After Sunday’s crushing loss to the Patriots in Mexico City, the Raiders are 4-6 and have just six games remaining. They need to turn on the juice and get hot, starting Sunday against the visiting Denver Broncos. If they don’t go 5-1 through the rest of November and December, they’ll likely miss the playoffs.
For a while now, head coach Jack Del Rio – and many key players – have been saying the Raiders are “close” to turning things around. In fact, in speaking with reporters Monday, Del Rio returned to that theme.
“I think it’s close and I think we’re capable,” he said. “We just have to find that spark where it happens. I mean, I think we get three or four drops in the first half (against New England) that dramatically alter the way the first half looks.”
Del Rio also pointed to a key fumble and several other untimely mistakes that stalled a Raiders drive or contributed to a Patriots score.
So, he reasoned, the Raiders could potentially come out of their coma at any moment.
“Where are we? In second place in our division,” he said. “We’re a game off the wild-card pace. We’re two out of the division lead. There’s six games left, so there’s a lot of hope.”
Yes, there is hope. But is there any reason for that hope?
Every time the Raiders play a good game, every time the offense comes to life and looks like it did in 2016 when it ranked sixth overall in the NFL, Oakland fans get excited again that perhaps it’s the turnaround point for a team that just hasn’t matched the electricity it generated last season when it went 12-4 and earned a trip to the playoffs.
But then they trip over themselves.
After beating the Chiefs 31-30 in a thriller on Oct. 19, the Raiders lost to the Bills and looked flat doing it. After beating the Dolphins 27-24, they were pounded by the Pats.
So far, “close” has been too far away.
The offense, which could take over games last season, ranks just 21st in the NFL in 2017. The defense ranks 26th and is tied for 31st in sacks, with just 14. That won’t get it done.
Beginning Sunday at O.co Coliseum, the Raiders need to pull out all the stops. The dropped passes have to stop. The penalties that wipe out big gains have to stop. The defense needs to start making consistent third-down stops.
If that doesn’t happen, all those hopes for the 2017 season will officially be erased.
Sunday’s game is set to kick off at 1:25 p.m. vs. the 3-7 Broncos.