The Oakland Raiders are in the middle of a competitive chase for the playoffs. Right now, they are tied with Kansas City and San Diego for the AFC West Division lead. Oakland has won big games, especially against the New York Jets, but has squandered away opportunities against the Broncos and the Chiefs.
Here are some reasons why Oakland can still make the playoffs in 2011.
There has been a lot of speculation as to how serious Darren McFadden's foot injury has become over the past few weeks. McFadden injured it early in the Raiders' game against the Chiefs. He has been out of practice and has missed one game already.
The Raiders would love to have Darren back in the lineup but unless he is 100 percent healthy, he will not see any action. They would not want to re-injure him and potentially lose him for the season. Michael Bush has been filling in very nicely at the running back position and when Darren McFadden is fully healthy, the Raiders are going to be hard to stop on offense.
Carson had a solid day against the Broncos. Even though he did throw three interceptions, he thew three beautiful touchdown passes. Palmer eclipsed the 300-yard mark in one game and gives the Raider offense a strong weapon at the quarterback position.
Palmer is settling into this Raider offense and is a very good fit into their offensive system. He is learning the playbook very quickly and is growing solid relationships with his receivers. As this year continues, Palmer will become more comfortable in this system and make it one of the best offenses in the league.
Oakland went from having one of the worst rushing attacks to one of the best rushing attacks over the past couple of years. They have a great overall running back in McFadden. He has speed, acceleration, power and the ability to make people miss.
Michael Bush gives them power on the goal line. He also wears down the defense as McFadden gets rest. He has filled in very nicely as McFadden recovers from a foot injury.
Taiwan Jones is a great speed back, as he gives the Raiders big-play ability. His speed is amazing and he can make great cuts and get open.
This running back group is extremely dangerous and will continue to get better throughout the year. Teams are gong to have a tough time stopping this group towards the end of the year.
Oakland has a talented group of receivers. They have speedy Jacoby Ford, who is able to break away from defenders and make impressive catches. Darrius Heyward-Bey has been playing very well this year. He has had several 100-yard receiving games this year and has looked liked he is molding into that first-round wide receiver that Oakland drafted.
The Raiders have rookie sensation Denarius Moore. He had a huge day against the Bills and has a very bright future in this Raider offense. The Raiders have also picked up veteran receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. T.J. had prior success with Palmer in Cincinnati and looks to improve this already good receiving group.
Early on in the year, Oakland was very wary about their pass defense. They have had several injuries, which has hindered their ability to reach their full potential on defense. Over the past several games, their pass defense has been stepping up.
Stanford Routt has been doing a pretty good job all year, as he is the Raiders' top corner back. Demarcus Van Dyke has surprised a lot of fans, as he continues to improve in the Raiders' secondary.
As the season continues, the Raiders' defense will only get better. They added Aaron Curry, who brings speed and good pass coverage from the linebacker position. If they can limit the amount of big runs given up, Oakland will be tough to score on for the rest of the year.
Oakland has one of the best kicking combinations in football history. Shane Lechler is the best punter in the NFL and is able to pin opponents back on their side of the field with any given kick.
Sebastian Janikowski is having a fantastic season, as he is 13-of-14 on field-goal attempts. He has made a 63-yard kick and is automatic from any distance. He is also a weapon on kickoffs, as he has one of the lowest kick return averages on kickoffs.
Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore are threats to return any kickoff or punt for a touchdown. Their speed is amazing and if they can find any hole to get through, they have the ability to go the distance.
The Raiders have a solid schedule for the remainder of the year. They face the Vikings and Dolphins, which should be wins for the Raiders. They also get to face the Chargers twice and the Chiefs one more time. If they can get wins in all of these games, Oakland should be able to win the AFC West Division and make the playoffs.