This season for the Raiders will feature high expectations. With twelve wins last year were the most they’ve had since the 2000 season. They return seven Pro Bowlers from last year. Also, they added some key players via free agency this off season. Most notably, Marshawn Lynch, who will try and replace Latavius Murray as the power back in the offense. Additionally, Lynch cements his status as the official hero of the East Bay. Furthermore, most analysts and football minds peg this year’s group as the team that can win the AFC West and unseat the New England Patriots. Existing as favorites is uncharted territory for this team. But, here are three reasons they can overcome the pressure of being a top dog in the conference.
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Keeping Carr Healthy
The season hinges on the health of Derek Carr. Yet, early reports seem positive, with Carr moving well after surgery. If Number 4 stays healthy and plays at or better than last year, there is no reason to say that won’t be the case this go around.
Possible Defensive Improvement
Look at the top teams in the league. Franchises like the Patriots, Chiefs, and Seahawks, and you see teams that are able to play defense. The Raiders should have no problem this season putting up points with the offense they have. At the same time, where they make the jump to elite status is their ability to improve on defense. Oakland added talent through the draft to beef up the secondary and defensive line, but they will need guys like David Amerson, Sean Smith, Mario Edwards Jr. and Cory James to step up big to make this unit productive. If they improve this year, it will do wonders for this team long term.
Offensive Line Dominance
This unit endured injuries towards the end of last season. So having Hudson, Penn, Osemele, and Jackson at full strength will be key to keeping Carr healthy but also the focal point to a strong running game with Lynch, Washington, Richard, and Elijah Hood. Another year under their belts together will only add to the production of last year.
In reality, the Raiders sit poised to conquer the league. Yet, fans and players alike must exercise caution. With expectation comes complacency. As a result, the Raiders need to find that drive and motivation every game in 2017.