Right now the Raiders look like a car that’s running on fumes.
Slowly but surely, it’s losing momentum and appears ready to come to a dead stop.
After building a 7-4 record with a three-game winning streak and sitting on top of the AFC West after their victory over the Bears on Nov. 27, the Raiders have hit two huge speed bumps in successive weeks with lopsided losses to the Dolphins and Packers.
While the loss to the undefeated defending Super Bowl champs in Green Bay was expected, the disaster in Miami wasn’t. But in both, the Raiders looked almost helpless.
Having lost three of their best offensive weapons in recent weeks – Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford – the Oakland offense appears to have lost its spark, while its defense looks overmatched.
After Sunday’s 46-16 loss in Green Bay – in which the Raiders fell behind a franchise-record 31 points in the first half – Oakland head coach Hue Jackson vowed to get his team back on track.
“I’m not going to let this team go backwards,” he told columnist Mark Purdy of the Bay Area News Group. “I’m going to find the true answer. I don’t have it right now. But it’s not magical. It’s work.”
Judging by the result of the past two weeks, it will be hard work.
The Raiders have been outscored the past two weeks 80-30 and have trailed in each game by 34-0 scores before scoring a point. They’ve gone flat. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos have won six straight games to improve to 8-5 and take over sole possession of first place in the division over the 7-6 Raiders.
Despite all their problems, the Raiders still could get back into a first-place tie this weekend with a win over the visiting Detroit Lions, because the Broncos must face the Patriots.
Yet to beat the Lions will mean fixing their ills. Suddenly, Oakland can’t run the ball or stop opponents from running. The Raiders keep committing costly penalties. And, quarterback Carson Palmer – acquired at midseason to be a savior – threw four killer interceptions against the Packers.
“I’m disappointed in the four picks, and I told him so,” Jackson told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. “I think you have somebody who’s pressing, trying to make plays for a football team. There were times we made some ill-advised throws and we’ve got to do a better job taking care of the ball, and he knows that.”
At 7-6 with just three games remaining, against the Lions, Chiefs and Chargers, the time for refueling and getting back to speed is now. There’s no time to be patient. If the Raiders want to be a playoff team, they need to close with a burst.
“The Raiders' margin for error is gone,” wrote Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group. “They can’t afford another game like the past two, or else it might be time to shift the focus toward 2012.”