The Raiders are a trendy pick to make the playoffs this year as QB Derek Carr enters his third season in the league. While I think they’ll be competitive this year, I think it still might be a year or two early to make them a playoff team. They should have one of the better teams they’ve had in recent years, but there are other teams in the league that I think are better.
Carr completed 61% of his passes last season for 3,987 yards and 32 touchdowns, with 13 interceptions. WR Michael Crabtree hauled in 85 receptions for 922 yards and 9 touchdowns. WR Amari Cooper added 72 receptions for 1,070 yards and 6 touchdowns. RB Latavius Murray got nearly all of the team’s carries, with 266 rushes for 1,066 yards and 6 touchdowns. The defense ranked in the top half of the league with 399 points allowed and 14 interceptions.
The offense remains intact heading into 2016, with the addition of fifth-round draft pick RB DeAndre Washington to serve as a backup to Murray. Carr still has some room to improve if he is able to take the next step in his development. With the stout defense that the Raiders have — led by LB Khalil Mack — the offense doesn’t need to get into shootouts in order to have a chance to win games.
The Raiders’ schedule begins with two NFC South opponents, a road game against the Saints in Week 1, followed by a home game with the Falcons. Their first divisional games come in Weeks 5 and 6, hosting the Chargers and Chiefs, respectively. They host the Broncos on Sunday night in Week 9, then have a Week 10 bye before serving as the home team in Week 11 when they take on the Texans in Mexico City for the Monday night game. The Panthers then come to Oakland in Week 12, as do the Bills in Week 13. The Raiders visit the Chiefs in Week 14, followed by a road game at the Chargers in Week 15. The Raiders wrap up the season hosting the Colts in Week 16, then hitting the road to take on the Broncos in Week 17. I’m not on the “Raiders are a playoff team” bandwagon yet because I still think they’re a year or two away from finding that kind of success. In fact, I’m projecting them to end the season with an identical 7-9 record that they put up last season.