Oakland have put together a three-in-a-row winning streak
If the season ended today, the Oakland Raiders would be in the play-offs.
Three wins—and two losses by the Kansas City Chiefs—means the Raiders lead the AFC West by virtue of a better record both against the Chiefs (1-0 against 0-1) and in the division (3-0 against 1-2).
Do the Raiders deserve to be there? Will they be one-and-done in the playoffs?
In order to answer these questions, we need to look at the other five teams who would join the Raiders if the season ended after nine games: New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers (who the Raiders play this Sunday).
I have tabulated some key stats to show how the Raiders match-up against these other AFC title contenders.
For interest, I have also added in a line showing how Oakland would rank if you just look at the last three games.
Here are the figures.
Darren McFadden has lead the way for Oakland
1. Oakland (last 3 games) 226.3
2. Oakland (season) 162.2
3. NY Jets 150.7
4. Baltimore 118.4
5. Pittsburgh 113.1
6. New England 106.7
7. Indianapolis 90.4
Oakland has been excellent all season.
McFadden and Bush are as hot as any backfield duo in the league
Bush has carried the load when McFadden has gone down
1. Oakland (last 3 games) 5.8
2. Oakland (season) 4.9
3. NY Jets 4.6
4. New England 4.1
5. Pittsburgh 4.0
6. Baltimore 3.8
7. Indianapolis 3.7
The Raiders' O-line has opened up gaps all year, but in the last three games they have been completely dominant.
Ford has proved to be a real play-maker
1. Indianapolis 288.9
2. New England 232.0
3. Oakland (last 3 games) 231.7
4. Baltimore 226.4
5. NY Jets 211.3
6. Pittsburgh 200.4
7. Oakland (season) 198.8
Oakland does not yet have a premier passing game, but it has been mighty effective in the last three games.
Has Campbell finally arrived?
1. Oakland (last 3 games) 104.3
2. New England 98.8
3. Pittsburgh 97.1
4. Indianapolis 93.9
5. Baltimore 90.1
6. Oakland (season) 81.3
7. NY Jets 80.5
No, this is not a lie!
If Jason Campbell can play like he has for the past three weeks, then he can stand confidently beside Brady and Manning.
Looking at the season as a whole, "could do better" springs to mind.
Seymour has been a beast at DT this year
1. Pittsburgh 63.2
2. Oakland (last 3 games) 70.0
3. NY Jets 89.6
4. Baltimore 99.8
5. New England 113.0
6. Oakland (season) 124.8
7. Indianapolis 133.2
The Steelers have been dominant against the run all season long.
Looking at the season, Oakland are struggling by comparison, but in the last three games they have been "lights out."
Kelly has been much improved in 2010
1. Pittsburgh 2.8
2. Oakland (last 3 games) 3.2
3. NY Jets 3.4
4. Baltimore 4.0
5. New England 4.2
6. Oakland (season) 4.5
7. Indianapolis 5.0
Pittsburgh's 2.8 average is ridiculous.
Can Oakland make any inroads this weekend?
Nnamdi has done what only Nnamdi can do - shut down his man
1. Oakland (last 3 games) 160.7
2. Oakland (season) 184.8
3. Indianapolis 211.0
4. Baltimore 216.7
5. NY Jets 217.1
6. Pittsburgh 252.2
7. New England 277.8
Oakland has had problems against elite rushers, so QBs haven't always had to test Nnamdi Asomugha and co.
When everything is working and the Raiders have stayed aggressively in man coverage, then opposing QBs have had nowhere to go other than down.
Oakland need more picks
1. Oakland (last 3 games) 1.0
2. Pittsburgh 0.9
3. Indianapolis 0.7
4. NY Jets 0.7
5. New England 0.7
6. Oakland (season) 0.1
7. Baltimore -0.1
Oakland have managed to generate fumbles, but could still improve their picks.
They also need to stop giving the ball away on their own fumbles, regardless of what the officials see.
Oakland need to improve in the Red Zone
If Oakland can play as they have done in the past three games, there is no doubt: THIS IS A PLAY-OFF TEAM.
They have been dominant on both sides of the ball and the stats back it up—the Raiders are more than relevant—they are a real live contender.
The stats across the season do act as a counter-balance: Improvement is necessary in stopping the run consistently, having reliable quarterback play in every game and taking more balls away from opposing receivers.
The match-up against Pittsburgh will be a barometer of how far Oakland has come.
The Steelers are the meanest run defense in the league.
Oakland is the number two rushing team in the NFL and will not be daunted by the Steelers reputation.
If Oakland can move the ball on the ground this Sunday, then they are the real deal.
It's going to be fun.