Based on NFL power rankings published by Rant Sports, many Oakland Raiders fans have reason to cringe when thinking of next year. However, the inertia and weight of being a cellar dweller does not have to last forever. In fact, the NFL is known for parity and some analysts actually expect the Raiders to bounce back in 2014. Here are some reasons why.
There are several mechanisms in place to help the NFL achieve parity. One of the tools is a scheduling system whereby weak teams generally play other weak teams. Similarly, strong teams generally play other strong teams. This is based on the previous season’s divisional standings. Although the official 2014 NFL schedule won’t be out until April, the NFL has already published a list of the Raiders’ opponents for 2014.
Due to the Raiders’ lackluster 2013, the 2014 schedule includes teams like the Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams. In particular, the Texans, Bills and Browns were all last-place teams like the Raiders in 2013. However, the Raiders’ schedule is no cakewalk. In addition to their own very tough AFC West divisional rivals, the Raiders also get to play the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers.
The upcoming 2014 NFL Draft has been touted as one of the deepest in recent history by NFL scouts. With the No. 5 overall pick, the Raiders look to shore up several weaknesses. In addition to the draft, the Raiders now have a good salary cap situation. Several analysts have stated that the Raiders currently have the most salary “cap room” of any team in the NFL.
Finally, the Raiders are not quite as bad as their 2013 record (4-12) suggests. One of the statistics published by Sports-Reference computes the expected number of wins for each team based on a Pythagorean-type of approach. According to that stat, the Raiders were slightly unlucky during the 2013 season because they played well enough to normally win five games. We will take a look at recent NFL history in part two of this article to study the chances of the Raiders bouncing back to a competitive level.