The Oakland Raiders began 2017 with high expectations after a 12-4 season the previous year. However, they ended up falling well short of them. The team suffered two separate four-game losing streaks, one early in the season after a promising 2-0 start and another to finish the season. In the end, the Raiders finished 6-10, which was enough to cost Jack Del Rio his job despite signing an extension the previous offseason.
Of course, firing Del Rio allowed the Raiders to bring back head coach Jon Gruden. With Gruden’s return, expectations are once again high, as the fan base expects him to be the team’s savior. But will the return of Gruden be enough to make the Raiders a playoff team?
Even with a Super Bowl winning coach in Gruden, the Raiders are +4000 to win Super Bowl 53. While those odds offer a great pay off, there’s limited upside to them. Oddsmakers are projecting the Raiders to win eight games this season. There’s a chance they can top that mark, as they are just one year removed from a 12-4 campaign in 2016. However, with so much turnover, the Raiders may be a year away from seeing significant improvement.
With Gruden at the helm, the Raiders are likely to become more of a run-heavy team. They’ve spent a significant amount of money this offseason trying to reshape their offensive line to help open holes for Marshawn Lynch. That unit will have to gel together quickly and deal with the growing pains that come with a rookie at left tackle in Kolton Miller. The Raiders will also be relying on the 32-year old Lynch and Doug Martin, whose best days may also be behind him.
Oakland’s passing game, on the other hand, boasts plenty of potential. Derek Carr struggled last season compared to his MVP-caliber performance in 2016. If you can chalk last year up to injuries, Carr could be in line for a bounce-back season.
Of course, the Raiders will need Amari Cooper to do the same after a modest output last year. Oakland is also taking a chance on Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant. Both were acquired over the offseason and have the potential to give the Raiders a formidable trio of receivers. However, Bryant can be inconsistent at times while Nelson isn’t exactly in his prime, so there’s some risk-reward to those additions.
Of course, it’s on the defensive side of the ball where Gruden has to get things turned around. The Raiders were toward the bottom of the league in defense last year, and it now looks like Khalil Mack could be traded before the season. He’s by far their best defensive player, so moving him could create a world of questions on that side of the ball.
To be fair, the Raiders have some potential up front with Mario Edwards Jr. and Justin Ellis on the interior of the line. However, if Mack is traded, they’ll be left with Bruce Irvin and rookie Arden Key as their primary pass rushers, which is not exactly ideal. Oakland has also added veteran Derrick Johnson at middle linebacker, but he’s getting on in years and that position doesn’t appear to be a strength at the moment.
If Mack ends up elsewhere, safety could be the biggest strength of Oakland’s defense. The Raiders have three competent safeties in Marcus Gilchrist, Karl Joseph, and Reggie Nelson. However, the Raiders have done a complete overhaul of their cornerbacks and it remains to be seen if all that turnover will end up paying off for them.
Clearly, the Raiders have a lot to figure out on defense, especially if Mack ends up being traded. Meanwhile, they have an offensive scheme that’s geared toward running the ball but personnel that suggests they’ll be better throwing the ball. They’re also a little old on both sides of the ball, which could make the Raiders susceptible to injury.
|Sep 10||Los Angeles Rams||10:20 PM|
|Sep 16||@ Denver Broncos||4:25 PM|
|Sep 23||@ Miami Dolphins||1:00 PM|
|Sep 30||Cleveland Browns||4:05 PM|
|Oct 7||@ Los Angeles Chargers||4:05 PM|
|Oct 14||Seattle Seahawks||1:00 PM|
|Oct 28||Indianapolis Colts||4:05 PM|
|Nov 1||@ San Francisco 49ers||8:20 PM|
|Nov 11||Los Angeles Chargers||4:05 PM|
|Nov 18||@ Arizona Cardinals||4:05 PM|
|Nov 25||@ Baltimore Ravens||1:00 PM|
|Dec 2||Kansas City Chiefs||4:05 PM|
|Dec 9||Pittsburgh Steelers||8:20 PM|
|Dec 16||@ Cincinnati Bengals||1:00 PM|
|Dec 24||Denver Broncos||8:15 PM|
|Dec 30||@ Kansas City Chiefs||1:00 PM|
Part of going 6-10 is only getting four games against playoff teams the following season. On paper, this is a manageable schedule, but there will be plenty of stumbling blocks along the way.
Week 1: vs Rams – Loss
A Monday night home opener with Gruden back on the sidelines, sounds like a Raiders win, right? Nope, Oakland’s defense is in no way ready to stop Todd Gurley and company, as the Raiders start the season with a loss.
Week 2: at Broncos – Loss
Going to Mile High is never easy, especially when the Broncos have such a killer pass rush. Carr can’t evade Von Miller, as the Raiders lose another game to their arch-rivals.
Week 3: at Dolphins – Loss
This is a game the Raiders can win. In fact, it’s a game they won last season. But the old adage of west coast teams playing early games on the east coast rears its ugly head once again, as the Raiders drop three in a row to start the season.
Week 4: vs Browns – Win
Thank goodness for the Browns. The second Gruden era in Oakland did not get off to a good start, but playing the Browns at home is the best way for any team to secure an easy victory.
Week 5: at Chargers – Loss
Have the Raiders figured out the secondary yet? If not, Philip Rivers is going to pick them apart in this game. Carr plays well too, but in the end, its Rivers leading the game-winning drive in the 4th quarter.
Week 6: vs Seahawks – Win
The Raiders narrowly avoid disaster by starting 1-5. Seattle’s defense is a little more vulnerable away from home, allowing Carr to find Cooper on a couple big plays that give the Raiders a much-needed win.
Week 7: Bye
Week 8: vs Colts – Win
This game gets ugly for both defenses. However, it’s the Raiders who survive it at home, as Carr plays just a little better than Andrew Luck.
Week 9: at 49ers – Loss
With the two Bay-area rivals going at it on a Thursday night, Oakland’s defense struggles to contain the running game, which opens things up for Jimmy Garoppolo down the field.
Week 10: vs Chargers – Win
Gruden was embarrassed by the Chargers the first time around, but he won’t let that happen again. The Raiders pound the ball on the ground behind Lynch to keep Rivers off the field and power their way to their first division win of the season.
Week 11: at Cardinals – Loss
The Oakland defense has another bad day on the road, even against a modest Arizona offense. Winning on the road is tough, and the Raiders learn that lesson the hard way.
Week 12: at Ravens – Loss
Another east coast trip proves disastrous for the Raiders. This time, it’s the offense that struggles to get it going against a stout Baltimore defense.
Week 13: vs Chiefs – Win
In a virtual must-win game for the Raiders, they turn in one of their best performances of the season. Gruden gets the best of his old friend Andy Reid, as the Raiders keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Week 14: vs Steelers – Loss
Not even the home crowd on a Sunday night can lift the Raiders over the Steelers. Carr does his best to keep pace with Ben Roethlisberger and company, but the Oakland defense can’t do anything to stop Pittsburgh’s dynamic offense.
Week 15: at Bengals – Win
Despite the long road trip, the Raiders find a spark and manage to edge out the Bengals in a rare defensive slugfest.
Week 16: vs Broncos – Win
This time, the home crowd in a prime-time game gives the Raiders the lift they need. The Oakland offensive line holds up just enough for Carr to pick apart the Denver secondary.
Week 17: at Chiefs – Loss
Despite some late-season momentum, the Raiders fail to escape Arrowhead Stadium with a win. Reid gets the better of Gruden, as the Raiders close the season on a sour note.