AFC WEST PREVIEW
August 21st 2016,
What can reasonably be expected from the Raiders this season. Are they really divisional championship material, or are experts giving too much credit to the G.M for the team that his been put together. Derek Carr was though much improved last year, still wasn’t a top 10 QB, despite having depth at WR and a top 10 running back in Latavious Murray.
Does Carr have another similar jump in improvement in him, and will Amari Cooper be able to string it all together this season. This team is young and accomplished, but the time is now with the rest of the division gripping. The question is, can the Raiders capitalize.
This defense has been built to win now, and head coach Jack Del Rio is the best guy for the job. The Raiders signed Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith form Seattle as well as Reggie Nelson and Sean Smith from Cincinnati and Kansas City respectively. They still have Khalil Mack and Justin Ellis from the 2014 class as well as Mario Edwards Jr. from last year starting at DE. Their first and second round picks this season are expected to start this year, so much like the offensive, the defense has all the tools in place to be good for many years.
Karl Joseph and Jihad Ward are two projected defensive starters that have yet to take a snap in the NFL. Joseph from West Virginia has blazing speed at the SS position and can play anywhere in the secondary. He will come in as the fastest man on this team, with devastating play making ability. It should be noted that if Del Rio wasn’t a defensive minded coach, Joseph’s development would likely be stifled.
Ward is towering DE with plus speed, that will come off the edge and complement the rest of the D-line. The Illinois alum is relentless in the pass rush, and yes his name is really Jihad.
Michael Crabtree needs to be good again this season, and the offense is depending on it. His ability to catch ball and get open regularly will keep Amari Cooper in man-defense, while also creating room for the running backs. Crabtree was excellent last year in single coverage, unstoppable at times, and the Raiders need one more year of similar output.
If you think Derek Carr is going to improve this season at the same rate he did last season, than Amari Cooper should be your WR1. Coopers is still the complete package, and figured it out last season. Coopers inconsistencies were as much about Carr not being able to get through his progressions as it was about anything else. An equal bump in improvement from Carr this season, makes Cooper a top six WR. Mark it down.
The Raiders will get tested early and often, with matchups at both Baltimore and Jacksonville. They do get to host Carolina, and that defense will get tested early with a trip to New Orleans. 10-6 seems like a reasonable scenario which should put them tied for first in the division. Denver’s defense is better than Oakland’s offense, so Denver should win on a tie break, with Oakland slipping into the Wild Card round.
Of course one injury could change the trajectory of that prediction, but the Raiders should make easy work against teams like Atlanta at home, as well as the Bills, the Texans, the Colts and the Chargers. That Jacksonville game will be the best barometer for where this teams stands.
The Oakland Raiders are a +1.0 point Road Underdog in week 1 vs. the New Orleans Saints. Get all of your week 1 NFL odds today.