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What didn’t I expect from Raiders this season? Where to begin

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NFL: Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

What a crazy ride it’s been this season for the Raiders. It’s sure been a departure from what a lot of people, including myself, expected. Here are a few of the surprises.

Offensive line issues

Last season this offensive line had three Pro Bowlers, and All Pro, and a Pro Bowl alternate. This season, it hasn’t looked like there’s a Pro Bowler among them. After holding out of camp for a new contract, Donald Penn has not been protecting as he had the first three seasons in Oakland. Marshall Newhouse has not been an upgrade at right tackle either. That said, it’s the run blocking across the line that’s been the most disappointing. What was the league’s sixth ranked run offense is now giving the running backs serious trouble finding gaps to run through.

Derek Carr’s seeming regression

With Derek Carr’s progress from his second to third season, it was expected to continue this season. Much was made of his having the same coaching staff in those years, but with Todd Downing being a promotion rather than an outside hire, the momentum was largely expected to continue. It has not. The Raiders went from the 6 ranked offense in 2016 (373.3 yards per game) to 19th in 2017 (328.5).

Carr was approaching his first 4000-yard passing season when he was injured last season. His numbers are down across the board, putting him on pace for around 400 fewer passing yards (3600), 5 fewer touchdowns (21), twice as many interceptions (12), and over 5 points lower passer rating (91.5). Those are pedestrian numbers when most expected another step up into elite company for Carr.

No interceptions through ten games

There was little to be proud of as a defense last season. But the one area you could say was making up for some weaknesses was the Raiders’ ability to force turnovers. They had 16 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles, and the league’s best turnover differential (+16). Then they added John Pagano to help the secondary to limit explosive plays. As Defensive Coordinator in San Diego last season, Pagano’s squad led the NFL with 18 interceptions. So, how in the world he comes onboard and a team that had 16 picks has zero through ten game, setting a new NFL record? Oh, and that pick was by linebacker NaVorro Bowman. There has yet to be a defensive back intercept a pass for the Raiders.

Drops

This one falls mostly on Amari Cooper, who had 7 drops in the first four games and ten drops by midseason while the Raiders were struggling through a 4-game losing streak. As a team, the Raiders have the second most drops in the league (22) behind only the 49ers (23). And honestly I’m surprised there’s any other team with even as many as the Raiders, let alone more than them.

Bananas AFC West

Ok, so we all thought the AFC West was going to be wild. Just not the way it has been. They started out looking like the best division in football, and now they look like among the worst. The Chiefs and Broncos were a combined 7-1 in the first four weeks. They’re a combined 2-12 since then with the Chiefs (6-5) atop the division and the Broncos (3-8) at the bottom.

The Chargers (5-6) started the season 0-4 and have gone 5-2 since then. The Raiders (5-6) started out 2-0, lost four straight, and are surprisingly just one game back from the top of the division. The Chiefs still lead the division (barely), but should they lose this week and the Chargers and Raiders win, there would be a three-way tie atop the division with each team sitting at 6-6. My prediction of the division order being Raiders, Chiefs, Charger, Broncos is still a distinct possibility. I just didn’t expect it to be the lesser of the evils. Not sure anyone did.