For the Oakland Raiders, life atop the AFC West looks good nine games into the regular season.

With their 30-20 win over the division rival Denver Broncos on Sunday evening in front of a nationwide audience, the Raiders (7-2) took a one-game lead in the division over the Broncos (6-3), with Kansas City now in second place at 6-2.

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Having not been to the playoffs since they lost in the Super Bowl (2002 season), the Raiders are now looked at as a legitimate threat in the AFC this season. Yes, there are still seven games left in the regular season, but the very competitive AFC West could in fact be Oakland’s for the taking this year.

For now, however, Oakland fans will rejoice that their beloved Raiders are in the catbird’s seat.

Offense: A-

Going up against one the best defenses in the league, the Raiders amassed more than 400 yards of offense. Coming into the game, Oakland was a perfect 5-0 on the road, though just 1-2 at home. The win makes up (to some degree at least) for a rather lackluster 26-10 loss at home a few weeks back against Kansas City.

With a win (34-31) over San Diego at home earlier this season, Oakland now has to face its three division rivals on the road before season’s end. Quarterback Derek Carr, who has had his name thrown around in MVP talk this season, was 20-of-31 for 184 yards passing (no TD’s or INT’s). Oakland, which has had trouble with its ground game at times this season, got a sound effort from running back Latavius Murray. Banged up with a toe injury just a few weeks ago, Murray rushed for 114 yards on 20 carries, adding three touchdowns on the evening. As for the receivers, Amari Cooper led the way with six catches for 56 yards.

Defense: B+

While Denver’s defense is one of the better ones in the league, its running game struggled for most of the night against Oakland’s defense. The Broncos were held to a mere 33 yards of rushing (Devontae Booker led the way with 22 yards on 10 carries). Yes, talented running back C.J. Anderson is out indefinitely with a meniscus tear in his knee, but even the backups couldn’t do much rushing the ball on this night.

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Oakland did give up 283 yards of passing to rookie QB Trevir Siemian (two TDs), but one score was late in the fourth quarter on a great effort by running back Kapri Bibbs (69-yard touchdown reception). For the Raiders, Malcolm Smith led the way with eight solo tackles, David Amerson chipped in with five, and Khalil Mack added a pair of sacks. Reggie Nelson iced the game with an interception of Siemian with just under two minutes remaining.

Special Teams: B

Although regarded as one of the top kickers in the NFL, Sebastian Janikowski does have to leave Oakland fans a little bit concerned these days. Normally a lock from 50-plus yards, Janikowski has not been dead on this season. Even kicks under 50 yards have proven at times to be an adventure for the veteran (one miss of 48 yards against Denver). Janikowski finished his evening of work going 3-of-4 in field goals and 3-of-3 on extra points.

Meanwhile, punter Marquette King (45.3 yard average) pinned Denver inside its own 10 yard line a couple of times on the evening.

Coaching: A-

Even though the season is far from over, Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio seems to be pushing all the right buttons up to this point. He and his defensive coaches did a great job of limiting Denver’s already depleted rushing attack to next to nothing on this night. With a rookie QB (Siemian) going up against his defense, Del Rio and staff had the youngster on the run a number of times. With a next-to-nothing rushing attack, Oakland basically made Siemian try and win the game on his own. The true test for Del Rio and Co. will come in three of the final four games of the season. With road dates at Kansas City, San Diego and Denver, Raider fans will truly get to see if this team is for real in 2016.

Outlook: 

Oakland heads into its bye week about as good as it could have expected. Getting a few bodies healthy will be the main focus during the bye, along with keeping the team sharp. The Raiders “host” Houston on Nov. 21 in a game being played in Mexico City. Home games against Carolina and Buffalo follow, before the team hits the road for games at Kansas City and San Diego, respectively.

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Post Author: Dave Thomas.