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The Raiders aren't who we thought they were....they're better

The Oakland Raiders are tired of being the team that will be good in a year or two. The team expects to win now and it is winning now.

We thought the Raiders needed more talent. We thought that being in the playoff hunt was a year away for this team, but we were wrong. This isn't the team we thought they were, they're better.

On Sunday, they moved to 3-3 on Sunday with a 37-29 win over the San Diego Chargers that wasn't close until the final minute. It was also the Raiders second road win of the season. The last time the Raiders had two road wins by their sixth game was 2011. Before that, a five-year streak from 1998-2002.

The Raiders went 8-8 in 1998, 1999 and 2011 and narrowly missed the playoffs each year.  They made the playoffs in 2000, 2001 and 2002. They didn't have a losing record in any of those seasons because teams that can win on the road are usually pretty good.

As the season matures, there is more and more evidence that some of the "best-case scenarios" for the Raiders are coming true. The AFC West also isn't as strong as it has been in the past.

We already have the answers to many of the questions we had about this team. The questions that had us worried that they were a year—or two—from even competing on a weekly basis.

  • Quarterback Derek Carr has genuinely improved.

  • Rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper is a difference-maker.

  • Veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree is better than advertised.

  • Running back Latavius Murray wasn't just a flash in the pan.

  • The offensive line has been a cohesive unit.


The defense has issues, but young players are also maturing. As a whole, the unit has been playing better after some early growing pains. Even Raider Nation's whipping boy—cornerback D.J. Hayden—is starting to turn the corner. Claiming cornerback David Amerson off waivers has also solidified the cornerback group and allowed T.J. Carrie to play more safety in place of the injured Nate Allen.

By no means have the Raiders arrived. They're 3-3—not 6-0. They'll still have to scratch and claw their way to the playoffs, but it's no longer insane to think they can make it. It's no longer just wishful thinking that this is finally the year the long playoff drought ends.

 

One obvious fact is that the Raiders need to stay healthy. This team doesn't have the depth to lose key players. Rookie Linebacker Neiron Ball has been the solution to the team's inability to cover tight ends, but he left the game Sunday with an injury.

Even a series of injuries to players like Ball could put on a cap on the Raiders' potential in 2015. Ball starting over Ray-Ray Armstrong is one example of the new coaching staff's willingness to adjust, but that also ignores the fact that they've made their fair share of mistakes. The coaching staff has some great qualities, but they are far from perfect.

There will be some that question the coaching staff getting too conservative too early against the Chargers, mostly due to it being something that has been a recurring theme. The broader criticism is certainly valid, even if the most recent example is hooey. The coaching staff has giveth a lot, but they've also taketh away.

The depth, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's insistence on calling hand offs to fullback Jamize Olawale and the offense routinely playing for field goals are prime examples of reasons to temper the expectations of this team. Just don't grind the expectations into the crumbling concrete at O.co this time around.

Sunday's win was actually worthy of a small celebration. The Raider Nation should be enjoying this time and not criticizing the coaching staff for letting off the gas with a 31-point lead.

The future is definitely bright for the Raiders, but the now doesn't look too bad either. For once, fans can say with confidence that more wins are on the way.

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