The difference between this group and the one that dived at the end of last year is already striking. The 2020 squad started 6-3 and then collapsed in the middle of a run for the playoffs, losing five of their last seven games (three by four points or less). That’s why the common refrain after Pittsburgh’s victory was to keep your feet on the ground.
“We have a confident squad,” said Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. “We were confident last year. We lost heartbreaking (games). Heartbreaking and disgusting losses at the end of games. We have a long way to go. We are far from perfect.”
Gruden sees the same thing everyone else in the NFL sees: an AFC full of suitors. Its own division, the AFC West, is home to three talented teams but also face the Kansas City Chiefs, who have just won back-to-back AFC titles. The Raiders were good enough to part ways with Kansas City in 2020, including a road victory. Las Vegas have proven to be a particularly fiery group away from home as well, going 6-2 on the road.
The Raiders want to build on these positives, but they have a lot of issues to overcome. Their offensive line has been smashed – one starting goalie, Denzelle Good, is lost for the remainder of the season with an ACL tear while the other, Richie Incognito, missed the first two games with a calf injury – and Jacobs I couldn’t play against the Steelers because of toe and ankle injuries. Carr suffers from an ankle injury himself, but Gruden expects he can play in week three.
The good news is that the Raiders beat a solid team on the road after a win on Monday night. Getting a win after traveling across the country for a short week is an achievement that every NFL team relishes. This means the Raiders are focused and for real.
âWe’ve already started 2-0,â Carr said. “But we have to keep going. We can’t let this thing go bad.”
It sounds like a man who knows the feeling of getting temptingly closer to a goal. The Raiders have been in this place where a dream has slipped through their fingers. This time around, they’re much more prepared not to let that kind of disappointment happen again.