The Oakland Raiders took a big step forward in 2015, winning seven games for the first time in four seasons behind the play of second-year quarterback Derek Carr and first-year head coach Jack Del Rio. As a result, this team has higher-than-normal expectations for the 2016 season - and they should. Here are three reasons why they'll make the playoffs:
3) Khalil Mack's defensive dominance
Mack became the first player to be named an All-Pro at two different positions (outside linebacker, defensive end) this past year, and he's now poised to end J.J. Watt's reign as the best defensive player in the league. He had 77 tackles with 15 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2015 - look for him to take another step forward and get near the 100-tackle, 20-sack plateaus.
2) Derek Carr's rise to an elite QB
Carr built on an outstanding rookie season with a Pro Bowl year in 2015, passing for nearly 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns. He showed a firm grasp of head coach Jack Del Rio's system, and the combination of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree give him the ability to take chances - chances that are often rewarded with big plays. As that duo (specifically Cooper) continue to grow, so will Carr.
Would you be willing to be against Carr approaching 4,500 passing yards and 40 touchdowns next season? His unreal arm strength, accuracy and growing understanding of NFL defenses are set to make him a superstar.
1) Overall growth of young team
The Raiders are built on stars in their early 20's, and they battled through inconsistency and growing pains at times last season. That was to be expected, but 2017 is the year that the Raiders take the next step. With Carr taking his next step, his weapons in Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray will only improve next season.
Plus, they added several high-profile, veteran free agents to help make sure this team grows. Bruce Irving has Super Bowl experience, and both Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson come from playoff teams.Back to the Las Vegas Raiders Newsfeed