The Oakland Raiders were starving for success. They went 13 straight years without a playoff appearance or winning record. Heck, they finished 5-11 an astounding 10 times in a 13-year period, with only a pair of 8-8 finishes – and a 9-7 2015 – providing some semblance of respectability.
But then 2016 happened.
The Raiders started the year 12-3, they were back in the playoffs, and they were in prime position to secure a first-round bye. Derek Carr, however, broke his fibula in a 33-25 win over the Colts on Dec. 24.
Oakland closed the regular season with a 24-6 loss at Denver – the six points were a season-low – and followed that up with a 27-14 loss at Houston in the AFC Wild Card on Saturday.
Despite an ugly end to the season, is Oakland’s 2016 success sustainable?
“I certainly believe it’s sustainable and I think they’re going to get better,” former Super Bowl champion Marcus Allen said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think they’re going to self-scout themselves and really look at where they could be better. Offensively, I think they’re extremely strong. Defensively, I still think they have a lot of work to do. I’m one of those people – I know it sounds rather trite – but I believe in the old adage that defense wins championships, and they’re not quite there yet.”
Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith, among others, are all talented players, but they’re still learning how to play together. That takes time. That’s also why Oakland finished 26th in the league in total defense, 20th in scoring defense (24.1 points per game), 24th in passing defense (257.5 passing yards allowed per game) and 23rd in rushing defense (117.6 rushing yards per game allowed).
“They really haven’t had the pressure up the middle that I think is necessary for them to be really effective,” Allen said. “They have to stop the run and I think the back seven has to be a lot better. The secondary has gotten beat for a lot of big plays. If they were a stock, I would certainly be buying, though. I think they’re on the rise. It’s great to see the Raiders return to where they should be: in the prominence of the National Football League.”