By Justin Kim
If there are still doubters of this young Raiders team as a legitimate franchise in the NFL, it seems that this group might now be in the minority for the first time in more than a decade. The Raiders are truly on the rise.
In a crucial week six match-up with playoff implications, and against an elite quarterback in Philip Rivers, the Raiders won decisively.
It is not every time that the score is not truly indicative of the closeness of the game when it comes to the Raiders. It was not only an impressive win, but also relieving to eventually witness this team finish off a game without blowing the lead in usual “Raiders” fashion. As usual, Rivers staged a late game comeback that gave some scare to Raiders fans, and some late penalties by the team did allow the Chargers to make it a game late in the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, in judging from the overall performance, the Raiders proved to the entire nation that their playoff aspirations are legitimate.Embed from Getty Images
However, it would not do it justice to note that the Chargers were without many notable players in this game. The list includes the captain and quarterback of the Chargers defense, Eric Weddle, and second year middle line backer Manti Te’o. Further, first round draft pick, Melvin Gordon, did not play the entire game.
Nonetheless, credit must be given when credit is due. Derek Carr threw for three touchdowns, two of which were to his dual threat wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. It now appears that Cooper has emerged into what the Raiders had envisioned all along for its first round draft pick. The rookie wide receiver is the first rookie since Mike Ditka in 1961 to have three 100-yard reception games in his first six games.. Also, the offensive line has developed a formidable rushing attack, as Latavius Murray now has 421 rushing yards for the season.Embed from Getty Images
At 3-3, the Raiders are now definitively the second best in the AFC West, and arguably, with the exit of Peyton Manning next season, looking to be the best team in the division. It now seems as if the Raiders are not only a playoff team this season, but for many more years to come.
As Derek Carr is developing into one of the most highly efficient quarterbacks in the league, it is important to note that the Raiders’ success is not by accident. While it has been many years since anyone could state this fact with confidence, the franchise’s front office deserves much praise for this team’s success. Mark Davis, son and successor of the great Al Davis, has taken high risk-high reward actions, much like his father during the rise of the Raiders in the 80s and 90s. Davis has signed an often-troubled, but all-pro linebacker in Aldon Smith, and an aging veteran and whom many considered at the end of his playing career, Justin Tuck. In addition, the franchise signed Super Bowl champion Malcolm Smith, to add to their star draft picks in D.J. Hayden and Khalil Mack. Most notably, the duo of Crabtree and Cooper is arguably one of the most potent offensive wide receiver combinations in the entire NFL.
While it is needless to debate the potential talent of this young Raiders team, it must be emphasized that this team has all the tools on both sides of the field to win now. A decisive win against Rivers, albeit an injured Chargers team, not only validated the Raiders as a legitimate playoff team this season, but as a franchise with serious championship aspirations in the foreseeable future.Embed from Getty Images
Although it may take more time for some others to join the bandwagon in anticipation of the long-awaited revival of the franchise, and while the team was ranked 23 via ESPN power rankings, the entire Raiders organization has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by focusing on one thing only: “Just win baby!”