Who are these 2017 Oakland Raiders at the bye week? Contenders? Pretenders?
The Oakland Raiders were expected to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2017.
With seven games remaining in their regular season, it is not currently accurate to consider the Raiders as a serious Super Bowl threat. Sure, there is enough time for the 4-5 Raiders to become a Super Bowl contender, but Oakland will need to correct many problem areas.
The following is a look at why the Raiders have struggled this season and what to expect moving forward:
The biggest reasons why Raiders have a losing record: The offense has been inconsistent. This was the sixth-ranked offense in 2016 and it was high-powered. Oakland has been uneven and jumbled on offense of much of this season under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing. He was Oakland quarterback coach. Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio fired offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave because Downing was getting looks elsewhere and Del Rio did not want to lose him. Thus far, the switch has not worked. Oakland’s defense hasn’t improved much from last year (the offense was a strong perfume for a rancid defense last year). Thus, with two lacking units, Oakland has earned it’s 4-5 record.
Biggest offensive disappointment: Amari Cooper. It’s true that the entire Oakland offense, quarterback Derek Carr and its highly decorated (and well paid) offensive line included, has slumped. But Cooper hasn’t been good. Yes, he had a brilliant game against Kansas City in Week 7 with 210 yards on 11 catches. Yet, Cooper has been mediocre at best the rest of the season. He has just 38 catches for 462 yards and he is leading the NFL in drops. Much more was expected this year from the fourth-overall pick in the 2015 draft.
Best offensive player: Tight end Jared Cook. He has 39 catches, just 13 off his career high set in 2014 while with the Los Angeles Rams. Cook was the star of the Week 9 win over the Dolphins with eight catches on nine targets. He is Carr’s favorite targets on third down these days.
Biggest defensive disappointment: The lack of improvement. The Raiders’ problems from 2016 are basically the Raiders’ problems in 2017 on defense. They had a league-low 13 sacks in 2016. They only have 13 this season. Oakland is the only team in the NFL without an interception this season, which is mind-boggling. Oakland also gives up way too many big plays. Miami has the NFL’s worst offense and it shredded Oakland for 395 yards.
Best defensive player: Of course, it’s defensive end Khalil Mack. He will likely not repeat this year as the NFL Defensive Player of the year. But Mack is a complete player who almost always makes an impact. However, Mack needs to get to the quarterback more. He has always been a streaky sacker. He has just a half of a sack in the past five games and just 4.5 sacks for the season.
Biggest reason to worry after the bye: The Raiders just look flat and it’s been a while. Plus, the schedule in the second half of the season is tougher than in the first. Games against New England, Kansas City, Dallas and Philadelphia loom.
Biggest reason to have hope after the bye: The offense has been better in two of the past three weeks. This offense has too much talent to sleep all season, right?
Conclusion: Because the AFC playoff chase is muddled and because Kansas City has lost three of the past four games (Including once to the Raiders), Oakland is still in the playoff mix. Oakland doesn’t currently look like a playoff team, but that can change. Still, the preseason Super Bowl chatter seems off base as the Raiders hit their bye week.