You may not see it but trust me by the end of the 2016 season you will be a believer.
I’m not saying they will make the Super Bowl in Houston but they will be one of the teams fighting for a chance. Yup I said it, the Oakland Raiders will be in the playoffs.
You finished laughing yet? Let me explain how I see this playing out.
The Raiders have addressed the Offensive Line this offseason with the addition of G Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn but I still think they need another receiver. Amari Cooper had an outstanding rookie year with 72 receptions for 1000+ yards but only 6 TDs. He and QB Derek Carr must connect more on the deep ball which will open up more room for WR Michael Crabtree ( 85/922/9). The ground game is anchored by Latavius Murray (266/1066/6) but a reliable backup or change of pace back is still needed.
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The Raiders defense is the key. Their LB core is growing up together and will only get better in time but the defensive line is still a weak spot and must be addressed. The Raiders finished last season with 38 sacks, 15 of those coming from LB Khalil Mack. The front line must do better but part of the blame can also be attributed to the poor play of the secondary.
The Raiders finished 26th in passing yards allowed. If they look to win the division that features Thomas, Sanders, Gates and Maclin they must improve in this area, their only real weakness.
For those who think the Raiders will put together another disappointing season please think again.
The Kansas City Chiefs have a shot to take the division but their history of injuries at the wrong time will more than likely rear its ugly head again. Alex Smith doesn’t have the weapons to keep up in a division that’s built on defense and Jeremy Maclin is not a true #1 receiver that will roast a defense for 150+ a yards a game. The Chiefs are stacked on defense with Eric Berry and Justin Houston.
The San Diego Chargers are on the decline as they seem to have traded places with the Raiders. Philip Rivers is still an elite QB but over the years his help has been non-existent. Antonio Gates tries to have his throwback games but injuries and age have caught up to the once top TE. The ground game is a joke. 1st round pick Melvin Gordon was a bust his rookie year and receivers Keenan Allen and Malcolm Floyd were with injured and non factors. The defense took a major hit this offseason with the departure of FS Eric Weddle, now they must find help for LB Melvin Ingram.
The Denver Broncos fresh off a Super Bowl victory might find themselves in a battle for 3rd place if their QB situation is not solved. The Broncos went from Peyton Manning to possibly relying on Mark Sanchez, that’s how far they have fallen. Talk about a drop-off. The ground game will have to step up to help take pressure off Sanchez but the offensive line is not the same with the departure of Evan Mathis. Sanchez still has weapons at his disposal with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The defense is still the heart and soul of this team but even they took a few hits. Chris Harris, Von Miller and Aqib Talib will have to continue to post Pro Bowl type numbers if the Broncos wish to stay out of the basement.
The AFC West is loaded with talent and potential but also question marks for most teams. The division is there for the taking if the Raiders want it.