Oakland Raiders Weekly Progress Report: Where They Stand Headed into Week 16

Christopher HansenNFL AnalystDecember 19, 2012

Darren McFadden is showing signs of improvement in the zone-blocking system.
Darren McFadden is showing signs of improvement in the zone-blocking system.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Just when you are ready to write off the Oakland Raiders, they do something crazy. It seems like every season the Raiders find new ways to lose and then randomly win a game they have no business winning.

The Raiders were supposed to beat the terrible Chiefs, but a shutout was a surprise. It's hard to expect that type of performance from the worst all-around defense in the NFL.

With the win, the Raiders didn’t really hurt their draft stock, because they have the weakest strength of schedule of all the four-win teams at the moment. Raider Nation had something to cheer about without thinking that the win cost the team a chance at a premium draft pick.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t an all-around victory, as the offense couldn’t muster a single touchdown. The defense has been unfortunately bad, but they were bad last year. The offense was supposed to carry that bad defense like it did last year, but that simply hasn’t been the case.


Talking Point for Week 16

The victory over the Chiefs probably distilled Oakland’s coordinator quandary. Jason Tarver’s defense dominated with a great game plan against inferior competition, and Greg Knapp’s offense failed to score a touchdown against a below-average defense.

It’s not often the Raiders have played an offense that was less talented than their defense, but the Chiefs qualify. The Raiders have faced a host of substandard defenses, and the offense continues to struggle.

When the season comes to an end, decisions will have to be made about coordinators and position coaches. Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie can point to Sunday’s game against the Chiefs as reasons why Tarver deserves another year and Knapp doesn’t.


Injury Outlook

Richard Seymour hasn’t played in weeks, and he continues to miss practice. It remains to be seen if Seymour plays another down for the Raiders. Tyvon Branch also missed practice Wednesday, but he played Sunday with the same injury after only practicing on a limited basis last Friday.

Cornerback Philip Adams got his shot to start last week and was knocked out of the game with a concussion, but he was on the field practicing with the team on Wednesday. According to a tweet by Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, Adams has passed his concussion tests and was limited Wednesday.

The Raiders are healthier now than at any point during the season. Health can sometimes help a struggling team, and the Raiders have showed some signs of improvement over the last few weeks.


Stat Trends: Offense

Despite not scoring an offensive touchdown, Oakland’s offense moved up more than they moved down the rankings this week. There was no significant movement in the rankings, but a few signs of progress.

The Raiders showed some improvement on third downs and moved up two spots. The running game seems to be improving almost weekly over the past several weeks. It will be up to the decision-makers to determine if these small improvements are enough to keep the offensive coaching staff intact.

Yardage is one of the most overrated football statistics, and that’s about the only positive. The pass protection has been good, and Carson Palmer has delivered a lot of yards and a decent number of passing touchdowns. Neither has translated into a good offense or wins.


Stat Trends: Defense

The defense skyrocketed up the rankings with their performance against the Chiefs. The Raiders climbed nine spots in third-down conversion percentage allowed, five in yards per carry allowed, five in total yards allowed and four in passing touchdowns allowed. The Raiders lost one spot in the rankings for only forcing one turnover.

A shutout wasn’t enough to drag the Raiders off the bottom in points allowed, as they are now tied with the Buffalo Bills. With upcoming games against two below-average teams, the Raiders have a chance to build on Sunday’s performance and further improve their overall rankings.

There are still players auditioning for a role on the team in 2012, and these final two games will actually help shape the direction of the team in 2013. Rankings are basically meaningless at this point, but it should be a little surprising that the Raiders have improved while simultaneously involving more of the young players.


Outlook: Rising?

Wins over the Chiefs are hardly evidence that the team is improving. The Raiders need to build on their performance over the final two weeks to really be considered a team that is starting to progress.

There were signs of life on Sunday, but the Raiders are going to have to prove it against better competition and will have a couple of good tests to close the season. The Panthers have been wildly inconsistent this season, and Cam Newton and Steve Smith will be able to exploit Oakland’s secondary. The Chargers are clearly flawed, but they beat the Chiefs twice just like the Raiders.

Maybe Sunday’s performance was a sign of progress, or maybe the Raiders just couldn't get any worse.