The Oakland Raiders have vaulted up the charts in many "power rankings" conversations since their Week 8 win over the New York Jets. The past couple of weeks have seen the Raiders go from "moral victory," "almost," "a couple of breaks," to dominating wins over the San Diego Chargers and the aforementioned Jets.
"It's well-deserved national attention. They're not just winning games, they're implementing their game plan and winning the way they're designing to win, there's not luck at all involved." Benoit said. "There's a clear plan of action in Oakland and it's translating to victories now."
"Carr has the foundation to become a very good pro quarterback, perhaps even a great one. But explosive as the combo might be, there's a third and vastly overlooked element to Oakland's offensive success: the depth and versatility of its ancillary personnel."
The combo he is referring to is Derek Carr/Amari Cooper, but Benoit is quick to point out all of the weapons at Carr's disposal and how many different ways the Raiders offense can attack a defense.
"The director of this unit, Bill Musgrave, is coordinating his fifth offense in 18 years. Also a longtime quarterbacks coach, Musgrave has been exposed to a litany of players and systems in his career. In building his system, he's devoid of ego and caters to the strengths of his personnel. With a quarterback he fully trusts and a variety of usable chess pieces, he has turned the Raiders into the NFL's most diverse offense. Most diverse does not mean best, though the Raiders are steadily trending up that chart. Their 25.4 points per game and 365.3 yards per outing rank eighth and ninth, respectively."
In writing the story for MMQB, Benoit felt that the Raider Nation needed the current state of the Raiders needed to be told accurately.
"I got to choose my assignment this week. I watched every game on film last season. Even when they were 0-10 I never felt like I was watching a bad football team," Benoit said. "I have been fond of this group of players over the last few years, I think it's great things are coming together under the new regime because they do have the right foundation of guys. It's one thing to have the right foundation of guys, it's another to put those puzzle pieces together correctly, which I think is what we're seeing now. Those fans I thought deserved to have their team spotlighted correctly like that."
The Raiders head to Pittsburgh this week to face the Steelers at Heinz Field in a game with many storylines.
"Obviously there is a Wild Card implication, people can look at that and do the math, that will be the story of the game, there's still half a schedule to go," Benoit said. "I will be real interested to see how Oakland defends Pittsburgh's offense this week. I think we're going to see more spread formations from Pittsburgh. If you spread out a zone defense like the Raiders tend to run, a lot of times you can out-leverage zone defenders just by the geometry of the field. We'll learn about [Head Coach Jack] Del Rio's belief in what he's got in this defense by the way they choose to play. If they man up against the Steelers, which I think is the way to go, that'll tell you a lot how what they feel about their secondary."
Benoit visited Oakland Raiders Training Camp 2015 in Napa this summer and he says he felt the foundation was in place.
"I watched the action very closely. I watched last year's games. I thought the pieces were in place, the foundation was there especially given the pass rushers that were on the edges," Benoit said. "Those pass rushers have not been quite as productive as I would've guessed. They had the right type of personnel to run what they wanted to run on defense and an offense."