After a disappointing 2017 campaign, the Oakland Raiders are looking to return to the playoffs. Here are five reasons why they will be able to do so.
In 2016, the Oakland Raiders made the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season. Led by Derek Carr and his late game heroics, the Raiders stormed to a 12-4 record and looked the part of a Super Bowl contender. Unfortunately, Carr broke his leg in a Week 16 matchup with the Colts, and the team’s hopes crumbled.
In 2017, many experts pegged the Raiders to win the AFC West and challenged the Patriots for the AFC Championship. Boy were they wrong. The Raiders stumbled to a meager 6-10 record after issues with the coaching staff and another injury to Carr. Needless to say, 2016 may have been a fluke and 2017 showed the team’s real colors.
Owner Mark Davis relieved head coach Jack Del Rio of his duties at the end of last season, and in his place, hired former coach, Jon Gruden. The hiring of Gruden was a huge splash as Davis gave Gruden a 10-year contract worth $100 million. Obviously, the team is in a win-now mode with talented players entering the prime of their careers.
The first step is making it back to the playoffs and getting their first playoff victory since 2002. Here are five reasons why the Raiders are capable of making it into the playoffs in 2018.
5. The schedule is forgiving
More often than not, the Raiders either lead the league or are close to the top with regards to total number of miles traveled during the season. In fact, the Raiders will be the only team to travel more than 30,000 miles this upcoming season, totaling 31,732 flyer miles. Traveling that much is never easy, however, the Raider’s schedule is forgiving, regardless of how unforgiving their amount of travel will be.
In their eight road games, the Raiders will only play three teams that had winning records in 2017. Those three are the Ravens, Chargers and Chiefs. Both the Ravens and Chargers went 9-7 while the Chiefs went 10-6. Obviously divisional games on the road are never easy, and the Ravens will be a tough match on the road as well.
However, the other five opponents are the Cardinals, Bengals, Broncos, Dolphins, 49ers. Only the Cardinals squeaked out an 8-8 finish, the rest were less than .500 on the year. Obviously things change from year to year, but none of those opponents are not overly daunting.
The Raiders home slate includes the division rivals, as well as the Colts, Seahawks, Browns, Rams, and Steelers. The Rams and Steelers will both be tough, but the other three non-divisional teams are all in the process of rebuilding.
Excluding divisional games which are almost impossible to predict given their nature, the Raiders schedule is very palatable. Best-case scenario is 11-5 with a 9-7 record seeming very possible. Regardless, the slate of games ahead are doable, it is up to the team to perform.