The Raiders made the playoffs last season for the first time sense losing the Super Bowl following the 2002 season. While their 2016 playoff run and division title hopes were dashed by a leg injury to quarterback Derek Carr, there are several reasons to believe they will get there again in 2017.
While the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers were hiring new head coaches and the Kansas City Chiefs fired their GM, the Raiders will be returning essentially the same staff. The Raiders did not resign former Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave, but his replacement, Todd Downing, had served as Quarterbacks coach the previous two seasons. Downing has a better relationship with Carr which was a big reason the Raiders promoted Downing.
On the field that continuity will be the most evident on the offensive line. The Raiders will be returning their entire starting line from last season though right tackle Austin Howard will face competition. Offensive lines have to be able to communicate and function as a group, having most of the same players returning will help them accomplish that.
2) Derek Carr
Every organization is looking for a “franchise” caliber quarterback and the Raiders have theirs in Carr. It is almost impossible for a team to have success without a quarterback capable of taking over the game.
Games in the NFL are consistently being decided in the 4th quarter, often on the last drive of the game. Teams need a player capable of performing in these pressure situations. Carr’s ability to do so was a large part of the team making the playoffs last season. The teams drastic decline in his absence really highlighted his importance.
Carr will be even better in 2017 with an improved running game and another season with the same core group of receivers. Coming into training camp already familiar with his wide outs should let the offense hit the ground running. The Raiders did add tight end Jared Cook and dangerous return man and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson which will give Carr more weapons to work with.
3) Winning culture
There was a time not long ago, that players saw the Raiders as the team you sign with to get your last payday. Players would show up for the game checks but not much else. It was obvious in the results on the field with games constantly ending in lopsided fashion. Now the Raiders are a team players like running back Marshawn Lynch are coming out of retirement to join. Even long time phenom wide receiver, Calvin Johnson has talked about the Raiders as a team he would play for. Oakland is no longer “where careers go to die.”
4) Improved Defense
The Raiders were 12-4 during the regular season despite ranking 20th in scoring defense. Several of the games the Raiders won were due to the offenses ability to outscore the other team. Having the 24th ranked passing defense would show up in some of these “shootouts” and could have prevented them from making the playoffs.
The team took steps to address this obvious weak link. The first two picks in the draft were secondary players as well as hiring “Assistant Head Coach - Defense” John Pagano to coach the secondary. Added talent and a new voice in the coaching staff should make a 12-4 team even better.
What are your expectations for the Raiders season?
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Win the Super Bowl
Lose the Super Bowl
AFC Championship Game
Win a playoff game
Make the playoffs
Do not make the playoffs