Whatever happens the rest of the way, the Oakland Raiders (9-2) are already guaranteed to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2002, which just so happens to be the last time they played in a Super Bowl.
Thus, the question must be asked: Are the Raiders good enough to win a Super Bowl in 2016?
“If I said no, they’d tell me I’m full of it,” NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “When I saw them early in the year, I thought their flaw was defensively they just weren’t good. They’re still not great – Carolina put 32 on them last week – but they’re starting four rookies and I love Karl Joseph on the back end. I just thought, ‘Man, if they can just find ways to win games, (they could be really good).’ And if they got to put up 35 to go win games, then put up 35 – because they can do that. But the game that turned the season around for me is when they beat Denver.”
Oakland beat Denver, 30-20, on Nov. 6. The Raiders rushed 43 times for 218 yards and three tcuhdowns, with Latavius Murray and Jalen Richard doing most of the damage.
“If you go back and you want to watch a fun game, watch the Oakland Raider offensive line just mangle the Broncos,” Baldinger said. “That’s a great defense on the other side. They just played smash-mouth football like almost nobody else’s business. Everybody ran the ball and they physically won that game. Can they win it? Yeah, because I think the young kids that they’re playing – Cory James and Karl Joseph – I think they’re going to be pretty good.”
Of course, having Derek Carr helps, too. The 25-year-old quarterback is fifth in the NFL in yards (3,115), seventh in touchdowns (22) and has just five interceptions and 13 sacks on the season.
“The quarterback, if he keeps staying healthy, feels like he can beat anybody,” Baldinger said. “So can they win a Super Bowl? Yeah, because they can beat New England – and they may have to go through Foxboro. We’ll see what happens, but they’re a fun team to watch and I’m pulling for them. I’m happy for Raider Nation. They’ve had a lot of really bad years, but this has been fun to watch and fun to see them develop.”
The Raiders will go for their tenth win of the season this Sunday, when they host the Bills (6-5). Kickoff is at 4:05 p.m. ET.