The Oakland Raiders kick off the 2016 preseason Friday night at University of Phoenix Stadium when they take on Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals in their first of four preseason matchups.
The start of the preseason means that football is finally right around the corner, and with its return, that also means that NFL Power Rankings are returning too.
Now, in the grand scheme of things, power rankings don't mean a lot, particularly at this time of the year, but they are fun to look at and see where the national media thinks the Silver and Black rank compared to the rest of the teams in the NFL.
With a young nucleus comprised of quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and defensive end Khalil Mack, the Raiders have been anointed a team on the rise, and for good reason too. Combined with the improvement the team showed in their first season under Head Coach Jack Del Rio, the Silver and Black are now a team with expectations in 2016.
With the preseason now nearly upon us, let's see what the national media is saying about the Silver and Black. Here is our preseason Power Rankings list, brought to you by NFL Extra Points.
Preseason Ranking: No. 10
Analysis:Still like the Raiders to hit the postseason for the first time since January 2003. Worth noting: While Amari Cooper continues to receive a large helping of love, few notice that -- statistically speaking -- Michael Crabtree was actually the slightly better receiver last year. The latter seems to get lost in the Derek Carr/Khalil Mack/Cooper youth movement in Oakland. Random aside: I spoke with Mark Davis over the weekend. Think if more people saw how much he cares about the organization -- and its legacy -- they would have a much more complete view of the Raiders owner.
Preseason Ranking: No.10
Analysis: Last season, the Raiders saw their young offense turn the corner with Derek Carr, Latavius Murray and Amari Cooper. Now it's the defense's turn with Khalil Mack getting a bunch of reinforcements in the back seven. Oakland is headed toward ending its playoff drought.
Preseason Ranking: No. 11
Analysis: **The buzz surrounding this Oakland team has been unceasing, which is noteworthy in itself given it's been 14 years since the Raiders finished above .500. Are we all jumping the gun? Yes, this roster is stockpiled with talent, but much of it is young—even younger with future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson walking away. Jack Del Rio's team plays three of its first four away from home, so the legitimacy of Oakland as a playoff contender will be revealed early.
Preseason Ranking: No. 13
Analysis: Rejoice, Raider Nation. Your years of suffering appear to be over. Oakland's offense is talented all across the board. Derek Carr is improving rapidly, and he has a target with elite potential in Amari Cooper. Latavius Murray is better than a lot of people think, and their offensive line is incredible. If not for Dallas, it would likely be the best in the NFL.
While the defense wasn't that good last year, the Raiders made some significant improvements over the offseason. Having Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin both rushing the passer will make their sack totals rise. They boosted their d-line with draft picks Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun. The defensive backs will also be a lot better in thanks to additions Sean Smith, Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson. Although they're in a tough division, the Raiders could possibly make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.