In the event the Oakland Raiders repeat last year’s masterful 12-4 record, the next step is a deep playoff run. Now is not the time to just smile at be pleased with merely securing a spot. 2016 provided a taste. For 2017, RaiderNation expects a full bite. Anything short of a deep playoff run serves as a disappointment. Call it overreaction or hyperbole, but it’s time to win. With that said, several AFC obstacles (outside of the division) stand in the way of the Raiders venturing to Minnesota. Yesterday, we discussed the Patriots, so they are not on this list.
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- Dolphins DL: Despite the pastel theme, Miami plays with grit and anger on defense. Everything begins with the front four. With Wake, Suh, Phillips, and Hayes blazing upfield, Oakland will face a line that poses an equal physical threat to them. Whatever Cameron Wake makes this year, a percentage needs to go to Suh. Whenever Suh lined up, everyone around him is better. As a result, guys like William Hayes benefit from the quarterback getting flushed from the pocket. That Suh-Osemele battle is worth the price of admission alone.
On offense, while Ryan Tannehill does not scare anyone, his teammates cause concern. Jay Ajayi broke out in 2016, gaining 1.272 and scoring eight times. Where Ajayi succeeds is his balance and slashing ability. Without a doubt, the league knows Jarvis Landry. Yet, Kenny Stills flies under the radar. Instantly, one aspect of Stills becomes clear: he’ll run that go route. Stills’ job requires him to stretch defenses. If he gets a free release, he’s making reservations for six. Of his 42 catches, nine went to the house.
- Steelers Offense: Sooner or later, Ben Roethlisberger will retire. He takes ungodly punishment and seems to miss multiple games. Yet, Big Ben rises to the occasion when he plays. Granted, this is not the typical Steelers offense. The team can suit up six quality receivers at any time. Speaking of receivers, Antonio Brown remains a concern. Why? This is what happened the last time Brown faced Oakland. 28 targets is an obscene number. More importantly, Le’Veon Bell is a matchup nightmare. For instance on successive plays, he can line up in the slot, the shotgun or wide. Moreover, he runs routes like receivers. The route tree remains open.
In reality, Miami and Pittsburgh lack the buzz that Kansas City and New England have. Yet, the Raiders could see them this winter.