Oakland Raiders Ready for a Battle in Pittsburgh


The Oakland Raiders have become playoff contenders out of nowhere with a 4-3 record, and if the playoffs started today, the Raiders would be the number-five seed. Derek Carr and Amari Cooper will try to continue the Raiders’ resurgence against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

If these Raiders are for real, then they should have no problem handling a struggling Steelers’ team. The most glaring difference between these two teams can be seen in the past two weeks. During that stretch, the Raiders have won two in a row while the Steelers have lost two.

Plus, the connection Carr is developing with his receivers is incredible. Both Cooper and Michael Crabtree have impressive stats on the season so far, but Carr knows how to spread the ball around the field. This is especially true when the Raiders cross the 50-yard line.

Few people would guess that the Raiders’ third leading receiver is fullback, Marcel Reece. The big man has three touchdown receptions, and that’s a tie with Cooper, Crabtree, and Andre Holmes. The moral of the story here is that Carr and the Oakland Raiders know how to score touchdowns this season. Two straight games with 30+ points can really boost a team’s confidence and flow on offense.

Against the New York Jets, the Raiders showed the NFL that any one of their weapons can have a big day. Most of the pregame talk about the Jets game revolved around the Cooper/Darrelle Revis matchup, but it was Holmes and Crabtree that had the big games, with three touchdown receptions between the two of them.

Jack Del Rio has found a way to spread the field in a way that makes each Raider a threat. Carr is clearly the catalyst of this new offensive assault, with an impressive 1,793 passing yards and 15 touchdowns entering this week.

It’s a beautiful thing that the Raiders have a quarterback who’s playing like a true leader and play-maker. Derek Carr truly seems like the next elite QB. He plays with the same gun-slinging passion that Brett Favre brought to the NFL. Carr may not have perfect mechanics like Aaron Rodgers, but he makes up for it with incredible down-field accuracy and the ability to utilize his weapons effectively.

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However, don’t call the Raiders strictly a passing team. Latavius Murray is developing into a highly-reliable running back, and with a suddenly strong offensive line, Murray has rushed for 534 yards with a 4.6 yard average this season.

Essentially, the 2015 Oakland Raiders are everything that the San Francisco 49ers are not. The Raiders run and pass with equal levels of efficiency. They made a Jets defense, who gave the Patriots troubles, look weak and vulnerable. That has been the essence of Jack Del Rio’s success with the Raiders so far. He exploits teams’ weaknesses with his array of outstanding weapons on offense and defense.

The Steelers are a depleted team, and the Raiders could easily score 30+ points for a third straight game. If the Raiders are smart, and they proved they are, they should directly target the Steelers’ greatest weakness right now. Le’Veon Bell is out with a season-ending injury, so Pittsburgh will become much more predictable on offense.

Bell is a deadly rushing and receiving threat. Without him, the Steelers will have to rely mainly on Ben Roethlisberger to push the offense forward. The Raider defense has developed nicely, so they should be able to exploit Pittsburgh’s lack of their biggest play-maker.

This could be one of those game where Roethlisberger throws 35+ passes, and that will give Charles Woodson plenty of opportunities to register his sixth interception of the season. Plus, the Raiders’ pass rush with Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith is bound to rattle Roethlisberger, who recently came off an injury.

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The Oakland Raiders could easily become 5-3 this weekend with stout defense and another charismatic performance from Carr. Pittsburgh doesn’t have an impressive secondary, so Carr and his weapons should be able to run all over the Steelers.