Moment of Truth: Raiders Defense Waking Up

Oakland Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin attempts to recover fumble raiders.com
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With four weeks remaining in the season, the fate of the Oakland Raiders lies in their own hands. At 6-6, Oakland sits tied for first in the AFC West.  Also, in good position to steal a Wild Card spot. On both sides of the ball, the Raiders are slowly but surely getting it together. However, in an unexpected twist, the defense is carrying this team forward.

Schedule & Game Results Table
Scor Scor Defe Defe Defe Defe Defe
Week Day Date OT Rec Opp Tm Opp 1stD TotYd PassY RushY TO
1 Sun September 10 1:00PM ET boxscore W 1-0 @ Tennessee Titans 26 16 21 350 255 95
2 Sun September 17 4:05PM ET boxscore W 2-0 New York Jets 45 20 17 271 145 126 2
3 Sun September 24 8:30PM ET boxscore L 2-1 @ Washington Redskins 10 27 18 472 356 116 2
4 Sun October 1 4:25PM ET boxscore L 2-2 @ Denver Broncos 10 16 16 298 155 143
5 Sun October 8 4:05PM ET boxscore L 2-3 Baltimore Ravens 17 30 19 365 222 143
6 Sun October 15 4:25PM ET boxscore L 2-4 Los Angeles Chargers 16 17 20 343 263 80 1
7 Thu October 19 8:25PM ET boxscore W 3-4 Kansas City Chiefs 31 30 19 425 331 94
8 Sun October 29 1:00PM ET boxscore L 3-5 @ Buffalo Bills 14 34 17 331 165 166
9 Sun November 5 8:30PM ET boxscore W 4-5 @ Miami Dolphins 27 24 23 395 309 86 1
11 Sun November 19 4:25PM ET boxscore L 4-6 New England Patriots 8 33 25 421 332 89
12 Sun November 26 4:25PM ET boxscore W 5-6 Denver Broncos 21 14 12 216 160 56 1
13 Sun December 3 4:25PM ET boxscore W 6-6 New York Giants 24 17 15 265 200 65 2
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/6/2017.

Despite a 12-4 record, the Raiders did not execute on defense in 2016. Along with allowing 257.5 passing yards per game (24th), Oakland tallied 25 sacks. These issues seemingly went unaddressed in free agency. As a result, General Manager Reggie McKenzie attempted to rectify via the NFL Draft.

Fast forward to present day, and three of the Raiders top-five picks have struggled with injury, forcing them to miss significant time. Injuries have marred this defense overall, with cornerback David Amerson reduced to six games due to concussion.

Nevertheless, Oakland’s “Bend but don’t break” defense has done their best to put the team in the best position to win. Despite being a mix of underdeveloped talent (Dexter McDonald; Eddie Vanderdoes) and players beyond their prime (Reggie Nelson), Oakland is making the best of a bad situation.

Currently, allowing 104.9 rushing yards per game (11th), and 70 yards per game over their last three games. Even with limited help in the secondary, they have risen to No. 23 as a passing defense, allowing 241.1 yards through the air per contest. In terms of scoring, Oakland is allowing 23.2 points per game (16th) and 21.3 over their last three contests. Sitting at 22 sacks on the season (25th), Oakland is still not creating enough pressure. Yet, the resurgence of  Bruce Irvin and the increased production Autry, Edwards Jr., and Hester helps.

While many look at the Raiders’ schedule,  citing weak opponents like the Giants and Broncos, this same defense allowed the  Bills to hang 34 points. Oakland  allowed below-average quarterbacks to dice them all season. For example, Jay Cutler threw for 311 yards.

Nevertheless, with playoff implications on the line, a below-average defense is giving it all that they have.

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