(CBS San Francisco/CBS Local) — The Oakland Raiders have opened the season with as tough of a schedule as you’ll find in the NFL. Each of their last four opponents — the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs — are at least 3-2. And even the Denver Broncos, who they faced in Week 1, are better than their 1-4 record would suggest. After their distraction-filled preseason, a winning record with impressive wins over good teams is certainly a pleasant surprise.
Credit for last week’s 24-21 triumph over the Bears goes to the offensive line. Their overwhelming performance let rookie Joshua Jacobs run around and over a stingy Bears defense, to the tune of 123 yards and two touchdowns. Ex-Raider Khalil Mack, who was certainly extra pumped to face his former team in London, remained mostly quiet. And when the Bears erased a 17-point lead in the third quarter, the Raiders didn’t roll over and play dead.
The previous week, the Raiders topped the Indianapolis Colts, 31-24, who have since rallied to knock off the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. Quarterback Derek Carr led touchdown drives on three of the team’s first four possessions in that matchup. It was a stark turnaround from the many scoreless possessions of the team’s first three games.
Have the Raiders finally turned a corner?
It’s hard to answer that question with a definitive ‘yes.’ But according to Inside The NFL analyst Steve Smith Sr., “Jon Gruden gets a lot of credit.” The Raiders under Gruden have navigated both the Antonio Brown debacle and the Vontaze Burfict suspension.
“But you know who else needs to get some credit,” Smith asks, “my former coworker, the general manager, Mike Mayock. It started off very chaotic. But the storm has calmed, and they are doing a really good job. They acquired some really good players through the draft and through free agency. And the guys that they have that have stuck and made it through free agency are playing up to the expectations that this team wanted when they signed these guys.”
Look no further than Jacobs, a first-round pick, and Tyrell Williams, an ex-Los Angeles Charger, who has caught a touchdown pass in each of the four games he’s played so far.
The Raiders have a bye in Week 6, but face the Green Bay Packers in Week 7.
You can catch Steve Smith Sr. along with Ray Lewis, Phil Simms and host James Brown when Inside The NFL airs tonight at 9 p.m. Central Time on Showtime.