After Sunday’s dramatic win, the Oakland Raiders find themselves in the hunt, at the bye. Now, with eleven games left, there’s still work to do. However, the landscape of the AFC begins to slightly clear up. Plus, it’s the bye week after a victory. At this moment, hope springs eternal. Below, the AFC Rankings and how the Raiders fit in.
New England (5-0)
The defending champs continue to win. Despite a few shaky moments here and there, the Patriots remain the odds-on favorite to repeat. If the Raiders play them, chance remain high that game gets played in Foxborough during the winter. For any Raiders fan, this remains the final hill climb, back to greatness.
Kansas City (4-1)
Granted, the Colts handed the Chiefs their first loss of the season. Yet, Oakland still hasn’t managed to beat them in Kansas City for years. Before their December 1st matchup, the Chiefs need to contend with the Texans, Packers, and Vikings. Although offensively talented, the Chiefs seem vulnerable in the secondary.
Settle down, Bills Mafia, or whatever you call yourselves. While victories versus the Jets, Giants, Bengals and Titans count like any other, those teams do not scare anyone. Josh Allen remains underwater on the TD/INT ratio (5:7). However, the ageless Frank Gore leads the run game on his way to Canton. Meanwhile, the aggressive defense feasts on offenses. The Raiders matchup perfectly versus the Bills. They stop the run. Forcing Josh Allen to beat you bodes well for Oakland.
In less than three weeks, the Raiders travel to Texas and line up against Houston. Deshaun Watson, to this point, continues to compile early MVP numbers. While Patrick Mahomes garners the majority of the attention, Watson brings a different dynamic. In 2018, opponents sacked him a league-high 62 times. Currently, Watson felt the turf 18 times in five games, which is slightly better rate. Granted, Watson and the offense present the biggest threat to the Raiders, their secondary, much like the Chiefs looks rather pedestrian. If the Raiders can contain JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus, Derek Carr should fare well vertically.
Baltimore would see Oakland in the Raiders. Lamar Jackson appears comfortable in his second season. Despite the early prognostications of a position switch, Jackson completely rough two-thirds of his passes. More importantly, Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards provide a solid punch. On the outside, Hollywood Brown strikes fear into defenses with the ability to streak down the field. Matt Judon anchors a pass rush without big names but the ability to frustrate offenses. Derek Carr needs to watch Earl Thomas, especially on the blitz.
Fresh off their uopset win versus the Chiefs, the Colts look a bit healthier. However, the Raiders by virtue of a victory, own the first tiebreaker. Health or not, Oakland can still expose that secondary.
The defending world champions of soundbytes, the Browns sit at .500. For all of their bluster, middle of the road at the bye feels odd. If you look at their roster, the team should have at least three victories. Baker Mayfield completes less than 60 percent of his passes. In his defense, he averages 8.3 yards per attempt, so the big play exists. Yet, behind an occasionally porous line, that does not bode well. Surprisingly, the Raiders pass rush would excel here. However, if they don’t get home, Beckham and Landry serves up a myriad of problems.
Given these points, the Oakland Raiders can make a decent run down the eleven-game stretch. Without hyperbole, three wins in the first five games is incredible. With that said, the schedule continues to do the Raiders no favors.