The Oakland Raiders are heading to the playoffs for the first time since GM Damon Macioce took over the reigns in 2015. They earned the second placed seed and a first round bye with a modest 10-6 record. Those ten wins continued a positive progression since the 2015 season (1-15, 6-10, 7-9, 10-6). The Raiders will face one of three teams in the second round, either the Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets or Cleveland Browns. Oakland lost to the Jets at home in week 3 by a score of 26-7 in probably their worst loss of the season. The Raiders beat Cleveland in Cleveland 30-13 in week 6 in one of their better games, against a tough Browns defense. They did not face the Colts this year.
One of the keys to Oakland’s success this season has been their bend-but-don’t-break defense. The Raiders 263 points-against were the least in the league despite the team being in the middle to lower half of the league in several defensive categories. Several players were key to keeping the points off the board, such as LB Khalil Mack, SS Eric Weddle, DE Greg Hardy, NT B.J. Raji, LB Curtis Lofton and CB Aqib Talib. Weddle’s 6 interceptions tied for the league lead. The defense was especially impressive during the Raiders’ five game winning streak mid-season when they outscored their opponents 152-71.
The Raider offense was impressive during the regular season as well, finishing 11th in the league in scoring with 360 points. RB Chris Beach had his second straight season with 2,000+ combined yards from scrimmage while leading the league in rushing with 1,536 yards. QB Leonard Wright continued last season’s late surge finishing 6th in passing yards (3,693) and passing TDs (23). His record since being named the starter last season is 15-7. Wright did struggle turning the ball over, throwing a league-worst 18 interceptions this season. He will need to be less erratic if the Raiders hope to advance to the AFC Championship game. TE Angel Curtis had another nice season with 77 receptions, 957 yards and 2 TDs. Curtis did have 19 dropped passes, so he will need to help Wright out and hang onto the ball to move the chains. Wright’s favorite target though is WR Amari Cooper who had 87 receptions, 1,054 yards and 9 TDs. Cooper made several big plays in big moments this year.
The Raider Nation is excited to host their first playoff game in a long time, and are looking forward to see if this team can step up to the challenge and advance to the AFC Championship game and maybe even more.