Home > NFL > The Raiders can beat the Browns, find their way out of the woods

The Raiders can beat the Browns, find their way out of the woods

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Are the dark days over in Oakland?  Finally?  Yes Raider fans, it’s okay to breathe the air again.

Amazingly, the Raiders will go for their sixth win in a single season for the first time since January 2, 2005.  They didn’t get that win.  To find the last time the Raiders actually won six games, you have to go all the way back to November 17th, 2002.  On that night, the Raiders beat Tom Brady and the Patriots behind 297 Rich Gannon passing yards, and two Zack Crockett touchdown runs.  Yes, it’s been awhile.

Other teams have been inept just as long as the Raiders have, but Oakland’s consistent losing has been remarkable.  The Lions won 7 games in 2007.  The Bills won 9 games in 2004.  The Browns won 10 games in 2007.  The 49ers have been just as pathetic, but even they made it to 7 wins in 2006 and again in 2008.  The Redskins made the playoffs two seperate times, and had another 8-8 season since the Raiders were last relevant.   The Bengals have won a division and the Cardinals have played in a super bowl since the Raiders were last relevant.

Point is, since the Raiders last made the postseason in 2002, no other NFL franchise has failed to win at least 7 games in a season.  The Raiders have twice made it to 5-11, a high water mark.  This Raiders team is the strongest they’ve had since Bill Callahan was the coach, Rich Gannon was the quarterback, Bruce Allen was executive of the year, and Al Davis still talked to people who had knowledge of league matters.

It does look like the Raiders will extend that streak of double digit losses for at least one more season.  However, unless the Raiders drop the final two games of the season to fall to 5-11, I really doubt that the story of the 2009 Raiders will have anything to do with that losing streak.  Here’s a team that endured perhaps the worst season by a quarterback in NFL history, and has managed to improve on offense from the prior season.   The defense has been very spotty, but in games where they’ve been in it, they’ve finished.  They haven’t just preyed on other awful teams, they’ve played one of the five toughest schedules in the NFL this year, and have defeated the Eagles, Bengals, Steelers, and Broncos, and don’t forget that they very nearly beat the Chargers in Week 1.  The Raiders are 3-2 since benching JaMarcus Russell, and one of those wins was punctuated by a signature drive lead by Russell.

Furthermore, the Raiders were not healthy entering this season.  They’ve had to win games with major injuries on the offensive line, without their best receiver for most of the year, their best offensive player (TE Zach Miller) missed the Denver win, and dynamic RB Darren McFadden, a potential match-up nightmare in the Reggie Bush mold, has missed most of the year as well.  Through it all, players that the Raiders have been waiting on have developed.  This hasn’t happened in many, many years for this organization.

With that said, the Raiders haven’t been very good this year on the whole, and they’ve been incredibly fortunate to win the games that they’ve been in this year.  An improving team does not get blown out by the Giants and Texans, shut out by the Jets, or outscored by 160 in their first 14 games.  None of that suggests that this team is really making strides for the future.  It suggests that a team is running in place, but finally collecting on some of that fortune that allows other bad teams to have those 7 win seasons without making real progress.

The Raiders must be mindful of this.  The progress they’ve made in the win column against strong teams is real progress, but the Raiders haven’t been and are not a markedly better team than in past seasons.  Rather, the players who are making plays to win games at the end: WRs Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy, Miller, and McFadden are the right guys.  The Raiders do not currently have their trigger man of the future on the roster, and as scrappy as the offensive line has been in clutch situations against top competition, it hasn’t been very good on the whole.  There are no fewer than four positions on the offense that need to be addressed in the draft, not to mention the additional contract issues with players such as Robert Gallery that must be taken care of.  On top of those issues with the offense, the Raiders defense hasn’t been a complete unit since 2006, and the team would still be best off if they were to receive compensation for Nnamdi Asomugha now, as opposed to having him walk after the 2011 season.

The Raiders have a chance to be a wild card competitor next season, but that can be a dangerous focus for the organization.  It’s not a team that’s one player away.  It’s about seven players away, and as good as Asomugha has been for the silver and black, he’s about as useful as Champ Bailey was to the 2003 Redskins.  The defense is still bad with him.

Against the Derek Anderson-led Browns, the Charlie Frye-directed Raiders can make a point.  A convincing win for the Raiders could put to rest the era of horrendous football and re-establish the Raiders as a properly run NFL franchise who doesn’t have super bowl talent, but can compete in a weak division.  Many years were shamelessly wasted in transition, but it’s comforting to know that the Raiders might reach respectability before the end of the day tomorrow.

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