1st Place in AFC West
Record: 7-2 (2-1 Division)
Last Game: Defeated Denver Broncos 30-20 in Oakland
Next Game: Week 10 Bye, Week 11 vs. Houston Texans, Monday Night in Mexico City
Wow. This team continues to impress in a multitude of ways. A week after needing overtime to beat the Bucs due to an NFL-record 23 penalties, and needing Derek Carr to throw for a franchise-record 513 yards to do so, the team eschewed the pass against Denver’s “no-fly” zone and simply destroyed the Broncos at the point of attack instead.
The Raiders need Carr to throw for a gazillion yards efficiently and make big plays — check.
The Raiders can take the air out of the ball and demoralize defenses by running it down their throats — check.
The Raiders can rely on the defense to make big plays and get stops when needed — in the past three weeks, check.
The Raiders can basically adapt and win however based on game circumstances — check.
After Sunday’s performance many are talking of the Raiders as potential Super Bowl candidates. Chalk that up to a weak AFC (and top of the NFL overall, honestly) and some long-dormant success for a beloved franchise.
But is it unrealistic? No it’s not. The Raiders currently have the #5 offense in the NFL, and it’s quite balanced (#5 passing, #4 rushing). Carr has shown multiple times he can win games for the team. He’s also shown he can manage games and make plays when needed, like Sunday night.
The defense has languished toward the bottom of the NFL since #1 and #2 offenses (New Orleans and Atlanta) lit them up early in the season. But they’ve steadily been improving, and have allowed an average of around 22 points and 290 yards over their past three games. They’ve improved from the worst defense in the NFL through the first six weeks to 27th overall (398 ypg) and 21st in points allowed at 24.8.
Add that to the fact that they should be getting stalwart DE Mario Edwards Jr. back from injury after the bye, and that Aldon Smith could potentially be reinstated very soon and this defense is becoming scary. Khalil Mack has once again overcome a slow start to the season and has four sacks and two forced fumbles in his past two games. He’s beasting out again, and the entire defense is better because of it.
The Raiders are entering their Week 10 bye playing their best football of the year. They’re getting back key pieces on defense. They’re getting rested and healthy. The bye gives Jack Del Rio and the coaching staff a chance to plot and scheme for Houston in Mexico, and the rest of the season.
They have put themselves in excellent shape to contend for the division title, and, barring an epic collapse, at least a wild-card berth. The AFC is pretty weak-sauce right now, particularly beyond the AFC West. The Chiefs, at 6-2, and the Broncos at 6-3 currently hold the two wild-card spots. The next best record? Miami and Pittsburgh, at 4-4.
The Raiders want the West, though. Going into the bye, they couldn’t be in better shape.