The Raiders are eight games into the 2010 season with a record of 4-4 and have been resurgent in recent weeks, outscoring the Broncos and Seahawks 92-17 after a disappointing loss to the 49ers.
Are the silver and black back? While it is probably too soon to say, there are some encouraging signs.
If it wasn’t for Sebastian Janikowski missing three field goals in Arizona, including the game winner, the Raiders would be 5-3. Realize this, the Raiders haven’t had more than five wins since 2002.
What was the Raiders record after eight games in 2002? It just so happens it was also 4-4. The Raiders won the first four games only to drop four in a row before finishing the season 7-1 that season.
Is this team capable of a run at the playoffs? If so, the Raiders will need to win this Sunday at home against the division leading Chiefs.
There have been two different quarterbacks, two starting left tackles, two of the top three receivers have been injured and the Raiders began the year playing a lot of zone on defense.
Is this the team that got the close win against San Diego, the team that blew out the Broncos and Seahawks, or the team that handily lost to the Titans and 49ers?
Tom Cable and Rolando McClain are using two blowout wins to sell this team hard to fans. Cable has pleaded with the fans to show up two weeks in a row and McClain has imposed a media blackout until the Raiders sellout a home game.
Will the Raiders fans be able to close the gap between a small season ticket holder base and a full stadium? The Raiders have had attendances of 48,396, 32,218, 48,279, and 35,721 this season. A far cry from the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum capacity of 63,026.
Will 22,000 additional fans come out to support a team rocketing up the NFL power rankings? Only the premium seats must be sold for it to be declared a sellout, but premium implies that the seat are more expensive, which means they are harder to sell to fans sitting on the fence.
The Raiders have a two for one ticket offer, two blowout wins in a row and the division-leading rival Chiefs coming to town and the head coach and rookie first-round pick are asking the fans to support. Not sure what else the team can do to get the fans to buy a ticket, some of the cheapest tickets in the NFL.
Maybe the midseason report card will make the fans believe?
F: Ranking is worse than 2009
D: Ranking gain of 0-5
C: Ranking gain of 6-10
B: Ranking gain of 11-15
A: Ranking gain of 16+
One grade bump if ranking is 6-10. Example: B becomes an A.
Top 5 ranking = Automatic A
Why use ranking? It compares the Raiders against the rest of the NFL in the given year, so it is the most fair evaluation of how the team is stacking up against the competition.
Hue Jackson has to be considered as one of the best Al Davis hires since Jon Gruden. He’s taken an offense from the doldrums to near the top by riding Darren McFadden’s back and trusting his offensive line. He made the bold move to switch to Bruce Gradkowski as the starter, but also kept Jason Campbell’s head in the game and he’s come off the bench to produce.
The pass blocking of the offensive line is still shaky, but they can run block very well and have looked much better since rookie Jared Veldheer took over the starting job at left tackle.
The one area that has yet to really take flight is the passing game. Chaz Schilens has yet to play a game and Louis Murphy will be out until after the bye week. Darrius Heyward-Bey finally flashed some of his ability against a bad Seahawks secondary, but Zach Miller is banged up.
Rookie Jacoby Ford is getting his chance, but the Raiders are thin at receiver. It pains me to say it, but I wouldn’t be upset if the Raiders decided to claim Randy Moss today.
Hue Jackson developed TJ Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ochocinco, he may be able to do great things with Randy Moss. We already know Al Davis still likes Moss. I guess we find out this afternoon.
MVP: Darren McFadden
Honorable Mention: Marcel Reece
Trench Warrior: Robert Gallery
LVP: Darrius Heyward-Bey
Yards Per Game: A
Points Per Game: A
Sacks Allowed: D
QB Hits Allowed: B
Zone or man? Obviously this team was built for man coverage. The Raiders tried to play zone and the players simply couldn’t execute the scheme. Mistakes were made that resulted in touchdowns on a weekly basis.
A few weeks ago the Raiders decided to scrap all the zone and focus on their physical coverage. Since that time the Raiders are getting huge pressure and locking down the run game as well.
The man coverage scheme is still vulnerable to the run and short passing game, but the Raiders simply must use what works for them.
However, a few good weeks against the run was not enough to erase the past. The Raiders run defense needs to continue the lockdown this week against the best rushing team in the league.
The Raiders pass rush is picking up and the pass defense is still ranked highly by yardage, but the secondary has few passes defended or interceptions.
It’s a mixed bag as evidenced by the points per game the Raiders have allowed. The defense still has a ton of room to improve, but the switch to man and playing with a lead late in the game has really helped this defense.
MVP: Richard Seymour
Honorable Mentions: Kamerion Wimbley, Matt Shaughnessy
Secondary Star: Nnamdi Asomugha
LVP: Trevor Scott
Yards Per Game Allowed: A
Passing Yards Allowed: A
Rushing Yards Allowed: D
Point Per Game Allowed: C
Passes Defended: D
2009: 31st (T-Last)
Forced Fumbles: A
Special Teams: C+
Shane Lechler is as good as ever. Janikowski has been automatic since his three misses in Arizona. The return game and coverage units are incrementally better, but are still dragging the grade down for the special teams units.
If Jacoby Ford and Nick Miller get going, this grade could jump by the end of the season. The coverage units really need to step up when Janikowski fails to achieve a touchback, as he has done often this season.
MVP: Shane Lechler
Honorable Mention: Sebastian Janikowksi
Yards Per Kick Return: D
Yards Per Punt Return: C
Punting Gross: A
Punting Net: A
Field Goals Made: A
Field Goal Percentage: F
Yards Allowed Per Kick Return: C
The team is 4-4. Average is about right and the stats back it up with a overall 2.7 GPA on the examined stats. This was graded on a pseudo-curve as the ranking was based on NFL rank improvement over 2009. A few weeks from now these could be drastically different, especially if the Raiders continue to play like they have the last two weeks.