The Oakland Raiders Will Make the Playoffs in 2016

It has been thirteen years since Rich Gannon lead the Oakland Raiders onto the field for their last playoff game. George W. Bush was the president, gasoline was $1.14 per gallon, and both Jerry Rice and Tim Brown were starting wide receivers. Here in 2015, both men are in the NFL Hall of Fame, and the Raiders haven’t sniffed a winning season in over a decade.

But that won’t be true for long. While the Raiders have already lost their eighth game in 2015, making it mathematically impossible to have a winning record, Raider Nation has much to be optimistic about potentially making a playoff run in 2016.

The Oakland Raiders Will Make the Playoffs in 2016

Statistically speaking, the Raiders had a phenomenal season. In only his second year, Derek Carr needs only five touchdowns in two games to break the franchise record for touchdown passes in a single season, a record that has stood since 1969. In his first year as the starter, Latavius Murray is only 44 yards away from his 1,000-yard season. The Raiders have not had a 1,000-yard receiver since Randy Moss in 2005, yet in only week 15, rookie Amari Cooper passed that mark. On top of that, with two games left, Michael Crabtree is only 151 yards away from breaking 1,000 yards himself.

The biggest thing the Raiders have going for them is the potential that their defense has. Rookie Mario Edwards Jr. has really broken out over the last few weeks, forcing himself into the defensive rookie of the year conversation, and free agent acquisition Dan Williams has been an absolute steal. 2016 will see the return of future Hall of Fame defensive end Justin Tuck as well as talented, albeit troubled, outside linebacker Aldon Smith. The biggest piece of the puzzle however, has been Khalil Mack. With two weeks left, Mack’s 15 sacks lead the league. To lead the league in sacks in only your second year is truly uncommon, and a sign of greater things to come.

The Raiders have a surplus of young talent moving forward. A franchise quarterback, a talented runningback, and a dynamic duo of receivers make their offense dangerous, while they have more pass rushers than they can use at once on defense. Add another offseason with the new coaching staff, and the Raiders should only get better.

The reason that 2016 is the year that finally pushes the Raiders over the edge is that they’re set for a very easy schedule. Widespread speculation is that Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers will both be on the move this offseason, leaving the AFC West up for grabs. The Raiders will finish at third place in the AFC West, guaranteeing matches with the third place teams in the AFC North and East, which will likely be the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills. Then they get the AFC and NFC South teams. Between the two divisions, only the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers have winning records.

With a young and extremely talented team staying together and facing a very manageable schedule, it feels like a lock that the Raiders will not only having a winning record, but will make the postseason in 2016.

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