Last year: 4-12, last place in AFC East
Acquisitions: Matt Schaub, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Maurice Jones-Drew, James Jones, Donald Penn, Khalil Mack, Derek Carr
Departures: Tracy Porter, Jacoby Ford, Lamarr Houston, Jared Veldheer, Rashad Jennings
Vegas 2014 win total over/under: 5 wins
Verdict: OVER (six wins!)
Five free agents over 30 that the Raiders managed not to sign:
— Asante Samuel
— Vince Young
— Steve Smith
— Jeff George
— Brett Favre, thank God.
Fan forecast by Zack Dennis:
Last year I predicted the Raiders would finally bottom out and their prospects would start to improve. It hard to deny that they hit some sort of bottom, but between watching them lose eight of their last nine games to close out the season (including the last six in a row) and witnessing their bumbling attempts this preseason, I’m not quite ready to commit myself to the assertion that this franchise is on the upswing.
On offense, there’s little happening to suggest that things will be different from the team’s anemic efforts in 2013. The foundation for the offense rests with Matt Schaub, who last year answered the unasked question of “what would happen if you harvested a bunch of cells from Brian Sipe’s perineum, cloned them, and assembled them into a quarterback?” So far for the Raiders, Schaub has failed to throw a single touchdown pass (to either team) during preseason and is carrying a YPA of 4.6 (for perspective: at that rate he’ll have to throw 65 passes to have a 300-yard game1). Considering that seventy-five percent of the fans in the Black Hole will have more firepower tucked into the front pocket of their state-issued work release coveralls, it’s unlikely that the team will catch up after they inevitably fall behind. It would be a nice bit of karma for second-round draft pick Derek Carr to displace Schaub (who displaced Carr’s brother in Houston) but that won’t happen immediately. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson has worked wonders with quarterbacks of lesser talent in the past, so there’s cause for some optimism, but given how poorly Carr performed against USC in the Vegas Bowl, it’s certain that the Fresno State graduate2 isn’t ready to play against professional football players just yet.
At running back, Darren McFadden will continue to disappoint courtesy of some of the most predictable play-calling in NFL. Maurice Jones-Drew was a nice addition, and actually seems primed to regain some of the form he lost after his 2012 foot injury. Plus, with his experience being the best player on a terrible team, it’s possible that MJD could really shine for the Raiders this year. Marcel Reece should be as good as he’s always been, and will continue to make the most out of the checkdowns that come his way. For receivers, James Jones at least has a recognizable name, but this year he will basically become a cheaper version of Greg Jennings; i.e. useless without Aaron Rodgers throwing it to him. Starting tight end Mychal Rivera is thoroughly unremarkable; he’s basically that kid in junior high whose house you hung out at just so you could catch an occasional glimpse of his foxy older sister sunbathing in the back yard.
The Raiders did – on paper – make some improvements to their defense in the offseason. Khalil Mack was a gift from the football gods when he fell to them at the fifth pick in this year’s draft; one can only hope that spending time in Oakland isn’t career poison for him the way it has been for so many other talented3 prospects. They added Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley via free agency, which should help until other teams figure out they can just throw over their heads into a secondary that is led by…I guess Charles Woodson, simply based on seniority. The league’s new emphasis on defensive holding/illegal contact/pass intereference is going to exacerbate an already-endemic issue of defensive penalties for the Raiders, and it’s likely they will dominate the league in penalty statistics.
To make matters worse, the Raiders are playing the toughest schedule in the league and will have to travel 10,000 more miles than any other team to do so. For practical purposes, they should steal a play out of potential future coach Greg Popovich’s playbook and just send the third-stringers to London so they can rest everyone else at home. All things considered, it’s looking like another 4-12 season, with potential wins coming against the Jets, Texans, Browns, Rams. In particular I’m looking forward to their Week 16 matchup against the Bills, which at that point in the teams’ respective seasons should go down in the record books as “The Battle of Who Could Care Less.”4
So yeah, it looks like another shitty5 year for the shitty6 Raiders at the shitty7 O.co Coliseum.
1The prospect of Schaub throwing for 300+ yards in a game is a joke, of course; no Raiders quarterback has done so since Carson Palmer in December of 2012.
2Fresno State diplomas have not been evaluated by the U.S. Department of Education.
3In Raiders scouting parlance, “talented” = “can run fast.”
4Watching this late-season abortion of a game has not been endorsed by Ben Folds Five.