By Sam McPherson
While every expert on the planet predicted a last-place finish for the Oakland Raiders in 2014, not as many would have pegged them to be the worst team in the National Football League this fall. But after two games—and with several tough games ahead—that's right where the Silver & Black may be headed this year.
And it won't be pretty for General Manager Reggie McKenzie and Head Coach Dennis Allen. It may be a minor miracle if both survive the season, let alone the next month as the Raiders could be 0-6 before they travel to Cleveland to face the Browns in Week 8.
Is this a knee-jerk assessment based on the first two weeks of play? Or is it a fair and accurate prediction for the most dysfunctional organization in the NFL?
Remember, the Raiders haven't made the postseason since 2002, and there aren't that many teams who can lay claim to being so bad for so long. This is one of the main reasons why so few players in the NFL want to play in Oakland, actually.
So what are the winnable games left on the Raiders' schedule?
- Automatic losses: Week Three at New England, Week Nine at Seattle, Week Ten against Denver, Week Eleven at San Diego, Week Fourteen against San Francisco, and Week Seventeen at Denver
- Probable losses: Week Four against Miami (in London, England), Week Six against San Diego, Week Seven against Arizona, Week Twelve against Kansas City, Week Fifteen at Kansas City, Week Sixteen against Buffalo
If you're counting at home, that's six guaranteed losses, and there's six probable losses. That's an 0-14, unless some drastic changes occur in Oakland—and soon.
The two winnable games: Week Eight at Cleveland and Week Thirteen at St. Louis. Why are these winnable? The Browns have been to the postseason just once in the last 20 years (including the time when the team was dissolved into the Baltimore Ravens), and overall, the city of Cleveland hasn't won a major sports championship in 50 years. It's hard to give the Browns any more credit than we give the Raiders, understandably.
And St. Louis plays in the hardest division in the other conference, so they're the Raiders of the NFC, in essence—and they lost their starting QB for the season already, meaning even the Raiders could pull one out there (maybe).
This is, of course, a very pessimistic view, and anything can change instantly in the NFL. Maybe the Oakland coaching staff will decide to bench rookie QB Derek Carr and go with Matt Schaub—and maybe Schaub becomes Jim Plunkett 2.0, right? Stranger things have happened in Raiders franchise history, obviously.
But the signs are not good: currently, the defense has shown little ability to stop even pedestrian offenses this season, and linebacker Nick Roach alone is not going to come back from injury and solve every defensive issue. Oakland is just 23rd in total defense and 21st in yards given up per play—but the worst is the run defense, which ranks dead last in the league.
And if you can't stop the run in the NFL, it's going to be a long season: maybe 2-14 is an optimistic appraisal, actually, at this point.
Only time will tell.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A's. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.
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