The Oakland Raiders head into their bye week with a record 7-2 for the first time since 2001 when the team started the campaign 8-2. With a little more than half of the season in the books, the Silver and Black have proved they are the real deal in a variety of areas. The offense has been firing on all cylinders since Week 1, and the defense has made some strides in the last few weeks.
As the team prepares to head into the bye week, let's take a look at what we've learned from the Raiders so far this season.
**Derek Carr has emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate.
Through the first nine games of the third-year quarterback's 2016 campaign, Carr has solidified himself as a legitimate MVP candidate. The Raiders gunslinger has been a reliable and dominant player this season, showing a developed sense of poise in the pocket and clutch playmaking ability. You can make the case that Carr has had several notable performances this season, but one that stands out in particular is his record-breaking game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He set a new franchise record for most passing yards in a game with 513, also adding four passing touchdowns. His 2,505 passing yards this season rank fifth in the league, while his 17 passing touchdowns have him tied for fifth among the likes of Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger.
The offensive line has been the backbone of the Raiders success.
Sunday night against the Denver Broncos, the Raiders offensive line showed that when they're executing, their size and strength upfront are too much to handle, even for the reigning Super Bowl champs. The performance from the o-line this season has played a large role in the team's success and has helped it become the fifth-best offense in the league. Keeping Carr protected has been a priority for the group, and the group has only allowed 11 sacks, which is tied for the first in the NFL. The Raiders offensive line has debatably been the team's most dominant bunch across the board and have managed to be productive despite facing a plethora of injuries.
The ground-game has been one of the best in the league.
Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio has emphasized that if the team can successfully run the ball, it opens up opportunities for the aerial attack. The Silver and Black have been efficient this year in both facets of the offense, ranking in the top five for both passing and rushing. The Raiders currently average 127.8 rushing yards per game, the fourth-best in the league, and were able to torch a stout Broncos defense for 218 rushing yards during their 2016 primetime debut Sunday evening. The three-headed monster of Latavius Murray, DeAndré Washington, and Jalen Richard gives the Raiders a diverse group of size, speed, and strength that should continue to help the team succeed.
Khalil Mack continues to show why he's one of the best defensive players in the league.
No. 52 was out in full force Sunday night, as the third-year defensive end picked up where he left off against the Broncos a season ago. In 2015, Mack devoured the Broncos offensive line, and sacked quarterback Brock Osweiler five times. Sunday he was back at it again, as he pressured quarterback Trevor Siemian on several occasions, as he forced two sacks, a forced fumble, and recovered the fumble. Through the first three games of the season, Mack's sack numbers weren't there, but he was still productive against the run, and pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Following those three games, he has sacked the quarterback seven times in a six-game span. After getting off to a slow start in the sack category, Mack is a force to be reckoned with and is helping the defense improve week-by-week.
The team deserves to be taken seriously.
The Oakland Raiders are battle-tested, resilient, hungry, determined – you name it. Del Rio has emphasized that last season the team was learning how to compete, but this year it's learning how to win. He has preached the "return to greatness" and the team has accomplished an impressive feat of going 5-0 on the road. The Silver and Black have proved that they are legitimate playoff contenders, and are capable of grinding out tough wins on the road. This team has battled through adversity, stayed productive in the wake of injuries, and still fought week-in and week-out.