The Raiders surged to a 12-4 record in 2016, but that win total may be difficult to replicate in 2017.
Though Oakland could be even better this season with the additions it has made to the roster, the team faces one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. Opponents have a combined 144-111-1 record from 2016, the AFC West is loaded with talent and – except for the loss of quarterback Derek Carr in Game No. 15 – the Raiders managed to dodge injuries to their most impactful players.
Yet the Raiders still are considered one of the AFC favorites to get to the Super Bowl, and they won’t necessarily have to repeat that 12-4 mark to get there.
Some have predicted the Raiders’ win total could drop to nine or 10, still good enough to reach the playoffs in an intensely competitive division. Recently, ESPN.com’s Football Power Index rated the Raiders as the AFC’s third-best team going into 2017, behind the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers, but with a regular-season record of just 9-7 (good enough to win the AFC West).
This week, the analytic website Pro Football Focus projected the Raiders for 11-5, tied with the Steelers for the second-best record in the AFC behind the Patriots at 12-4.
Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus noted that before the 2016 season, PFF predicted the Raiders would have the third-best team in the AFC “and everything was going according to plan” until Carr’s injury.
“The key to whether the Raiders will take the next step forward is if a few players can play as well as they did a few years ago,” wrote Jahnke. “Since 2013, Marshawn Lynch has had 245 players miss tackles on his carries, which is by far the most for backs despite not playing 2016 and missing half of 2015.
"In 2015, Mario Edwards looked like the next promising front-seven player, but he missed most of 2016. Cornerbacks David Amerson and Sean Smith played well in 2016, but had better seasons in recent years. If those players play at their best, this will be a special season.”