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The Oakland Raiders ended their 14-year playoff drought in the 2016 season, but their hopes of competing were robbed by a late injury to quarterback Derek Carr.
Jack Del Rio’s men were on course to battle the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs for the top seed in the AFC, only for Carr to suffer a broken leg in the penultimate game of the season.
As a result, the club missed out on the first-round bye in the playoffs and were forced to start third-stringer Connor Cook against the Houston Texans on the road in the wildcard round after backup Matt McGloin sustained a shoulder problem.
The Raiders were soundly beaten by the Texans, but with Carr in the line-up they would have had a least a fighting chance to progress to the divisional round. That feeling should be the spark that pushes the players and coaching staff on to advance into the final stages this time around.
Oakland have a strong roster and with Carr back to full fitness they could well mount a charge to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2002 campaign to battle it out for the Vince Lombardi trophy in Minnesota next February.
The Raiders proved that their cycle of failure was going to end from the first game of the campaign. Del Rio’s men were in a shootout with the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees on the road, and had the opportunity to tie the game with 47 seconds remaining following a score from Sam Roberts.
However, instead of kicking an extra point the Raiders went for the two-point conversion, displaying huge guts to go for the win. Carr connected with Michael Crabtree to get his side off the mark in the campaign.
On home soil, the Raiders became the first team to witness the offensive power of the Atlanta Falcons, losing a close game to Matt Ryan and company.
Del Rio’s men bounced back with a strange win over the Tennessee Titans as both offenses failed to fire, with the Raiders closing out a 17-10 win on the road.
Oakland notched their first win in the AFC West over the San Diego Chargers, becoming the latest side to take advantage of the Chargers’ propensity to collapse. Touchdowns from Jamize Olawale and Crabtree secured the win at the Coliseum.
A setback came at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, who successfully stymied the Raiders’ offense, but Del Rio’s men were quickly back to winning ways, easing past the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The club were involved in another crazy game – this time against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The lead changed several times over the course of the match and went to overtime thanks to a strike from Carr to Mychal Rivera before the quarterback ended the game with touchdown pass to Roberts.
Before the bye, the Raiders powered past the defending Super Bowl champions the Denver Broncos – further proving their quality.
The Raiders continued their impressive performances with a comeback win over the Texans in Mexico City, with Carr throwing two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Del Rio’s men appeared to be in complete control of their contest against the Carolina Panthers, holding a 24-7 lead at the break.
However, Ron Rivera’s men rallied to forge ahead, only for Carr to rally his team and drive them to victory late in the match, taking the club past the nine-win mark for the first time since the 2002 season.
Another comeback was needed in the second half against the Buffalo Bills. On this occasion the Raiders scored 29-straight points to run out comfortable victors against Rex Ryan’s outfit.
The Chiefs once again had the answers for Oakland’s offense, limiting Carr and company to just 13 points in their loss at Arrowhead Stadium. They struggled again in their clash with the Chargers, but were bailed out by the boot of Sebastian Janikowski, notching two fourth-quarter field goals.
The Raiders’ season was to all-but end against the Colts, despite winning the match comfortably. Leading the AFC outfit 33-14, Carr was hit in the leg by linebacker Trent Cole, taking him to the floor.
The quarterback immediately acknowledged the damage and was carted from the field, with the broken leg ending his season and the club’s realistic hopes of competing in the playoffs.
McGloin came in against the Broncos and was no match for Denver’s excellent defense, allowing the Chiefs to steal the number two seed. The backup suffered a concussion in the contest, forcing rookie Cook into action in the playoffs.
The contest was over before it began as the Texans eased to victory, despite their own flaws to advance to the divisional round.
The Raiders look well set to challenge in the AFC once again, mostly due to the fine performances of their quarterback.
Carr was a contender for MVP before his injury and should he return to form in 2017 there is no reason why the Raiders could not push for the number one seed in an attempt to dislodge the New England Patriots.
There is a lot of talent outside of the quarterback, with the club having sent seven players to the Pro Bowl last season. Amari Cooper emerged as one of the NFL’s leading wideouts, while Khalil Mack is a force on the defensive side of the ball.
The Raiders also boast one of the best offensive lines in football, with Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele and Rodney Hudson earning the honours last term.
The departure of Menelik Watson should not be a huge loss as they can replace him through the draft, although recently-signed Marshall Newhouse may fill the role.
Jared Cook was a solid option for Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay last term and he should provide the same level of value to Carr and the Raiders following his move.
Running back Adrian Peterson has been heavily linked following the exit of Latavius Murray. He would provide a veteran presence to the offense, who lack experience in the skill positions and may have one last effort left in his bid to win the Super Bowl.
In the draft the club should be looking at the inside linebacker spot, although the two top players at that position may be long gone by the time the 24th selection comes about. Cornerback is also an issue following the departure of former first-round pick DJ Hayden to the Detroit Lions.
There are a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about the Raiders going into the 2017 season. As previously mentioned the health of Carr will be the decisive factor, although all signs point to him making a full recovery from his broken leg.
Therefore Oakland should be able to make a charge into the post-season based on their highly-productive offense.
Their defense will need to take large strides forward to fend off some of the quarterbacks they will face in 2017, including Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz and Marcus Mariota.
However, they are an intriguing option to win the AFC Conference at 10/1 11.00 +1000 10.00 10.00 -0.10 with TopBet sportsbook, especially if they are able to attain the number one seed that eluded them narrowly last term.
They are a side that are similar to the Falcons last season. Therefore they could even be a sneaky good bet to take to win the Super Bowl at 18/1 19.00 +1800 18.00 18.00 -0.06 .
Oakland Raiders To Win AFC Conference
Odds: 10/1 11.00 +1000 10.00 10.00 -0.10
Oakland Raiders To Win Super Bowl
Odds: 18/1 19.00 +1800 18.00 18.00 -0.06