We’re checking in with each team during the bye week. (At least we’re trying to.)
After looking at the Bears earlier Thursday, it’s time for one of the most fascinating teams of 2011: The Raiders.
Loss to Chiefs was outlier
Before last Sunday, the Raiders were one of the most consistent teams in the league. You knew what you were going to get: A powerful running attack and an aggressive defensive line.
The up-and-down play that marked the last decade was gone. They lost to the Bills and Patriots, but the effort was there.
And then the 28-0 home loss to the Chiefs happened. It allowed Kansas City back in the AFC West race. It raised further questions about the Raiders offense.
Right time for a bye
The Raiders needed this break. New pickup Carson Palmer has time to learn the offense with his receivers. The team’s best player Darren McFadden has time to get healthy after suffering a foot sprain against Kansas City.
It’s all on Palmer
It’s not fair to judge Palmer on his effort against the Chiefs. There was no way he could be ready that quickly. There were actually some throws that impressed.
With that said, Palmer has to win now. Coach Hue Jackson went all in with his trade for Palmer.
The division is there for the taking, but they need Palmer to at least replace what Jason Campbell did for them. Don’t assume that’s so easy. The Raiders offense has accounted for three points in six plus quarters since Campbell broke his collarbone.
McFadden a force
There’s no doubting that Darren McFadden is one of the five best running backs in the league now. McFadden is fifth in the league in yards from scrimmage. The Raiders are second in rushing and first in rushing touchdowns. Few backs combine McFadden’s power, speed, and receiving ability.
There was some concern the team wouldn’t run block as well without coach Tom Cable, but they have been better. The team needs McFadden to stay healthy in the second half.
Surprising offensive line
Left tackle Jared Veldheer has been a revelation for a surprisingly solid re-formed offensive line. Veldheer has the look of a future Pro Bowler.
Defensive line leads the way
The Raiders perimeter players on both sides of the ball aren’t great, but their lines shine. This is especially true on defense. Richard Seymour is having a huge season. Lamarr Houston is one of the more underrated players in football. Tommy Kelly is actually earning his money.
The Raiders should stay relevant deeper into the season than they have in a decade. The AFC West will likely be decided on the final two Sundays of the year. The Raiders go to Arrowhead on Christmas Eve and host the Chargers on New Year’s Day.
Oakland has the pieces in place to take the division. They just need Palmer to get up to speed.