By Merlin Edwards III | @YosoyMEII
For years and years it seemed as if everything in the cosmos was working against the Oakland Raiders. It was the other teams and their owners hate of the Al Davis brand. It was the busts of draft picks and overpaying of aging free agents. Hell, it was even the referees who seemed to have a vendetta against the Silver & Black. Oakland hasn't reached the football mountain top since the 80's and the fan base has coped with it in different ways. A lot of fans using "the universe hates the Raiders," as a main argument. Well, that argument is no longer applicable.
For Raiders fans young and old, starting off 7-2 by beating the Denver Broncos at home on primetime Sunday Night Football feels magical. It felt like flying out of the stadium on a Silver & Black magic carpet in a whole new world. A world where Raiders fans can be confident that they will win big games. A world where Oakland has a franchise quarterback that can win games throwing for 500 or 200 yards. A world where the defensive line looks menacing and the offensive unit can slow down a top 5 defense with a Defensive Player of the Year. With the way this team has been playing, this is a world that the Raiders can live, thrive, and dominate in, for years to come.
In order to dominate the NFL, the Raiders will need to play like they did on Sunday against every other team they play. If the Raiders can execute a game plan and attack a defenses weaknesses like they did to Denver, they will be able to out coach and outplay everybody in the league not named Bill Belichick or Tom Brady. The coaching staff went into this matchup knowing they could have an advantage in the trenches and made a point to punch them in the mouth by running the ball early and often. It was no accident that Latavious Murray had his first 100+ yard rushing game of the year. Jalen Richard and Deandre Washington added a little extra burst and change of pace needed as well. Being able to run the ball so well against a defense that talented crippled Denver. They were no longer able to take advantage of their top tier defense against the pass because Derek Carr barely had to throw the ball! On top of that, the Offensive line was able to hold back the vaunted Broncos defensive line. Carr was only hit twice the whole game with one sack and one pressure. That's it. Von Miller was able to record that only sack and was quiet the rest of the day. Part of the reason Bill Musgrave (Raiders Offensive Coordinator) and the Raiders were so successful was because of the scheme that they were running as well as the quality of play. There were 6 offensive lineman on the field for more than 50% of the snaps and that is not seen much in today's NFL. Even though the Raiders consider themselves a throwing team, Musgrave was able to exploit a major weakness in Denver's defense and run all the way to a victory. Musgrave, however, wasn't the only coach who had a good day at the office.
Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr. had his group humming on Sunday and it showed with a third consecutive week holding an opposing offense to under 300 yards. Kahlil Mack continued his resurgence as one of the leagues best pass rushers and he has brought this D-line up to a top sack-attack level. They have been hurrying, pressuring, hitting, and sacking the QB at a higher rate than we have all year. Part of that is because Mack has 5 sacks in his last 3 games, but the rest of the line is falling into place behind him. It is also helping the secondary out because, even without Sean Smith the past two weeks, they have been able to keep other offenses passing games in check. This is starting to look like a defense that is coming together and who knows what can happen after the bye week and when the team gets Aldon Smith and Mario Edwards Jr. back. Everything seems to be coming together for this team and they have a chance to really make a long suffering fan base proud.
The key to this bye week is just to get healthy and study up. The players should get a chance to look around the league and see their opponents live and enjoy some football before ramping it back up to play the Texans on Monday night. As long as everyone stays safe and healthy, this team is poised to make a playoff run. The sky is the limit and for the first time in a long time, rather than the world being against the Raiders it feels instead like it's their world to take.