Suddenly, Raiders Look Like an AFC Playoff Contender

Surprise victory in London over the Bears shows Gruden's formula for winning: a ball-control offense and improving defense

It's just five games into the 2019 season, and the Raiders already have been up and down like a yo-yo.

After losing two of their first three games, Oakland appeared on its way to another frustrating season. After being blown out by the Vikings, 34-14, in Minnesota in Week 3, the Raiders defense was in shreds, having given up more than 200 yards rushing, and the offense was inconsistent. At 1-2 with its next two games on the road in Indianapolis and London, Jon Gruden’s team appeared poised for failure.

Said Raiders defensive end Josh Mauro at the time, "This has to be addressed. If you feel comfortable after losing like that, there’s something wrong with you."

Yet the Raiders rebounded, beating the Colts 31-24 and then upsetting the Bears in London, 24-21.

Now at 3-2, the Raiders sit in second place in the AFC West behind the 4-1 Chiefs and have a bye week to get rested before hitting the road again for an Oct. 20 game in Green Bay against the Packers.

In London, the Raiders offensive line dominated one of the best front sevens in the NFL, rookie running back Josh Jacobs ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns and the defense had four sacks, two takeaways and held the Bears to just 42 rushing yards.

Wrote Riley McAtee of The Ringer: "It looks like it’s time to take Oakland seriously now." After five games, he wrote, the Raiders now have "legitimate playoff hopes in an AFC that gets pretty thin below the Patriots and Chiefs."

Gruden’s team has an old-fashioned formula that has worked the past two weeks. In the now pass-happy NFL, the Raiders don’t throw the ball deep and try to play ball control. They've become comfortable with their identity.

Wrote Gary Davenport of Bleacher Report: "The Raiders are going to bang away with Jacobs, try to control tempo and time of possession and keep the score close. The defense may not be great, but it’s getting better. The same can be said of the team as a whole. The days of the Raiders as an easy out appear to be over."

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