This weekend the NFL kicks off its postseason with the four Wild Card games. Of the eight teams playing, four did not qualify for the playoffs last season. Those four teams must be the basis for how the Oakland Raiders become relevant again in this league.
Ironically, three of the four teams who did not qualify for the postseason last season but returned this year have rookie quarterbacks at the helm. That is not a plea for Oakland to go out and take a quarterback in April, but it proves just how much a rookie can accomplish in this league if the team puts them in the right situation to thrive. The Raiders did a poor job this season putting their rookies in positions to have success and as a result they did not have an impact on this season.
Another thing only three of the four teams share is a running back that can carry the team on his back if needed. Oakland has that sort of back in Darren McFadden, but it hasn’t allowed him to take over a game when the passing game has struggled. The Raiders have to get back to a more run-based offense because that is where their strength is at the moment. The receiving corps did not play well enough to merit Carson Palmer throwing the ball 40 times a game, so the Raiders have to use the running game to set up Palmer’s arm.
The final thing to make note of is two of the four defenses were actually worse in total defense than the Raiders were this season. A third was only two teams better, meaning you don’t need a shutdown defense to make the playoffs in the NFL. Oakland has to get its offense right and when that happens the defense will rise to the occasion and the Raiders may just sneak back into the playoffs for the first time since 2002.