Oakland Raiders: 5 ‘If’s’ That Determine If They Head To Playoffs


Oct 13, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) runs the ball as Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden (25) attempts the tackle during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 24-7. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL playoffs have remained a fairy tale for the Oakland Raiders for over a decade.  What needs to happen for them to finally get over the hump?

Darren McFadden or Maurice Jones-Drew must notch 1,000 yards

At present there is no way to tell who will be the starting running back in Oakland.  It looks like a battle between veterans Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew.  Both have a lot to prove with the Raiders, but as far as the team goes it doesn’t matter who wins the job.  What matters is whether they produce.  In order to get this new offense going, that player needs to set the tone on the ground and posting at least 1,000 yards for the year would do that.

Matt Schaub must post a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio

Part of the reason Houston fell apart last year and landed the #1 overall pick was the demise of Matt Schaub at quarterback.  His primary issue was a sudden nose dive in accuracy.  For the season he posted just 10 touchdowns to 14 interceptions.  That isn’t going to fly for the Oakland Raiders.  Schaub doesn’t have to be spectacular to help them win in 2014, but he does need to be efficient.  That means somewhere in the neighborhood of a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio, even if it’s something modest like 20 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.

Offensive line must allow fewer than 35 sacks

Honestly the success of the offense won’t come from Schaub or the running backs.  That will stem from the offensive line where Oakland struggled at times last season.  It’s why they brought in a ton of new faces including veterans Donald Penn and Kevin Booth along with rookie Gabe Jackson.  How well and quickly this group is able to mesh will tell the most important story of the Raiders offense in 2014.  The benchmark for that success will be less than 35 sacks allowed.

Khalil Mack, Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley need 25 sacks

On the other side of the coin, the defense will be relied on to carry the load.  After all, the Oakland Raiders spent a larger portion of their money and high draft picks to improve it.  That is especially true with their front seven.  Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, two former Pro Bowlers arrived via free agency while Khalil Mack became the teams’ 1st round draft pick.  Those three will become the focal point of the Raiders pass rush this season and they have to produce.  Given the strength of the offenses in the AFC West, a minimum of 25 sacks is likely what it will take.  That’s an average of just over eight sacks per player with hopes one of them can reach the double digit mark.

D.J. Hayden must progress as starting corner

A major reason why the Raiders have struggled for so long is an inability to draft and develop their top picks, particularly the first rounders.  This is why all eyes will be on cornerback D.J. Hayden, their 2013 top choice.  He did not play very well last year and the hope is the experience and more help around him will lead to a noticeable upswing in his play.  It better, because if he falters it will come down to Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers to carry the load, both veterans discarded by San Francisco .