It’s starting to feel like this is a new era for the Oakland Raiders.
After three games, these Raiders of new head coach Jack Del Rio are 2-1 and can equal the team’s number of wins from 2014 this Sunday when they play the Bears in Chicago (10 a.m. kickoff).
It’s the first time the Raiders have a winning record in four seasons.
Plus, the new-look Raiders of Derek Carr, Latavius Murray, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack are starting to get some love from the national media as a team on the rise.
ESPN’s Power Rankings, in fact, put Oakland at No. 16 in the NFL this week, up five sports from last week after a good win at Cleveland.
Elliot Harrison of ESPN wrote that, “These aren’t your pop’s Raiders. They aren’t your older brother’s Raiders, either.”
After praising the team’s young core of talent, Harrison noted it was a “wonderful team win” against the Browns, with a number of great performances.
“These guys still might not reach nine wins (if they did, it’d be for the first time since 2002), but they ain’t going 6-10, either,” he wrote.
Now, there’s another indication the Raiders’ train is picking up believers.
NFL oddsmakers this week have made Oakland a 3-point favorite to beat the 0-3 Bears. Given the Bears seem to be a mess – and Chicago QB Jay Cutler is still a question mark for the game – that may not seem all that special.
But as Bill Williamson of ESPN.com reported, it breaks a streak of 27 games in which the Raiders have been made underdogs by the oddsmakers. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune wrote that the last time the Raiders were favored on the road was for a Sept. 16, 2012 game at Miami – when the Dolphins crushed the Raiders, 35-13.
But Del Rio cautioned his players this week that they have to keep working hard to improve, and they can’t rest on their laurels or overlook the Bears – or any team, for that matter. Some Raiders fans may already be thinking a third victory is in the bag, but Del Rio isn’t.
“No, no,” Del Rio told reporters this week. “We’ve got way too much work to do. We respect everybody. We fear nobody. Certainly we understand (they have) a lot of talented players and coaches that work real hard. We’re going to do our best each and every week to prepare and put together the best active 46 we can and go compete.”