When you consider the fiasco the Oakland Raiders went through with Antonio Brown this past offseason, it’s hard to be upset with how 2019 panned out. A team that finished 4-12 and was a laughing stock among NFL teams actually entered Week 17 within reach of a playoff berth. While the Raiders ultimately fell short of the playoffs, they made serious progress. The real challenge will be to keep trending upward in 2020.
Derek Carr reached career highs in completion percentage and quarterback rating this year on a team that had Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow as the top receiving options. But he also benefited from a breakout season by tight end Darren Waller and an uber-productive rookie running back in Josh Jacobs. Oakland needs to decide whether its quarterback is a game manager or simply needs more talent around him.
Carr is serviceable at quarterback and has weapons to work with. What he would benefit most from is consistency. Jacobs rushed for more than 1,000 yards and nearly averaged five yards per carry, so what he brought to the table was never in question. Then there’s Waller who led the team in targets and receptions by a wide margin. But Williams and Renfrow were streaky throughout the year and neither was able to pull ahead as a go-to guy. Carr missed the Brown train but had his best seasons playing with Amari Cooper. The Raiders need a Pro Bowl caliber wideout to maximize their potential.
After moving Khalil Mack ahead of last season and finishing last in the NFL with 13 sacks, the Raiders have made some headway. They more than doubled last year’s total this season but still have plenty of room for growth. An edge rusher or linebacker would help rebuild Oakland’s pass rush and take pressure off its secondary, which dealt with several injuries to key players throughout 2019.
The 2019 NFL season is coming to a close and while the playoffs are just arriving, it’s time to start looking ahead to 2020. We won’t know the full regular season schedule until April, but even with the 2019 season not finished, we know each team’s list of opponents. The NFL has a formula they use to determine opponents, with divisions and conferences rotating each year.
The Raiders face their divisional opponents a total of six times. The AFC West faces the NFC North, which adds four more opponents. The AFC West faces the AFC East, which adds four more opponents. The final two opponents are the teams that finish in the same standing position in the AFC South and AFC North.