The Raiders not only got their second win of the season, but are also only a game out in the AFC West. They still have a game left against the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos, along with two games against the atrocious Kansas City Chiefs.
Along with their AFC West foes, the Raiders have a fairly easy schedule left throughout the rest of the season, with their toughest non-divisional games left coming on the road in Week 10 against Baltimore and another road game in Week 12 against Cincinnati.
With the way the AFC has shaken out so far this season, you can't count out the Raiders for 2012. However, after 2012 is a major question mark with the Raiders, as they face an uncertain future at quarterback (Carson Palmer is 32), as well as only five draft picks in 2013 and a 2013 cap number that is best described by NFL.com's Brian McIntyre:
In looking at the Raiders' long-term cap situation, they have fewer than 50 players signed for the 2013 season. Before base-salary escalators and incentives, those players account for $130 million in salary-cap dollars. With the cap expected to remain flat, cuts and restructures are likely. There is no offset language on Branch's contract regarding his 2012 base salary, 2013 roster bonus and most (75 percent) of his 2013 base salary, which should place Branch and his $10.9 million cap number next season on the "restructure candidate" list.
Yikes, that's the only way I could describe that. A lot of Raiders will be unhappy at the end of next season, meaning the Raiders will have to make the most out of this season.
But as for the future, this is a team that can be rebuilt despite nearly a decade of ineptitude. Oakland already has a very good general manager in Reggie McKenzie, but more must be done by McKenzie.
1. Stop Trading Draft Picks: Hoard Them
This goes without saying, but the Raiders have had a dodgy history with the draft. Either they've messed up their selections or traded them outright. The most infamous trade was their Carson Palmer deal with Cincinnati, as the Raiders not only gave up a first-rounder in 2012, but a second-rounder in 2013 (that becomes a first -ounder if the Raiders play in the AFC Championship game). I can't argue with the rationale for the Raiders making the trade, but it has hamstrung their future.
The next time the Raiders have a full slate of draft picks will be in 2014. It would serve Oakland to not only hold on to those picks, but obtain other picks in that draft through trades (trading down in the first round of the 2013 draft would be ideal for Oakland to accomplish this, as it would likely not only mean an extra 2014 draft pick but another pick in 2013 as well).
2. Think Defense in the 2013 Draft
Carson Palmer seems to get a bad rap around the NFL; however, he has been very serviceable since the trade and leads a passing game ranked No. 9 in the league this season. While its running game is ranked No. 31 and has struggled all season, a lot of that is due to Oakland playing from behind most of the time this season.
But Oakland's defense has been horrible this season. It currently ranks No. 17 in the NFL in yards allowed per game, and No. 27 overall in points allowed per game. If anything costs Oakland a playoff berth in the wide-open AFC this season, it will be the defense.
Oakland will have to think defense in the upcoming draft and get some new talent to infuse the team, so that its offense isn't playing from behind so often.
3. Do Not Overreact to Head Coach Dennis Allen's Performance in 2012
Since Jon Gruden was "traded" to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002, the Raiders have employed seven different head coaches.
Seven coaches in the span of 10 years isn't exactly a testament to organizational stability. The thought of Dennis Allen not lasting past 2012 would be another bad sign, as the Raiders need to show consistency from year-to-year.
Allen might not make the postseason in 2012, but that's no reason to jettison him after one season. The Raiders should give him at least one more season to help turn the team around.
4. Go With Palmer In 2013, but Groom His Replacement in the Meantime
This could go in many ways. Either the Raiders can continue to develop former Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor as their quarterback of the future, or they can look for help at quarterback in the 2013 draft. They could also opt to do both and choose a quarterback in the later rounds, which is an approach used by general manager Reggie McKenzie's former team in Green Bay.
By developing a quarterback while Palmer continues to play, the Raiders won't have to rely on trading the farm for quarterbacks anymore and will build more stability at the position, which, like at head coach, they have lacked.
The Raiders are a team that aren't as bad as many make them out to be, but will need help going forward. By implementing these suggestions, the Silver and Black attack get back on their way back to the top of the AFC West.