After two weeks of the season, the Raiders lead the NFL in sacks and are fifth in the league in yards allowed. Their defense has shown up big time, but there is one crucial aspect missing from their efforts thus far - Turnovers.
The Raiders have yet to force a single turnover against an opponent this season. That means no interceptions and no forced fumbles. The Raiders themselves have turned the ball over three times - 2 interceptions and a fumble. That's losing the turnover battle.
One thing that is tried and true in the NFL is those teams which win the turnover battle, win games. Only one of the teams in the top nine in turnovers finished last season without a winning record - The Browns.
The Raiders were a minus four in turnover differential last season and have already started out in a hole. The team is 1-1 on the season and some will tell you they could easily be 2-0. The difference could be turnovers.
The Raiders had a lead over the Colts late in the game in week one 17-14 despite an early interception rendered by Terrelle Pryor. But they didn't once take the ball away from Andrew Luck and the Colts offense and eventually they broke through for another touchdown.
A takeaway can often mean a short field for the offense while denying any points to the opposing offense. Or in some cases, can mean a defensive touchdown. It also lets the defense, whose efforts kept the Colts scoreless for two quarters of play in week one, get off the field and catch their breath.
The late touchdown put the onus back on the Raiders offense to score a touchdown. But in desperation times comes turnovers and as we have covered, turnovers often decide the outcome of a game. With a last ditch attempt to make something happen, Pryor put the ball up and it was intercepted, sealing the game for the Colts.
Last week the Raiders were up big on the Jaguars 19-3 when Darren McFadden fumbled the ball away. The Jaguars got the ball in Raiders territory and drove for their only touchdown of the day. If they had made the two-point conversion, they would have been within one score to tying up the game. Luckily they didn't convert, the Raiders recovered the onsides kick and put the game away.
Pryor also fumbled the ball just before halftime and had Jeron Mastrud not recovered it, the Jaguars would have gotten the ball in Raiders territory with just a few yards to go to be in scoring position. If that had happened, they would have very likely at least kicked a field goal before halftime and instead of the Raiders going into the locker room up 10-3, it could have been just 7-6 and made things a lot less comfortable in the second half.
There was also a missed interception by Mike Jenkins in the fourth quarter that, had he held onto it, would have had nothing but open field to run for the touchdown. That beats a short field any day. It would have meant the proverbial nail in the coffin with a 26-3 lead. But alas, it was yet another missed opportunity.
So, while the Raiders COULD be 2-0, they could also be 0-2. All because of turnovers and the lack of forcing them on the opponent.
If they are to have any shot at all against the Broncos on Monday, they will have to find a way to force turnovers while not turning the ball over themselves. That is a tall order against an offense led by Peyton Manning which is why it is all the more critical. That goes for their entire season.