The Raiders are in the middle of their bye week and will come back on the October 27th to take on the Steelers at the Coliseum. Lets recap their first six games, and more importantly, look ahead to the rest of the season and what the team needs to work on going forward.
The Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda’s (WCS)
The team currently sits at 2-4, at the bottom of the division, and does not look like it will make the playoffs. If you haven’t been paying attention, you would say “Same old Raiders”. Realisitcally though, the team has played tough, been competitive in five of their six games and is slowly starting to build a reputation for themselves. Especially on the defensive side. They took care of business against the Jaguars and played their most complete game in a long time against the Chargers (that 2am drive home was worth it). In their losses, it was the little things that broke down that cost them the games.
WCS#1 – Colts
If Janikowski coulda made an earlier field goal, then the Raiders wouldn’t have needed Pryot to go for a game winning TD that was eventually picked off. This woulda been a great way to start the season, especially against a playoff team.
WCS#2 – Redskins (Can I still call them that?)
If Pryor hadn’t suffered a concussion from a blatant helmet to helmet (no fine or penalty by the league) against the Broncos, then Pryor woulda started against the Redskins and that early 14-0 lead woulda been maintained if not improved upon and there would be no need for Flynn to start and lose the game. At the same time if that didn’t happen, Flynn would still be on the team. Go figure.
WCS#3- Chiefs (I’m guessing this will soon come under fire from the PC police too)
Most of the first half was a complete domination. Pryor was looking efficient, the defense was stifling the run game, and Alex Smith was looking flustered if he wasn’t getting sacked. Seabass shoulda made that field goal and the team goes into the half with a lead. In the second half, if the O-line coulda stayed healthy, the Chief defense wouldn’t have been as effective and we never see 3rd and 48,terrible.
To Do List
Ok, no crying over spilled milk. It is what it is and now the team and the fans have to move on. If you constantly look in your rear view, you’ll never see the road ahead. Lets look at five things the team has to do to start putting wins together and dig themselves out of the cellar.
#1- Get Healthy
This is their biggest need right now. Their bye week couldn’t have come at a better time in terms of getting healthy. Most of the players that need this bye week are the guys on the O-line. In the KC game, Oakland had to rely on third string line players that had never played the position they were filling in for and not to mention they had never played before as a unit. It’s anticipated that most if not all of the O-line will be ready by the next game. If all goes as planned, the following week, LT Jared Veldheer should be ready to go. Another unit that benefits greatly from this weeks bye is the back field. Darren McFadden, Rashad Jennings and Marcel Reece all stand to gain from this time off as each of them is coming off leg injuries.
#2- Learn to Finish
The team has been in every game this year, mostly due to their defense. Now the offense as a whole has to step up and learn to finish their drives. Not with field goals either. The best thing about about being an underdog is that no one expects you come out fighting. If the offense can learn to finish, then that will compliment the defense, give them rest and force the other teams to play from behind. The talent is there and so is the hunger. It comes down to execution and keeping those drives alive. Someone on the offense needs to step up and become that go to guy. In the preseason, Coach Allen talked about needing someone to become the number one go to guy. While Pryor is doing all he can, someone else on the offense needs to step up and become the go to guy.
#3- Continue to Let Pryor Develop
Pryor showed some regression in the KC game in the second half, but then again so would most QB’s after a ten sack day. In the first half he was efficient and guided the team to the games first score. Greg Olson and the rest of the coaching staff needs to continue to put Pryor in situations that give him confidence and every now and then open up the playbook for those long throws. I’m happy with his development so far, keep in mind it’s only had five starts. His athleticism, confidence, level of maturity and ownership of his mistakes have made him the teams unquestionable offensive leader.
#4- Second Half Adjustments
The games are never won in the first quarter. The coaching staff needs to do their part and make those second half adjustments that will get the W. In the last three games, the team has not made the necessary changes to keep them in front or not scrambling to hold on to any lead. This was very evident in the San Diego game. The Raiders were in complete control going into the half, but the Charger offense did enough in to make it a game. Luckily the defense stepped up and put the game away with two picks. Second half adjustments are critical to keeping the momentum on your side if you are ahead.
#5- Figure Out the Field Goals
In the past, Janikowski was known for being automatic from most areas of the field. This year, that has not been the case. It could be Seabass and King still getting used to each other, or is it all mental for Janikowski? Whatever it is, those missed opportunities have come back to bite the team in major ways. As fans, we often overlook the importance of field goals until it comes down to the wire. So far Janikowski is 7/11 in this young season, Last year he only missed three all season. I’m sure that this will work itself out as the year progresses as both King and Janikowski have stated that they are both trying to adjust to each other. Unfortunately this is something that can only be fixed with time and reps.
Overall, I think the team can rebound and end up with more wins than last year. As it stands today, the rest of their schedule will pit them against 8 teams that are .500 or below, with KC and Denver the only teams with winning records left on the schedule. It’s my thinking that most of these games are winnable because of the what the defense has been able to do. It would be nice if the other side of the ball gets it together and makes a push for a respectable finish. I’m not ready to predict a playoff berth at this point, but I will re-iterate what I’ve been saying since preseason. The Raiders WILL get more wins than last year and finish better than expected.
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