Once, when the Raiders were being mentioned before the season as a possible candidate for the No. 1 overall draft choice next April (read: worst team in the NFL), the 2013 schedule looked daunting.
But six games into the season and with the Raiders coming off their bye week at 2-4, the teams facing Oakland over the remaining 10 games don’t appear so menacing.
Now that the Raiders have an effective quarterback in Terrelle Pryor, a decent defense and some strength on special teams – plus victories over the Chargers and Jaguars and a near victory over the Colts – it wouldn’t be shocking anymore if the Raiders won several games in their next 2½ months, beginning with the Steelers this Sunday at O.co Coliseum.
Pittsburgh also is 2-4 and is coming into Oakland as a 2½- to 3-point favorite. The Steelers – who have won two straight after starting 0-4 -- no longer are a juggernaut offensively, ranked just 27th in the NFL in scoring at 17.8 points per game (just ahead of the Raiders’ 17.5 average), and also have had trouble running the ball, at just 74.3 yards per game (also 27th in the league).
Though the Raiders haven’t won a game coming out of their bye week in more than 10 years, it no longer seems a stretch that they might knock off Pittsburgh after a week for the walking wounded on the offensive line to heal and the team to regroup.
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen last week said he and his coaching staff were going to use the extra time during the bye week to do a lot of self-scouting and analysis and get prepared for the final 10-game stretch.
“Getting the rest, obviously, will be critical,” Allen told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group. “We’ve got to do a great job, as coaches, having a great plan for our players and put them in position to have success.”
Last season, the Raiders came off their bye week and traveled to Atlanta, where they nearly upset the then-undefeated Falcons, falling 23-20. Raiders’ cornerback and punt returner Phillip Adams told Corkran he could see that kind of effort happening again this season after some extra rest.
“We came out, everybody took care of their body, we got refreshed and it showed,” Adams said.
After the Raiders host the Steelers, Oakland will play four straight teams without winning records: Philadelphia (3-4), the New York Giants (0-6), Houston (2-5) and Tennessee (3-4).
The Raiders then will finish with five games against teams currently over .500: Dallas (4-3), the New York Jets (4-3), Kansas City (7-0), San Diego (4-3) and Denver (6-1).
With the prospect of the Raiders getting back left tackle Jared Veldheer, center Stefen Wisniewski and tackle Menelik Watson back this week or soon after, the Raiders offense could turn out to be even more effective over the second half of this season.
Safety Charles Woodson, for one, believes the Raiders are better than their record and can prove it over the next few weeks.
“You know, I’m surprised our record ain’t better,” Woodson told ESPN.com. “I feel like we’ve had our chances to win games. Here we are, sitting at 2-4, so it is what it is, but we’ve had opportunities to win a couple of those games that we lost.”