Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Darren McFadden and the Raiders hope to reach the postseason for the first time since 2002.The Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders make their preseason debuts on Monday Night Football at 8 ET on ESPN. Below, we’ll take a look at the 2012 Raiders and what it will take for Oakland to be a contender for the first time in nearly a decade. For keys to the upcoming Cowboys season, click here.
The Oakland Raiders have failed to make the playoffs since representing the AFC in Super Bowl XXXVII. The nine-season playoff drought is the longest in franchise history and tied for the second-longest active streak in the NFL. Only the Bills have gone longer since last reaching the postseason (12 seasons).
Over that span, the Raiders have not finished above .500 and won an AFC-low 45 games. Only the Lions (44) have won fewer games since the start of the 2003 season. In order break their current stretch of futility, there are a few things that the Raiders will need to do:
IMPROVE THEIR PASSING GAME
The Raiders rank 27th in the NFL in net passing yards per game since 2003 (189.7) and have not ranked among the league’s Top 10 in a single season since 2005 (10th). Each of the last three Super Bowl champions have ranked among the league’s Top 5 in net passing yards per game that season. The Raiders haven’t ranked among the league’s Top 5 since Rich Gannon’s MVP season in 2002.
In 2012, Carson Palmer should provide a nice boost to a position that has lacked stability in Oakland. He has thrown for at least 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in each of his last five full seasons and fell just short in 2011 after joining the Raiders midseason (2,753 Pass yds, 13 TD).
COMMIT FEWER PENALTIES
Oakland set NFL single-season records for penalties (163) and total penalty yards (1,358) in 2011. It was the third-straight season in which the Raiders led the league in penalties and if they hope to contend, that can’t continue.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only the 1971 Cowboys and 1974 Steelers have ever led the league in penalties and gone on to win the Super Bowl that season and only the ’74 Steelers did so after leading the league in BOTH penalties and penalty yards.
LIMIT BIG PLAYS ON DEFENSE
Over the last four seasons, the Raiders have allowed 74 rushes of 20 yards or more (31st in NFL) and 83 passes of 30 yards or more (26th in NFL). The 157 combined “big plays” allowed by Oakland are the most in the AFC and the second-most league wide over that span (Lions, 158).
Teams to reach the Super Bowl since 2008 had an average rank of 10th in “big plays” allowed during their Super Bowl seasons and five of the eight ranked among the league’s Top 6. Only the 2011 Patriots reached the Super Bowl after ranking outside the Top 20 (21st).