Saturday 20 January 2018 / 08:03 PM


We all saw the headlines and read the previews as the season started about the Oakland Raiders. The hype behind Derek Carr and the young team was as high as it could get, and the money dumped on new talent suggested that they felt it was their time to win.

Slowly, members of the media began to agree. We saw previews that listed the Raiders as a playoff threat, and eventually, a favorite. But some factors caused pundits to pause. Namely, their defense was entirely remade, with free agents making up the majority of the roster.

And with their opening season win over the New Orleans Saints in a shootout, it sure looked likely that the defense would be the major hole. The offense was prolific and better than anyone imagined, but the defense just needed work.

During the week two loss to the Falcons, it looked even more likely that the Raiders were a remake of that Saints team they played before: all offense, no defense.

But then the Raiders rattled off three in a row, looking better and more convincing, and rocketing up to become the clear challenger behind the Broncos. And as Denver slipped, it looked likely the Raiders could overtake them.

Until the shutdown loss to Kansas City, when the world came back to viewing the Raiders as a gimmick, and a team that may be a year away. Ater that loss, the Raiders drifted from national conversation. They still were relevant, but not seen as the threat they were before.

And yet, quietly, the defense improved. But for every growth, like the throttling of Jacksonville, the Raiders would take missteps. The game against Tampa Bay produced a victory, but looked anything but like what you’d expect from a contender – with over 20 penalties on Oakland, setting a new NFL record.

Where they’ve looked great, they’ve looked young. And yet, they’ve won. Coming into the Oakland-Denver match-up, the Broncos had looked to be the opposite of the Raiders: great defensively and pretty bad on offense. But the defending champs were the favorites.

From the kickoff, we got our questions answered about the Raiders and who they are. From the onset, there was very little to not like about Oakland. The offensive line was bruising and abusing, and wore down the vaunted Denver pass rush. The line found holes and worked Latavius Murray to the tune of 114 yards and three touchdowns.

Derek Carr managed the game well, throwing for 184 yards, finding Amari Cooper enough to keep the defense for Denver honest. But the story of the night was the vastly improved Oakland defense.

The Raiders contained Demaryious Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and forced Trevor Siemian into some really uncomfortable situations. They held him under 50% passing and turned him over. The line, led by Khalil Mack, sacked him twice and bottled the running game in impressive fashion.

The Denver offensive line could never move the ball, limited to a rushing attack of just 33 yards on 12 carries. The Raiders controlled the game from the start, never allowing Denver to get close enough to pose a real threat.

The Raiders hadn’t been on primetime in close to a decade – but when they got their chance, they seized it. The strength of their record has been questioned, the quality of their defense, and the readiness of their quarterback. But on the big stage, and in their first real chance, the Raiders answered the bell.

It’s hard to believe that a 7-2 team could be dismissed for as long as these guys, but there’s no way they can be now. The Raiders aren’t a young and upcoming team anymore – they have arrived.

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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