It’s not all that difficult to understand why the Raiders are coming off back-to-back 4-12 seasons. Oakland has ranked among the bottom five in points allowed during both years. However, after going 5-11 against the spread two years ago, the Raiders were 8-8 last season including a 5-3 mark on the road. Oakland’s games went over the total on seven occasions with five of the seven away from the Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders have not reached the playoffs since Rich Gannon led them to the Super Bowl in 2002.
By a significant margin Oakland faces the toughest schedule in the league this season. It is easy to understand why. They play six division games, and their AFC West rivals Denver, Kansas City and San Diego all reached the playoffs last year, plus their NFC crossover divisional opponent is the West, featuring Title Game opponents Seattle and San Francisco plus Arizona who won 10 games. Having said that, there is an opportunity to start the season well. Three of their first four games are against teams that were .500 or worse last season, and four of their first six games are at home.
While coach Dennis Allen kept his job, a lot of the talent around him changed during the offseason. Through free agency the offense added Maurice Jones-Drew and James Jones. On defense veterans Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, Antonio Smith, Justin Tuck, and LaMarr Woodley were signed. At quarterback, rookie Derek Carr should push Matt Schaub who was acquired from Houston. Either represent an improvement over last season’s forgettable trio of Matt Flynn, Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor. Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston were lost in free agency. Khalil Mack, the fifth overall pick in the draft, should start right away at linebacker.
At 150-1 to win the Super Bowl and 80-1 to capture the AFC, the Raiders are deserving longshots without any sort of recent record of success. To their credit, they made significant changes during the offseason including addressing major positions of need. This is the third year for Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie. At the end of the season he’ll either be praised for making wholesale changes that resulted in an improved team or be seeking employment elsewhere.