Late Thoughts (Week 8): Oakland Raiders Look Very Real


Last Sunday at San Diego, the Oakland Raiders jumped out to a 37-6 third-quarter lead over the stunned Chargers and then held on for a crucial 37-29 victory.

Well it worked once and apparently it worked again.

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Against one of the more formidable defensive units in the league, Jack Del Rio’s club made it look easy early and once again let a team (in this case, the New York Jets) crawl back into the game in the fourth quarter. But once again, the Raiders came away with a win and the Silver and Black now sits with a 4-3 mark after seven games.

While many expected the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers to threaten the Denver Broncos in the AFC West, it’s Del Rio’s club that remains closet to the team that has won four straight division titles.

Sunday’s 34-20 victory over the Jets saw Oakland open up 28-6 third-quarter advantage before holding on for a 14-point triumph.

Nov 1, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) prepares to throw a pass against the New York Jets in the fourth quarter at Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Jets 34-20. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It was yet another solid showing by second-year quarterback Derek Carr, who over the past eight days has thrown for a combined 622 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception in the wins over the Chargers and Jets.

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is orchestrating a very balanced attack that has topped the 400-yard mark in consecutive weeks, which includes at least 25 running plays in each contest. And thanks to a well-schooled offensive front, Carr has been sacked only once the last two weeks.

It’s safe to say that this is an Oakland attack with a lot more firepower than in recent years, led by the 1-2 wide receiving combo of veteran Michael Crabtree and rookie Amari Cooper. The duo has combined for 78 receptions, good for 1,048 yards and six touchdowns. Wideout Andre Holmes (3) and fullback Marcel Reese (3) are also part of four players with three scoring receptions this season.

As for Carr, he’s now thrown 15 touchdown passes while committing only five turnovers (3 interceptions, 2 lost fumbles). As a rookie, he connected for 21 scores but threw a dozen interceptions while losing four of his 10 fumbles. The improvement has been noticeable, to say the least.

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All told, Oakland gained the fewest total yards in the NFL in 2014 (282.2 yards per game) and also averaged a league-low 77.5 yards per outing on the ground. In seven games this season, Del Rio’s squad is averaging 365.3 total yards per game and the running attack has improved to 99.7 yards per contest.

In 16 games last season, the Oakland offense totaled a mere 26 touchdowns. This same offensive unit has rolled up 20 touchdowns in seven games this year.

November 1, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders free safety Charles Woodson (24) intercepts the football intended for New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) during the second quarter at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As for the defense, ageless Charles Woodson picked off his fifth pass of the season on Sunday. This was a team that totaled only seven interceptions in 2014. Oakland has totaled 12 takeaways this season after forcing a mere 14 turnovers all of last season. And a pass rush that produced 22 sacks in 2014 has dropped opposing quarterbacks 14 times this year.

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This is an Oakland team that is clicking on all cylinders these days. The defense is feeding off the offense and the team has playmakers on both sides of the ball. It will be interesting to see how far Del Rio can take them, but they have already come a long way in a very short time.