How and Why the Raiders Might Make the Playoffs

By Todd L. Frank  |   Wednesday, May 12, 2010  |  Comments( 2 )

Oakland Raiders
Got something to say?

Log In above and share your thoughts on this topic with other fans!

While most of the Silver & Black focus in the Bay Area has been on the dismissal of mega-bust QB JaMarcus Russell (and the acquisition of Jason Campbell), the bigger picture of these moves is that there should be optimism that the Oakland Raiders could be a surprise team that might make a push for a Wild Card slot.

That’s right, I didn’t actually use the p-word in that paragraph, but I just implied that the Raiders could make the playoffs. Cue your best Jim Mora imitation. Playoffs? PLAYoffs?? Playoffs? You tawkin playoffs??
Here me out.

Every season there’s at least one team that comes out of nowhere, or gets a few breaks, or improves more than expected and faster than planned. Last year, the NY Jets were 4-6 with a rookie QB and ended up in the AFC Championship game with a 17-6 halftime lead over the Colts. A few years ago the Miami Dolphins went from 1-15 to 11-5 and a playoff berth. The Rams and Ravens have come out of nowhere to win Super Bowls. The Buccaneers and Saints, perennial laughingstocks for most of their existence, have both won Super Bowls! Heck, it wasn’t that long ago that the Colts and Patriots were doormats too.

Of course, much of this turnabout and parody has also been at the expense of traditional former contenders like the Raiders, Redskins, 49ers, and Cowboys. And just because unexpected things happen in sports and “there’s always a surprise team,” that doesn’t guarantee that the Raiders will be good simply because they’ve been so bad as of late.

But. There’s always a but. Their schedule, while it looks tough at first glance, has a few bright spots. Among their non-division games, some of the opponents expected to be the toughest (the Colts, Dolphins, Texans) have to visit the Black Hole. (And in Week 16, maybe the Colts will be resting players.) Sure, they have to travel to Pittsburgh again this year, but they won that road challenge last year and this year’s game at the Steelers comes after Oakland’s bye (nicely placed in Week 10). The Titans might be good, and that game is at Tennessee, but it’s Week 1 when Chris Johnson could still be holding out and/or when the Raiders can most-easily sneak up on someone. The 49ers might be pretty decent, but is crossing the bay really that much of a road game?

They play the Cardinals in Arizona, but that’s Week 3 when they will surely be experiencing growing pains at QB. There’s a cross-country trip in December to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars, but by that time the Jags could be out of contention and limping toward Jack Del Rio’s firing. The Raiders also have home games against the Rams and Seahawks.

Also, let’s keep in mind that the Kansas City Chiefs are not a good football team and I don’t see that changing drastically even if they do improve, which they might not. The Chargers have been hearing their window screeching shut and it seems Phillip Rivers is the only one shoving his hands back in to try to keep it open. He’s a warrior and a good QB in his prime… but the defense has aged and the coach is still Norv Turner. The Broncos started 6-0 but came back to earth and missed the playoffs. They made off-season headlines by trading away WR Brandon Marshall and drafting Tim Tebow, but neither move will bring more wins this year. In fact they might lose a few more.
So this Raiders team could go 4-2 in the division and work their way to 9-7 and end up jockeying for a Wild Card spot.

Back to the Campbell-for-Russell switch at QB. While Campbell is not exactly a lock for the Pro Bowl, he’s an upgrade in talent but most importantly he’s a very hard worker who wants to improve and win. That alone is likely to light a fire under the rest of this underrated roster, just as having a gritty vet like Bruce Gradkowski seemed to inspire a few wins last season.

By not just bringing in Campbell, but by jettisoning Russell, the Raiders organization has shown that working hard and winning are of the upmost importance. By cutting, and not just benching, their high-priced top draft pick, Oakland finally sounds serious about Just Win Baby.
Got something to say?

Log In above and share your thoughts on this topic with other fans! (2)

Article Tools Share!   |  RSS  |  Bleacher Report About Bleacher Report