In the Raiders’ season-opening victory over the New Orleans Saints, penalties were a problem. Oakland was flagged 14 times for 141 yards.
Now, halfway through the season, penalties remain a problem – a very large one – even though the Raiders are 6-2 and tied for the lead in the AFC West.
The Raiders lead the NFL in penalties, and it isn’t close. Oakland has had 86 penalties accepted by its opponents for 728 yards in losses, 20 more than the No. 2 team in the league, Washington (66). By contrast, Raiders’ opponents have been penalized just 57 times for 535 yards.
On Sunday, in an overtime victory over Tampa Bay, the Raiders were penalized an NFL-record 23 times for 200 yards. It marked the fourth time this season that Oakland has received 10 or more penalties in a game. Aside from the Saints and Bucs games, the Raiders also were penalized 12 times in a win over the Ravens and 11 times in a victory over the Jaguars.
Penalties on Sunday often wiped out big plays by the Raiders offense and it’s certainly likely that continued sloppiness could cost them key games over the second half of the season, beginning with Sunday night’s showdown with the Broncos for the lead in the AFC West.
Yet Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said this week that he’s not going “to dwell” on the problem. He and his staff certainly will stress to players this week the importance of being penalty free, but it’s not his biggest concern.
“We’re a disciplined team,” Del Rio told reporters, according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Because I know that and because I know we coach it and stress it and I know our guys buy into it, I’m not going to overreact to circumstances that are occurring that might indicate otherwise, because I know it’s the truth.”
Del Rio, in fact, said that after reviewing game film, some of the calls against his team were “questionable.”
Based on results so far in 2016, it’s possible that penalties could again play a big role in Sunday night’s game – and not in a good way for Oakland.
While the Raiders have been penalized 10.75 times per game, the Broncos have been flagged an average of just 7.37 times.
Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m.