Written by: Jack H. Day – Staff Writing Intern (@GrandstandDay)
Sitting atop one of the best, if not the best division in football are the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are 9-2, and if their success continues they will make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Leading the way for the Raiders is one of the National Football League’s ballsiest coaches in Jack Del Rio.
“It’s not the size of the dog in a fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog,” -Mark Twain.
This team is the perfect example for this quote. The team has been in many closely fought football games, but they have come out on top nine times. Oakland is not blowing out teams by any means, but they are finding a way to claw out victories no matter the circumstance.
In a division with some solid defenses, the Raiders are finding ways to win with their offense. It all starts with MVP candidate Derek Carr. Carr is completing 66.4 percent of his passes for 3,115 yards and 22 touchdowns. Not to mention a late comeback against Carolina with a dislocated finger. It all starts with number four on this offense, as he is making teams around the league regret passing him up in the 2014 draft.
Without the help of receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, who knows if Carr would be putting up such great numbers. As the rest of the season plays out, it is looking more likely that both these receivers will reach 1,000 yards receiving. Both receivers are first round draft picks, but Crabtree has been a pleasant surprise for the Raiders offense. Everyone knows that Cooper is a star, but Crabtree is finally developing into the receiver everyone thought he was going to be with over 700 yards and six touchdowns already in 2016.
Not receiving as much credit for the offensive success in Oakland is running back Latavius Murray. Besides Carr, Murray has scored the most touchdowns for the Raiders thus far this season. He has rushed for almost 500 yards, and caught 26 passes for over 200 yards. Murray is not the flashiest player on the field, but when his number is called upon to go out and grind, he adds up to be one of the most significant players on this team.
We have seen the offense go stride for stride with other high scoring teams around the league, but in order for this team to have a chance at the Super Bowl, they are going to have to step up defensively. It is no question that the defense has gotten better than a year ago. Young star Khalil Mack is continuing to make strides as an elite defensive player in the NFL with nine sacks, 51 tackles, and an interception for a touchdown. Mack has an impressive stat line, but more names are going to have to step up and start making some big plays. Rookie safety Karl Joseph has also been a impressive spark to the team with his hard hitting play style. If this defense can figure out a way to stop even one more scoring drive per game, this team is going to be a contender for Super Bowl 51.
The die hard fan base of the Oakland Raiders have been through a lot since their last Super Bowl appearance. Not only did they lose in their last Super Bowl, but they have not seen a winning record since. It is time to exhale Raider faithfuls, because not only are they guaranteed a winning record already, but it looks as if this will be the year they make it back into the playoffs.
If the Raiders continue to win, the scariest place to play for any opposing team will get to see a playoff game in 2016. Not only are the Raiders playing for a chance at the Super Bowl, but hopefully if they continue to win the Black Hole will remain the home for the Raiders for many years to come. If the Raiders continue to win, and build an even more loyal fan base, hopefully their owner and Roger Goodell let them remain the Oakland Raiders, as they should.