Can The Oakland Raiders Live Up To The Hype In 2017?

After 13 agonizing years without playoff football, the Oakland Raiders went 12-4 last season and competed in the postseason for the first time since losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Super Bowl XXXVII. Unfortunately, Jack Del Rio’s side fell short at the first hurdle against the Houston Texans but that brief taste of the playoffs will spur Oakland on as they look to win the AFC West title in 2017.

With Derek Carr fully fit and firing on all cylinders, the Raiders are a decent outside tip to go one better this time around. Last season, Carr suffered a devastating season-ending injury in Week 16 and that put an end to Oakland’s slim Super Bowl hopes but fans should remember that he ranked as one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League before going down.

Stats

Looking directly at the statistics, Carr threw 28 touchdown passes and just six interceptions last season – an incredible achievement. Since he was drafted, the Raiders star has an 81:31 touchdown to interception ratio. Comparatively, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, the first overall pick in 2012, has a 132:68 ratio and Oakland fans know that Carr is an elite talent at the position.

Latavius Murray has departed but Marshawn Lynch is a more than competent replacement if he can regain his best form. The former Seattle Seahawks star, commonly referred to as “Beast Mode”, is a modern great and Oakland fans will be excited to see Lynch in action on the opening weekend. The Raiders have one of the strongest offensive lines in the National Football League and Lynch will profit if Oakland’s big guys avoid serious injuries.

Meanwhile, the Raiders are still blessed with talent at receiver and Carr could put up career high figures if his options perform well. With Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree out wide, Oakland have two reliable choices on offense and they will be backed up by the likes of Seth Roberts and tight-end Jared Cook. Last season, Cook showed glimpses of quality playing for the Green Bay Packers and he could become Carr’s favourite redzone target.

Stacked

On the other side of the ball, Oakland are stacked. Khalil Mack is their main man when it comes to bringing pressure and the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year will be looking to hit quarterbacks on a weekly basis next term. Mack has made 26 sacks since the beginning of the 2015 campaign and he is widely regarded as THE elite defensive talent in the NFL. At the very least, he is on par with Texans star JJ Watt.

You could claim that Oakland’s secondary might be the weak link next year but the Raiders moved quickly to select two talented rookies in the NFL Draft. Del Rio opted to take Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley in the first round before moving for safety Obi Melifonwu in the second. Conley may have his off-field issues but he has the potential to blossom into a genuine shutdown corner for Oakland.

Prior to the draft, some had Conley as the second best cornerback in the draft. If anyone can get the most out of their new additions, it is defensive co-ordinator Ken Norton. And with John Pagano also helping out on that side of the field, Oakland could be set for an incredible season in all departments on defense.

Whether opposing fans like it or not, the Oakland Raiders hype is legit. It may be a little too soon to be predicting a Super Bowl triumph but the pieces for success are there and a push for the showpiece could ensue depending on how Jack Del Rio’s side start the campaign. If Carr gets back to his brilliant best, the Raiders should go far and could compete for the AFC Championship title.


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