– Jim Bearor
Originally, I had planned on writing an article almost entirely about David Carr’s statistical growth spurt. Then, like an asshole, I didn’t write for a while, and everyone else on the internet wrote that article. Then the Raiders took control of first place in the AFC West with Sunday night’s thorough handling of Denver, and now we’ve officially entered the week of singing their praises and talking about playoff hopes.
I’d still like to give my two cents and say I think they’re going to be a dangerous team in the playoffs, and more importantly to me, they’re a joy to watch. I’m rooting for them. I’m pulling for my Giants and the Bills first, but the Raiders are third for me this season. There are a lot of factors that go into it, but to oversimplify things: Oakland is potent, volatile, dynamic and young. They were preseason darlings, now they’re road warriors and division leaders. Will it last? I don’t know, but I’m definitely tuning in next week to find out. They’re one of the best shows on television right now.
They’ve played more “this is a big game for them” games than any other NFL team, and Sunday’s beating of the Broncos is now at the top of that list. They are now most of the way through the season, and while their remaining schedule isn’t a cake walk, they’re pretty much through the woods. But as we saw from the Eagles and Vikings, the story in the NFL can change in a hurry. Not many people would be remotely surprised if the Raiders fizzled out down the stretch, but I’d be shocked. I expect them to have their struggles, but I don’t see a roster this talented (a roster that is actualizing much of that talent) losing more than three or four of their last seven games. They’ve got great odds to make the postseason, and the buzz that has surrounded this team since the preseason is evolving into full blown hype.
I’m all about it. Hype is just a louder, more in-your-face version of hope. Innocent stuff. It happened at some point for the Chicago Cubs last season. The Prescott-Elliot hype train recently left the station, and now it’s Oakland’s turn. Philly’s hype train – or “The Wentz Wagon” if you prefer – had a week like this after they beat the Bears on Monday Night Football. The Vikings beat the Giants (also on Monday Night Football), and the following week in sports media saw them get their turn in the sun.
I wonder if the Raiders will ever really have their time in the spotlight, or if the country-wide frenzy over the election will block their shine. They’re going into their bye week as well, which usually isn’t great for hype. The best thing for hype would be to follow up a big win like this with another win. They’ll have to wait until November 21st to follow up, and staying in the national conversation until then without playing football is nigh impossible. Throw in judgement day for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and any thoughts of the Raiders’ big win in week 9 get pushed to the back of America’s mind.
On a similar note, this latest triumph makes us forget about what came before it. Winning seven of their first nine games opened the door for Sunday night’s opportunity to make a statement, which they did. The statement was so significant that it’s hard to look past. A month from now, we most likely won’t look back at Oakland’s wins over Tampa Bay or New Orleans. Those games were important for putting them in position to take over the division in Week 9, but that’s about it.
For now, we don’t have a president-elect yet, and the memory of the Raiders latest conquest is still fresh in our minds. The win was a great one; a message was definitely sent. Latavius Murray and Jalen Richard ran amok (28 rushes for 176 yards between them), Oakland dominated time of possession (41 minutes to 19), and there was never a need for Carr, Cooper, and Crabtree to take over. If there was no election this week, the sky would have been the limit for Raiders hype.
The hype train of the Oakland Raiders may end up falling victim to circumstance, and I just wanted to make sure I did my part to campaign for them. Yes, I know “BlackJack” Del Rio doesn’t give a shit about increased media attention and raised expectations, his main goal is to make sure the team makes progress every day yada yada yada. I don’t coach a professional football team, so this is the stuff I concern myself with. It would be a terrible injustice if this really is the peak for them, the season ends on a down note, and they never end up having their moment because their biggest win came right before America had to pick a president, and all the positive Raiders stories drowned in the ensuing social media deluge.
So here I am, doing my part to maintain the hoopla as well as I can. This is a team to be excited about. Their defense is a little poopy, but they have Khalil Mack. They’ve got an elite offense featuring one of the best offensive lines in football, a young quarterback with a laser-rocket arm, and two star wide receivers. They’re undefeated on the road. They’re going for the throat on fourth downs. They could be moving to Las Vegas. Their coach has a nickname. There’s so much going on here and I hope the general football public is as excited as I am about watching every one of their remaining games.
– Jim Bearor (@JimBearor)