After two games this season, the Jacksonville Jaguars have scored a grand total of just 11 points, are 0-2 and look like the early favorite to earn the No. 1 pick in next April’s NFL draft.
And the two teams that have stepped all over them have been the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders, whose combined record in 2012 was 6-26.
So, the Raiders’ victory over the visiting Jaguars Sunday at O.co Coliseum by a 19-9 score – with Sebastian Janikowski kicking four fields goals -- isn’t going to suddenly make the Raiders media darlings or favorites next Monday night against the Denver Broncos.
As one cynic wrote on Twitter: “Dear Raiders commentator, your team just beat the Jaguars, who had to use their backup quarterback and running back. Calm down.”
But, this was a game the Raiders needed to win, and they did just that. Baby steps.
After going 4-12 last season, Oakland is off to a 1-1 start.
“(A win) is the only acceptable outcome in any game that we play,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen had told the media this week. “So it doesn’t make any difference who the opponent is – that’s what we’re brought in here to do is go out and win.”
In defeating the Jaguars Sunday, the Raiders showed that running back Darren McFadden can again be a difference-maker, that quarterback Terrelle Pryor – though still rough around the edges – is a playmaker and that defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has figured out how to get his defenders to the quarterback.
McFadden rushed 19 times for 129 yards and also caught four passes for 28 yards. Over his NFL career, the Raiders are now 11-2 whenever he rushes for 100 or more yards. Though he fumbled the ball away late in the game to set up the Jags’ first touchdown of 2013, McFadden showed the burst, speed and moves he regularly flashed in 2010 and the first half of the 2011 season, when he was among the NFL’s best. He had runs of 30, 26 and 28 yards.
Last season, he rushed for 100-plus yards three times, but was also stuck in neutral for much of the season, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. Through two games, McFadden is averaging 4.91 yards per carry in 2013.
Pryor, meanwhile, built on what he did in the opener against Indianapolis by completing 15-of-24 throws for 126 yards without an interception in notching his first victory as an NFL quarterback. He also rushed nine times for 50 yards, including a 27-yarder, and kept plays alive with his feet, buying time to hit receivers or pick up yards on the ground.
On defense, meanwhile, the Raiders sacked quarterback Chad Henne five times, giving the Raiders nine over two games. In 16 games last year, Oakland had just 25 sacks.
So, Oakland has its running back on track, a quarterback who can make plays and a defense that’s shown some improvement from last season, all good signs.
But now comes Oakland’s biggest test so far, a Monday night game in Denver against the Broncos on national TV on Sept. 23.
Denver, 2-0, will be coming off a lopsided win in the “Manning Bowl” and two straight games scoring 40 or more points against defensive-minded Baltimore and the New York Giants.
One Raiders fan after Sunday’s game suggested on Twitter that it’s time now for the Raiders “to shock the world.” A more likely hope at this point might be just to keep the score close.