Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our definitive guide to the upcoming NFL season. This team-by-team preview details why your favorite franchise might have to start looking forward to next year — and highlight at least one reason for you to be hopeful. Today: we take a look at the Oakland Raiders.
When you think about mediocre football teams of the last decade, you think of the Oakland Raiders. They haven’t had a winning record in the last ten seasons. They’ve finished no higher than third in the AFC West over that stretch. They’ve failed to win more than five games in eight of those years. In short, they suck.
That isn’t going to change this year. Let’s start by taking a look at the quarterback situation in Oakland. Entering training camp, the Raiders have four quarterbacks on the roster: Matt Flynn, Terrelle Pryor, and rookies Tyler Wilson and Matt McGloin.
Their four quarterbacks have collectively started three NFL games.
Carson Palmer led the Raiders to the eighth-best passing offense in the NFL last year, averaging 255.3 yards a game as he passed for 4,018 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions with a 61.1 completion percentage.
In other words, they had a really solid veteran quarterback as their starter and traded him to the Cardinals because they though Matt Flynn and his grand total of two NFL starts was a better option. Are you sure that Al Davis isn’t still calling the shots from his grave!?
It has been proven time and time again that when a backup quarterback racks up a couple of great starts and goes on to get a big contract from another team, he ends up sucking. The Chiefs tried it with Matt Cassel after he excelled when replacing Tom Brady for a year. The Cardinals tried it with Kevin Kolb after he had a few solid starts filling in for Donovan McNabb on the Eagles. Where are both of those guys now? Exactly.
When Matt Flynn ends up sucking, the wheels will fall off and the Raiders will be looking at another four-win season. But wait, there’s more.
Darren McFadden, the best player on the team and their most explosive offensive weapon, can’t figure out how to play entire seasons and he forgot how to play football last year.
In five years with the Raiders, Run DMC has played 11 games a season on average, never topping 13 games. His injury woes have been an issue every single year and the Raiders offense unsurprisingly struggles when he’s out.
But that isn’t the worst of it. The real problem with McFadden heading into the 2013 season is that he was horrendous last year. In 12 games, McFadden rushed for 707 yards on 216 attempts. That’s 3.3 yards per carry, the lowest average of his career and a two-yard drop from his numbers in 2010 and 2011. He scored just two touchdowns in 2012.
It is never a good sign when a player has such a big decline in their fifth year in the league. A sophomore slump is one thing, but it’s rare to see a player regress like that as a veteran and later bounce back. If Darren McFadden can’t get his shit together this year, the Raiders are going to be in very big trouble.
One reason you might not be screwed: The Raiders did make some very solid pickups this offseason and improved their defense immensely, adding cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins, safety Charles Woodson, and a slew of linebackers. That unit was one of the worst in the NFL last year, so an improvement on that end of the field could and should help this team quite a bit.
On offense, they are capable of big things if and only if Matt Flynn and Darren McFadden can produce. Run DMC is a less of a concern because he has already proven his worth. In that vein, the success of the Raiders offense will rely heavily on whether or not Flynn can show that he’s a legitimate NFL starting quarterback.
Actual season prediction: 7-9, third in the AFC West. The 2013 Raiders will have some bright spots and will upset one or two of the better teams that they play, but will fall short of making the playoffs and posting their first winning record in over a decade.
Photos via San Francisco Chronicle and Getty Images