Off the Record (OTR)

Oakland Raiders stand their ground

The Oakland Raiders (7-2) just keep on rolling. After beating the defending Super Bowl champion and divisional rival Denver Broncos (6-3) 30-20 on Sunday Night Football, it is now safe to say that the Raiders are for real. All the talk surrounding a possible relocation to Las Vegas has been, at least or now, been replaced with talk of winning the division and heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. The Raiders and their fans are not going anywhere yet.

Quarterback Derek Carr has evolved into a top tier option for head coach Jack Del Rio. Now in his 3rd season with the Raiders, Carr has been lights out, throwing 17 touchdown passes and just 3 interceptions through 9 games. It’s not just the numbers that stand out either. He has looked calm and composed in the pocket, patiently finding open receivers instead of trying to force things like he did in his first two seasons with the Raiders. Carr is easily on pace to eclipse 4,000 passing yards in a season for the first time in his career.

Part of his success can be attributed to the receiving corps around him. Amari Cooper has emerged as a blossoming superstar after a breakout 2015 campaign. He has already amassed 843 receiving yards this season and is on pace to obliterate his 1,070 yard total from last season. Michael Crabtree is also on pace for a career year. The 8 year veteran has developed a tremendous rapport with his quarterback to the tune of 596 yards and 6 touchdowns already this season. This one-two punch is undeniably one of the best tandems in the NFL right now.

When the Raiders turn to the ground game, they have been relying on the three-headed monster of Latavius Murray, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington. While none of them have stats that jump out at first glance, they have combined for 127.8 rushing yards per game, good for 4th in the league. Murray is the power guy who can run it up the gut, Richard is an agile pass catcher out of the backfield, and Washington is a little bit of both. With so much depth at the running back position, Oakland has been able to run the ball right down the throats of opponents all season. Their offensive line has also stood out this season, which resonates in the passing and running game.

The offense will need to continue performing at an elite level, because Oakland’s defense has been a different story. They rank in the bottom third in every major defensive category and are allowing almost 400 yards per game to opponents. With better defensive performances, the Raiders could arguably be undefeated at this point in the season. They have only managed to hold opponents under 20 points twice this year.

After running over the defending Super Bowl champs, Raiders fans can at least for now forget about all the speculation about relocation. They can instead watch as their young team comes into its own and contends for a division title.

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