Baby steps. Success isn’t always linear or immediately guaranteed just because a team has a handful of Pro Bowl and All-Pro level players.
No team has displayed how true that is more than the 2022 Las Vegas Raiders. They have a quality quarterback, arguably the best wide receiver in the game, an edge rush who most teams would kill for and a running back capable of being a bell cow back. They sit at 2-4 because the NFL can be weird like that.
However, the Raiders' 38-20 win over the Houston Texans in Week 7 showed what the ceiling for this team can be, and what fans should be expecting as Las Vegas faces clubs that are in the process of rebuilding their rosters, and the schedule next month is littered with such teams.
The Raiders themselves weren't supposed to be rebuilding or starting slow. Head coach Josh McDaniels was brought in to get them to win right away. Davante Adams was brought in to be a dynamo for the Raiders' offense. It took time, but they finally put together a game that their fans have been waiting for.
Derek Carr averaged almost 9 yards an attempt, Adams had 95 yards on eight catches while Josh Jacobs dominated on the ground with 164 yards and three touchdowns on just 20 carries. Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby applied pressure throughout the afternoon and they ended up bludgeoning the Texans. That’s what the vision for this team was — elite talent carrying Las Vegas to a playoff berth.
Even though the Raiders have a losing record, they haven’t performed like a typical 2-4 team. They’re one of two teams in the AFC West with a positive point differential, the Kansas City Chiefs being the other. Their four losses this season have come by a combined 14 points and they had a multi-touchdown lead on the Chiefs a few weeks ago before suffering a one-point loss on Monday Night Football. They also had a bad overtime loss against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2 where they led from about 5 minutes into the first quarter until the final play of regulation.
The next order of business for the Raiders will be figuring out how to close out games. This team has enough talent and quality players on it to beat teams like the Cardinals. That can be difficult in a league with as much talent and depth as the NFL, but the unfortunate part of where the Raiders currently sit in the standings means they have to figure this out in a hurry.
Point differential and more advanced measurements of team quality suggest the Raiders are better than their 2-4 record. Then there’s the harsh reality of how the NFL measures who gets into the playoffs: actual record. As the season approaches the halfway point, the Raiders are sitting as a team with a top-10 pick in the 2023 NFL draft. They’re two games behind the Los Angeles Chargers, who just get blown out by the Seattle Seahawks at home, but that’s a team that has its own litter of star talent to recover from some bad early season losses.
Chasing Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert is the exact scenario that the Raiders wanted to avoid, but Sunday’s win gave them some renewed life in their season. The Raiders have a chance to rack up some wins over the next month of football with games against the New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos coming up, which they’ll need to win in order to make the playoffs in a competitive AFC. They’ve dug themselves into a hole, but the win over the Texans shows that they at least have the talent to make it up.