and should end up with the best numbers by season’s end. Andre Holmes showed some promise towards the end of last season and reportedly has done well enough in camp so far to grab a starting spot on the initial depth chart so he’ll be in the mix, but Denarious Moore can’t be relied on and anyone else that contributes would be a surprise. The other pass catching options are Greg Little, Brice Butler, Mike Davis and Mychal Rivera, and none of them give much to be excited about.
Even the offensive line is better than what it has been in recent years, but each member of that unit will have to perform to their full potential just to be considered an above-average group.
Donald Penn is on the wrong side of 30 and coming off his worst season as a pro and while Austin Howard is a decent pickup, there is a reason why the Jets just let him walk. Gabe Jackson was my 2nd highest rated guard in the draft and I think he’ll be a quality player for years to come, but his impact won’t be immediate and it won’t be substantial enough to make much of a difference. Menelik Watson has clear potential but he is still very raw and he needs to prove he can stay healthy before he can be counted on. Wisniewski is the anchor of the offensive line and a very solid player, but the rest of the offensive line is spotty and simply not that good.
The defense will definitely be the strongest unit on the team. It’s packed full of quality veterans who will make a limited amount of mistakes and not give up many big plays. The problem is with most of the defense, especially the d-line being 30 or older, it’s going to be difficult for the defense to keep the team in the game all the way through the 4th quarter.
Returning starter Nick Roach, who is coming off a stellar year for the Silver and Black, leads the linebacking core. He’ll be a tremendous mentor for Khalil Mack, who should prove to be an outstanding player almost immediately. Sio Moore is respectable but he isn’t a natural fit on the weakside and will experience some growing pains on that side of the ball. There isn’t much depth talent here so if one of our top three guys needs rest, we’ll be immediately at a disadvantage.
The cornerbacks are a different defensive group, but the same story. The Oakland Raiders grabbed Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers to start at cornerback and have D.J. Hayden listed as the third member of the group. Rookie Keith McGill has missed several days of camp due to different minor injuries and has also given up a handful of big plays, so it’s not looking like he’ll be a big impact player, at least right away. T.J. Carrie on the other hand, has impressed at camp, but even so, he may not be able to get much playing time with the aforementioned players listed ahead of him.
Charles Woodson is undoubtedly the leader of the defense and Tyvon Branch returning is big as well. Again, the defense will definitely be the strongest unit, but they can only do much. The offense will surely struggle against the tough schedule and the defense can only keep things close for so long.
I expect low-scoring first halves where the offense struggles to put points on the board while the defense fights to keep the team in the game. Then sometime in the third quarter, fatigue will start to set in. That’s when most of the games will turn into two possession games and it will be difficult to come back from that.
I’ve got the Oakland Raiders down for six wins and I felt I was being a bit optimistic when I made my projection. I’d be very surprised if Oakland grabbed more than six wins and on the downside, I’d be very surprised if the win total fell below four.
As a member of the Raider Nation, I obviously hope I’m wrong and that Raiders can return to their former glory sooner than later, but being realistic, our talent just isn’t up to par in the conference, and not even in our own division.
Things officially get started for the Raiders on September 7th. Here’s to hoping this article gets rubbed in my face at the end of the year.
Raiders 2014 Regular Season Schedule
|Sunday, September 7 ||10:00 am||at NY Jets||CBS|
|Sunday, September 14 ||1:25 pm ||HOUSTON||CBS|
|Sunday, September 21||10:00 am||at New England ||CBS|
|Sunday, September 28||10:00 am ||MIAMI (London) ||CBS|
|Sunday, October 5||BYE WEEK|
|Sunday, October 12||1:05 pm*||SAN DIEGO||CBS|
|Sunday, October 19||1:25 pm*||ARIZONA||FOX|
|Sunday, October 26||1:25 pm*||at Cleveland||CBS|
|Sunday, November 2||1:25 pm*||at Seattle||CBS|
|Sunday, November 9||1:05 pm*||DENVER||CBS|
|Sunday, November 16||1:05 pm*||at San Diego||CBS|
|Thursday, November 20||5:25 pm||KANSAS CITY||NFLN|
|Sunday, November 30||10:00 am*||at St. Louis||CBS|
|Sunday, December 7||1:25 pm*||SAN FRANCISCO||FOX|
|Sunday, December 14||10:00 am*||at Kansas City||CBS|
|Sunday, December 21||1:25 pm*||BUFFALO||CBS|
|Sunday, December 28||1:25 pm*||at Denver||CBS|
|All Times Are Pacific | *Time subject to change due to flexible scheduling|