Team: Oakland Raiders
"Pride and Poise", "Commitment to Excellence", "Just Win, Baby"
Jack Del Rio is entering his first year as head coach in Oakland. The former pro-linebacker turned coach was hired by Oakland in January 2015. After eight years as Jacksonville’s head coach (2003-2011) he spent the last two years as Denver’s defensive coordinator (2012-2014).
Recapping Last Season:
It was ugly. Very ugly. Firing your head coach four games in ugly. It’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re already playing catch up and restocking top level management before your bye-week. It’s a rare thing in the parity boasting NFL to be all but out of the race before the season’s midpoint. It’s a grim reality when you start your season 0-10 and extend a losing streak to 0-16 that began in the 2013 season.
It’s a far tumble down the rabbit-hole, but once you’ve hit the bottom there’s nowhere to go but up… right?
There were bright spots including the emergence of Derek Carr, who very well may prove to be a force in the coming years. Last season, despite the teams record, he posted respectable numbers including a 21-12 TD to INT rate, 3,270 yards in the air (which was an Oakland Raiders record for a rookie), and a solid 76.6 QB rating. They also saw life from another draft pick in Khalil Mack who as a rookie, posted solid numbers as a linebacker and should be a future cornerstone for a rebuilding Raiders’ defense.
History with Cincinnati:
You may recall, the last time the two teams met in 2012, Cincinnati thoroughly trounced Oakland in a rowdy blowout 34-10 victory at Paul Brown Stadium. It was also Carson Palmer’s return to Cincinnati after being traded to Oakland for what turned out to be a pretty good haul. But, that last win was in the friendly confines of the Jungle. When faced with deep space travel to the Black Hole, the story is a bit different.
The Raiders are 10-0 against the Bengals in Oakland. Yes. You read that right. 10 wins to the Bengals’ goose egg. The last time the two teams met in Oakland was in 2009 during an emotional point for Raiders’ Nation, who dedicated the game to Marquis Cooper, the special teams threat who died in a boating accident earlier in the year. Carson Palmer was sloppy and out of sync and after Bruce Gradkowski tossed a 29-yard game tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter, the Bengals coughed up the ball on the ensuing kickoff with 33 seconds left in the game. The Raiders kicked a 33 yard field goal and that was that.
Overall the series is led by Oakland 20-9, and that includes two playoff losses in 1975 and 1990.
2015 Season Outlook:
Fourth overall pick Amari Cooper and veteran Michael Crabtree should be solid offensive weapons for Carr who struggled to find reliable targets in 2014. The running game faces a bit of a transition as Latavius Murray will now take the bulk of the handoffs since Darren McFadden left and Maurice Jones-Drew retired. The line will need to generate better holes in order to get yards on the ground, a job they’re focused on this season.
The defense is a bit of a mess, to say the least. They gave up 28.2 points per game (more than any team in the NFL in 2014) and ranked 21st in the NFL overall. But the emergence of Khalil Mack as an effective run-stopper and developing pass-rusher is a good start to a rebuild. Changes for the Raiders at Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, and Defensive Coordinator this season will sport growing pains but back-to-back solid drafts could be enough of a reason to think they’re at the very least growing in the right way.
Even though they missed out on the Harbaugh sweepstakes they did manage to land a veteran coach in Del Rio. They have a second year quarterback in Carr who they have high hopes for and as mentioned before, there is nowhere to go but up, albeit, a long way up. This year may only be called a success if Oakland manages to develop their highly drafted rookies and not trip over their shoelaces from week-to-week.
Cincinnati Game Date:
Week 1: Sunday, September 13, 4:25pm EST
Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA
This isn’t a trap game for Cincinnati, but it’s not a walk in the park either. As history tells us, there is no such thing as an easy matchup when traveling to the Oakland Coliseum. The curse of the west coast swing is more tangible when talking about teams from Cincinnati and in the first game of the season nothing is guaranteed because neither team knows what exactly is going to come out of the tunnels.
That being said, this is a team the Bengals should beat. There aren’t many easy chances for a ‘W’ in 2015 and this is the closest thing the Bengals will have to it. A revamped defense (despite possibly missing Michael Johnson) needs to come out rocking Oakland’s second year quarterback and a loaded offense needs to school a weak defense. Coming out strong early should be enough to keep the Oakland Privateers in Wonderland before they have a chance to dig a heel in the side of the rabbit-hole.