The Oakland Raiders have steadily become everyone’s favorite cinderella pick for the playoffs. This should come as no surprise. Teams in the AFC West took a step back.
The Denver Broncos lost key players from their Super Bowl run including QB Peyton Manning. Don’t forget the Kansas City Chiefs lost their best corner, Sean Smith, to the Raiders and Justin Houston is recovering from a knee injury. Added, the Chargers did nothing to improve drastically.
Therefore, the Raiders are serious contenders in the AFC West. Still, here are a few keys for them to turn potential into a postseason run.
1. Improved secondary play
The Raiders invested a lot into the secondary this year via free agency and a first round draft pick. Besides taking S Karl Joseph at No. 14 in the draft, they also signed Reggie Nelson and Sean Smith. Not to mention, the young secondary benefited from lots of reps a year ago.
This season, Oakland must rely on their secondary to make plays. An improved defensive live should also increase pressure on the play and help the Raiders get takeaways.
Either way, the Raiders biggest advantage over the Chiefs and Broncos is at the quarterback position. The secondary must remind people of that by making the Broncos’ Mark Sanchez and Chiefs’ Alex Smith look pedestrian.
2. Consistent running game
Speaking of offseason investments, the Raiders also invested in the offensive line with Kelechi Osemele. The offensive line was already improved in 2015, and that was evident by Latavius Murray passing 1,000 yards. However, the running game was inconsistent throughout the year.
At the end of the season, Murray lost a lot of his explosiveness. He did not even pass the 100 yard mark. The Raiders will need Murray to play consistently all year. Oakland must control the clock with Murray and improved defense. This is how they protect wins and get victories in close games. That is something they struggled with a year ago.
3. Ride the Carr
When it comes to the Raiders taking the next step, their quarterback must also take the next step. Carr enters this season with the same offensive coordinator and key skill players. Hence, there is no excuse for him to play successfully.
Towards the end of the year, Carr’s production dropped. His interceptions went up as he tried to do too much and saw more pressure. This upcoming season, Carr will get more protection. It is time for him to prove he is among elite quarterbacks.
In the end, the playoffs are in reach for the Oakland Raiders. They finished 7-9 last season but lost several games by one score. Oakland can get over the hump by completing these three keys.