It is not just a coincidence that the last time that the Oakland Raiders made the playoffs, six years ago in 2002 was also the last time that they had a skill positioned offensive player named to the Pro Bowl. Those players were none other than Rich Gannon and Jerry Rice. Having a skilled position player on offense make it to the Pro Bowl does not guarantee a playoff birth, but it certainly increases the chances, as that has been a glaring omission of the Raiders offense since 2002.
The six years following, the Raiders have variably produced only Shane Lechler, Derrick Burgess and Nnamdi Asomugha to the Pro Bowl.
In order for the Raiders to take it to the next level and break their string of missing the playoffs, they are going to have to get some of their skill position offensive players to play at a Pro Bowl level. Sure, defense wins championships, but the offense has to get you there. And yes, a Pro Bowl offensive linemen or two would certainly increase the Raiders chances for the playoffs. However, with the ZBS, the Raiders offensive line is more about scheme and play of the overall unit rather than individual skill.
That being said, the Raiders have a young and promising core of skill position players on offense in Jamarcus Russell, Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Zach Miller, Chaz Schilens and Johnnie Lee Higgins. One or more of those players, at least, will have to raise their level of play to the Pro Bowl level if the Raiders hope to break out of their playoff slump and get the team to the playoffs in 2009.