In order to win in the NFL, you must be able to run the football and stop the run.
The Oakland Raiders have struggled with both of those tasks this season especially in losses. In three of Oakland’s five losses it gave up 100 yards to a running back, but in two of its three wins Darren McFadden broke the century mark. Looking at that stat more broadly, the Raiders are averaging nearly twice as many rushing yards in their wins than they are in their losses. It’s a mind-boggling statistic, but one that points to why Oakland sits at 3-5.
The inconsistency with the running game has been devastating for the offense, which then must rely on the arm of Carson Palmer. The quarterback may put up some spectacular yardage, but his decision making can be called into question with exhibit A being Sunday’s loss. When Oakland can get the running game going, it is able to use Palmer way more effectively than when McFadden and the rest of the running backs have nowhere to run.
On the defensive side of the ball, the consistency has been even worse with players like Doug Martin and Willis McGahee able to run for 100 yards against this defense, but players like Michael Turner can’t get over 40 yards. Granted some of this has to do with play calling, but Oakland smothered the running game against the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars and allowed teams like the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos run all over it.
In order for Oakland to stop the bleeding it must be more physical in the trenches. The last eight weeks will be about who wants to win more and that effort is shown in the play of both lines. Oakland’s well-known defensive line must start to play up to their potential, while a makeshift offensive line must unite and open the holes up for the running backs. It will be an uphill climb for both of these groups, but it is not impossible or Oakland would be winless this season.