The Oakland Raiders have been one of the most hyped teams in the NFL this offseason, with many writers and analysts predicting they could take the next step in 2017 and challenge for the Super Bowl. According to Australian sports site www.theroar.com, however, that prognosis of the team is not only wrong—it’s laughable.
Said writer Jean-Paul Harriette of the Raiders as a Super Bowl contender
“This is complete lunacy. Their resurgence to relevance is encouraging...but this franchise is doomed.”
Harriette, whose profile indicates he is a rookie writer with ROAR, goes on to highlight several reasons why the Raiders will finish 7-9 in his estimation. Everyone is rightfully entitled to their opinion and this piece is no exception, but calling the Super Bowl contention of a team that just went 12-4 “lunacy” is a particularly bold claim.
Let’s examine how much weight the writer’s arguments actually hold.
1) “AFC West is without a doubt the most difficult division”
Harriette referred to Mile High and Arrowhead as “notoriously rowdy stadiums”, saying he can’t see the Raiders doing better than 3-3 in the division.
Yes, the Raiders lost away games at Mile High and Arrowhead last season, but they finished 3-3 in the division, and in the game they lost at Mile High sans Carr, the team only put up six points, which won’t likely be the case next season.
The division is tough, nobody denies that, but the Raiders have the talent to be the elite squad within it. Not only do they have the most talented quarterback (Sorry, Phillip Rivers), but they spent significant draft capital on improving their primary area of weakness in the secondary.
Also, the addition of Marshawn Lynch to bolster the run game and wear out AFC West defensive fronts cannot be understated. Harriette quips: “Who cares if they signed Marshawn Lynch?” Well, lets ask Corey Liuget, Tamba Hali and Von Miller if they care. Guessing they aren’t thrilled about the prospect of tackling the elusive, 215-pound back nicknamed Beast Mode by his peers around the league.
2) Derek Carr needs time to regain his poise
It’s hard to argue with the writer here, the concern is valid. Until Carr is in pads going through full-contact practices and pre-season games, it’s going to be impossible to see how quickly he returns to an elite level of play.
Carr and Marcus Mariota—who also broke his leg last season—will have their progress compared repeatedly this season. There isn’t a lot of precedent for superstar quarterbacks finding immediate success after such a gruesome injury.
That being said, we live in the most modern age of sports science in history. Additionally, Carr is only 26-years-old and will also have had over six months of recovery time when training camp rolls around. It will be a surprise if he isn’t back to pre-injury form at some point in the first month of the season.
3) The Raiders will “almost certainly” need to win division to make playoffs
I can remember a time way back in the day when this wasn’t the case. Oh wait, that wasn’t back in the day, it was just last season. The Raiders went 12-4, came second in the division and lost in the wildcard round to a woeful Texans team on offense. With Carr at the helm, it’s hard to imagine the same result taking place.
Harriette also states that the two divisions that the Raiders will primarily face next year—The NFC East and AFC East— will also be too tough to muster a solid record against. The “Cowboys, Eagles and Giants,” will feature as “savage opponents,” according to Harriette. Outside of their division in 2016, however, none of the teams from the NFC East beat a single opponent that went 12-4 or better like the Raiders did.
One of the reasons for that is because only four teams in the NFL were 12-4 or better. Harriette is seriously discounting the success that the Raiders had in 2016 when he proclaims the NFC East opponents are a mountain that the Silver and Black are incapable of climbing next season.
During Harriette’s conclusion, he writes out a game-by-game prediction for 2017, which has the Raiders at 7-9 and only able to beat two opponents that went above .500 last season.
Crazier things have happened; this is the NFL after all, where Super Bowl teams can fall by the wayside just months after playing in the big game. However, in this case Harriette’s prediction of Raiders impending doom falls flat.
Sure, the Raiders could fall to 7-9 and I could be eating my words come next year, but the popular opinion that the Raiders will be a contender holds a lot more weight, supported by their offensive dominance and overall play last season. There hasn’t been significant enough losses on either side of the ball to think otherwise.