If the Raiders are going to end the season on a high note, their opportunities to make a statement are quickly running out.
After dropping two consecutive winnable games, the Oakland Raiders find themselves stuck at four wins – the same as their 2012 total. With four games remaining, this young Raiders team will be desperately seeking a positive finish to the season – one that displays how far they’ve come. Particularly for Dennis Allen, the final stretch of the season is crucial. If the Raiders don’t look competitive over the next few weeks, Allen will be giving Mark Davis every reason to wonder whether his Raiders are on the right track or not. And after Sunday’s game against the Jets it won’t get any easier.
The Jets present by far the most beneficial matchup for the Raiders out of their remaining games. Geno Smith has turned the ball over a league-leading 23 times, and the Jets offense has looked anemic. The Raiders secondary is lacking depth, especially with Usama Young now on IR, but Smith has only thrown one touchdown pass in the last seven games.
On the other hand, the Jets have a talented defensive line featuring Mohammed Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, and outstanding rookie Sheldon Richardson. The Raiders will be without Mike Brisiel, which thrusts struggling, recently-benched guard Lucas Nix back into the starting lineup on the right side. Moreover, the Raiders could be without leading rusher Rashad Jennings, who has helped jumpstart the offense. Lack of a run game coupled with quarterback pressure could quickly ruin any plans the Raiders have to leave the Meadowlands with a victory.
After the Jets, the Raiders face three consecutive divisional games. The Raiders were almost competitive when they visited Kansas City earlier this season, but an offensive meltdown against the then-undefeated Chiefs led to an ugly loss. This time the Chiefs might be without one or both of their starting outside linebackers, but their offense has improved since the last time the Raiders faced them. The Raiders were lucky to escape their Week 5 game against the Chargers with a win. San Diego has been typically inconsistent all season, but Philip Rivers is capable of making Oakland’s secondary look bad. And finally, Denver has both Peyton Manning and Von Miller and the Raiders aren’t nearly talented enough to hang with an elite team yet.
That lack of talent may be the reason Dennis Allen will be around next year, even with another losing season on his resume. Few could have expected Allen to do too much with the pieces he was given. But if he can’t help the Raiders to an even slightly better record than they had last season, how could anyone blame Mark Davis for considering his alternatives? Of course, consistency is the best thing for a young football team, and starting over with a new coaching staff may not even be an instant fix. But Allen’s team needs to do something to help his cause. Obviously, the Raiders won’t win out. But even if they look competitive in losses against better teams, it could go a long way. Still, at least one win would be huge for Dennis Allen. If the Raiders don’t beat the Jets this weekend, it’ll be an uphill climb over their final three games.