Oakland Raiders: With Issues Abounding, One Big Flaw Could Prove Fatal

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 24: Wide receiver Josh Doctson
LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 24: Wide receiver Josh Doctson /

The Oakland Raiders are 2-1 on the season and have plenty of issues – but this is a team with a fatal flaw that could have a big impact on their success this year.

The Oakland Raiders, a team many believe are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, got blown out in the nation’s capital in week three. In case you missed it, Washington trounced the Raiders 27-10 — but in actuality, it wasn’t even that close.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s just one game. And unless you actually had the Raiders going 16-0 through the regular season, you’re likely realistic enough to not freak out too much by the whooping they took.

It’s one game and losing it – even in the fashion they did – didn’t completely derail the team’s playoff aspirations.

But three weeks into the season now, some trends are beginning to form – and one trend, in particular, should have everybody worried. And unlike one game against Washington in week three, this particular trend could potentially derail the team’s playoff ambitions.

Now, some might argue that three weeks is too small of a sample size to make any definitive determinations about patterns and trends. Perhaps.

But given that it’s only a sixteen week season, when should you start being alarmed about patterns you see repeating again and again?

In this case, the fatal flaw (what, only one?) in Oakland’s defense is their inability to get off the field on third downs. Through three games, they simply have not been able to get a timely stop when they needed one the most.

Consider, in week one, they allowed the Titans to go seven of fourteen on third down conversion attempts. And it took a heroic effort by the defense in the second half in a big way to keep that conversion rate at 50 percent.

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In week two, the Raiders allowed the lowly, lifeless, punchless, and directionless Jets to go seven of twelve – that’s a 58 percent conversion rate, for those of you scoring at home.

Yes, the Raiders defense allowed an offense led by Josh McCown to clip them for almost 60 percent on third down conversions.

Against Washington, Oakland allowed Kirk Cousins and that offense to go seven of fifteen on third downs – a 47 percent conversion rate. Of course, Derek Carr and the Oakland offense going a staggering zero for eleven on their third down opportunities didn’t help keep their defense off the field and resting in any way, shape, or form.

If you’re keeping score, for the season, the Raiders defense is giving up a third down conversion rate of 51 percent – 21 conversions on 41 attempts. That puts them near the very bottom of the league in that statistical category.

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And that’s hardly a statistic that’s going to make anybody feel all warm and fuzzy inside – let alone confident in this defense’s ability to shut anybody down.

It’s a sharp step backward from last year’s defensive unit – you may remember them as one of the worst in the entire NFL in most major statistical categories. The 2016 Raiders defense, in comparison to this year’s squad, was downright stingy on third downs.

Last season, the Oakland defensive unit gave up 78 conversions on 198 attempts – that’s a 40 percent conversion rate for opposing offenses. And that ranked them around the middle of the pack in the league last season.

This year, Oakland is struggling mightily on third down defense. And as we all know, if your defense can’t get off the field on their down and the opposing offense is able to extend drives and move the chains, you’re going to be in big trouble.

If your defense gets worn down, they’re going to give up a lot of yards and a lot of points – both things we’ve seen this year because the defense cannot get off the field on third down.

This seems all the more relevant because their week four opponent – the hated division rival Broncos – the Raiders will be facing an offense that excels on third down conversion attempts.

For the season, Trevor Siemian and the Broncos are hitting on 52.3 percent of their third down conversion attempts. They’re 23 of 44 and lead the NFL in that category. Which seems to make things particularly ominous and foreboding for a defense that ranks twenty-ninth in stopping opposing conversion attempts.

If the Raiders can’t figure out how to get Siemian and the Broncos off the field on third down – while actually converting some of their own chances – Sunday’s showdown with Denver could wind up looking a lot like last weekend’s performance in Washington.

If Oakland wants to avoid a second straight week of getting taken behind the woodshed, they need some answers on third down and they need them yesterday. They don’t have to be the top ranked unit, but they need to at least aspire to be as mediocre as they were last season.

Because truthfully, mediocre would be a tremendous upgrade at this point.

Letting opposing offenses extend drives, move the chains, and put points on the board on third downs is a foolhardy practice. It will only cause your team problems – and a lot of them. Through three games, this is a trend we’re seeing and one the Raiders need to find a way to buck – now.

Otherwise, it’s a fatal flaw that could play a major factor in derailing what could be a special season.