As the kick sailed through the uprights on the Kansas City Chiefs vs. Oakland Raiders game Sunday, most fans were breathing a sigh of relief. A three-game winning streak, paired up with an impressive defense had the team looking at the bye week as a chance to improve on an already well-working offensive machine.
To say the team needs this bye is understated. With the likes of Nmandi Asomugha, Zach Miller, Louis Murphy, Chaz Schilens and others out, the Raiders were starting to run on bits and pieces.
Sure, Jacoby Ford stepped off the sidelines and etched his name into the Raider Nation lore with his actions, but without Zach Miller, Jason Campbell wouldn't have had to rely on hoping Darrius Heyward-Bey would be able to catch a pass. As it was, Bey was shut out—not by defense, but his inability to catch.
For Oakland, seeing what this team will be like, at full power should be a fun sight to see. With the full contingent of WR options (Schilens, Jacoby Ford, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy and if needed, Johnnie Lee Higgins) plus the occasional TE theatrics from Zach Miller, Oakland should see some good numbers.
One has to wonder how the week off will affect the Raiders, given the time off between two key games. Oakland's next contest, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, could be with the Raiders officially in first place, should the Denver Broncos win against the Chiefs.
Likewise, the Raiders after their two-week winning streak at the end of the 2008 season did nothing for the Raiders coming out of the gate in 2009.
I know there's a wide difference between a week off and a full offseason.
One thing that should bode well for the Raiders favor is who takes the snaps from the center. With Jason Campbell, you have a quarterback who has slowly but more recently responded to the needs of the Raiders offensive scheme. In Bruce Gradkowski, you have a quarterback who is willing to take the risks that are sometimes needed to win.
Who really wins out of that combination? Tom Cable does...Hue Jackson, who gets to play gunslinger in the NFL and the Raider Nation.
Another part of intrigue that comes out of the last couple weeks is how should the Raiders address the talent pool within the team? Jacoby Ford, a speed-demon with good sense of ball control just passed Darrius Heyward-Bey on the talent level, while Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens (when healthy) both are above-level talent.
Does Hue Jackson continue to give him looks and hopes that eventually Darrius comes around, or does it reach a point in the season when Cable will pull the plug and let the kid learn by watching?
With over a half of the season in the books, Oakland has their path laid out for them. It's their choice if they play past the Week 17 matchup with KC.