The Raiders looked like a contending team when they started the season 6-3, highlighted by a 40-32 victory over the Chiefs in Week 5.
But then things changed, with the Raiders dropping five of their last seven to finish 8-8. Las Vegas conceivably could have finished 7-9 if not for wide receiver Henry Ruggs’ 46-yard touchdown reception with five seconds left to beat the Jets.
But defeating the Chiefs early on and nearly beating them in Las Vegas meant something to the Raiders. For Darren Waller, it illustrated the gap between the two teams wasn’t that big. Ruggs sees the team’s situation similarly.
“I would never disrespect anyone in this league, but I feel like we definitely have the team, definitely have the pieces and if we put it together, we showed in that game that we can compete with anybody,” Ruggs said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “I know that one thing we have to do is to stay consistent and focus on the little things and we can be a top contending team. We definitely should have been in the playoffs.”
He also noted the Raiders likely got complacent after their season began well.
“We had a couple tough wins, so we felt like we were doing the right things in certain situations,” Ruggs said. “But you know, as the season goes on and teams get more film on you, you can’t just get by doing the little things wrong. You have to pay attention to all details.”
That’s been a problem for the Raiders over the last two seasons, which ended in a similar fashion. In 2019, the club started 6-4 before finishing 7-9.
Head coach Jon Gruden has taken steps to improve Las Vegas’ defense by bringing in coordinator Gus Bradley. But the team as a whole has to stay consistent through the second half of the season to become a true contender.