Raiders

Raiders believe playoff push is possible with road odyssey in rear view

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USATSI

Raiders believe playoff push is possible with road odyssey in rear view

ALAMEDA -- When the Raiders last played a home game, they were a 1-1 team preparing to begin a lengthy road trip that many believed would sink their season. 

Playing five straight games away from home -- all against playoff-caliber opponents -- is a lot of any team to overcome, much less a rebuilding team whose wide receiving corps has been turned upside down and whose defense had just been diced up by the Chiefs. 

Sure enough, the Raiders opened the road trip by getting punked by the Vikings, a Week 3 blowout that had many waving goodbye to Jon Gruden's club. But the Raiders didn't fold. Instead, they rebounded with back-to-back wins over the Colts and Bears to ensure the long odyssey wouldn't doom their campaign.

They were outgunned in a Week 7 loss to the Packers. The journey came to a close with a loss to the Texans in Week 8, a game the Raiders let slip through their fingers, sending them back home at 3-4. 

Still, the trip proved to the Raiders and the NFL that the Silver and Black can compete with the best in the league. A 3-4 record after a grueling trip is nothing for the Raiders to hang their head over. With the AFC having a down year, the Raiders are just 1 1/2 games behind the Texans for a wild-card spot, with winnable games coming up. 

Their performance, especially in the last four games of the trip, showed what they can do. 

"Well, we feel like we're pretty good," Gruden told the media Wednesday. "I feel like we are getting better and that's all we can control. We are just going to try and keep getting better every day. We would have liked to have had the last win, but there are a lot of teams in this league right now who are just hanging on. It's a tough business. We got a lot of injuries, we've had some tough deals, but I love this team."

Sunday's game against the Lions will kick off a second half of the schedule that is far easier than the Raiders' opening seven games. November will see the Raiders face the Lions, the struggling Chargers and Bengals at home before visiting the punchless New York Jets.

All four of those games are winnable. At least two of them are losable, especially for a young team that's rebuilding. Other than a Dec. 1 game in Kansas City, December also sets up well for the Raiders, with bouts against the Jaguars and Titans at home and road games at the Chargers and in Denver against the Broncos,

Aside from the Chiefs, who are without quarterback Patrick Mahomes, none of those teams should scare the Raiders. The Chargers have a boatload of talent, but they have scuffled to a 3-5 start and just fired offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. A loss to the Packers in Week 9 could send the Bolts' season down the drain and make them ripe for picking off.

After going through a road gauntlet almost unheard of in the NFL and coming out still breathing, the Raiders believe they can do what seemed impossible after Week 3.

"We never have a doubt," quarterback Derek Carr said about making a run at the playoffs. "We know we have a very good football team, we just have to put it all together. All three phases, every game. Be clean, be efficient. Try and eliminate the penalties, that kind of stuff. If we can do that, we feel very confident we can play with anybody. Right now we have to take care of business this week and get a home win against a good football team."

The Lions will pose a big challenge to the Raiders. Like Oakland, they enter Week 9 with their playoff hopes teetering on a razor's edge. They are a talented team, getting great play from quarterback Matt Stafford and a defense that has frustrated the Chiefs and Packers.

[RELATED: Raiders' Mullen ready for starting job after wake-up call]

A loss Sunday to the Lions likely would put a fork in any playoff talk for the Raiders.

But a win would get them to 4-4 with a Thursday night game against a banged-up Chargers team coming up in Week 10, with the Bengals and Jets to follow.

Is a four-game winning streak in the cards? Even three of four would get the Raiders to 6-5, with four winnable games remaining on the schedule.

The path is there. Can the Raiders walk it?

Raiders legend Cliff Branch denied in latest Pro Football Hall of Fame bid

Raiders legend Cliff Branch denied in latest Pro Football Hall of Fame bid

The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted an expanded class in honor of the NFL’s 100th season, providing an opportunity to right some wrongs from way, way back.

They formed a blue-ribbon panel to select a larger group for induction, including 10 seniors who played at least 25 years ago, two coaches and three contributors.

But that still was not enough to get Cliff Branch in the Hall.

The legendary Raiders receiver was not included among the inductees, a disappointing turn for a Raiders franchise still mourning Branch’s loss.

Branch passed away last summer at the age of 71. Making the Hall of Fame proved elusive for the three-time Super Bowl champion and dangerous deep threat known for elite athleticism and speed.

[RELATEDBranch leaves lasting NFL legacy, earned Hall of Fame induction]

He had 501 catches for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns, averaging 17.3 yards per reception. Those totals match some of his contemporaries who have been enshrined, but his case has yet to be validated with a positive vote.

This was Branch’s best chance to get in. Now he’ll be reliant on the senior committee, which nominates one or two older players for enshrinement every year. Quarterback Ken Stabler was the last Raider inducted by the senior committee in 2016.

Roger Craig, who played for the Los Angeles Raiders in 1991, also was not selected.

The centennial class of enshrinees will be joined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020 by five modern-era players who will be elected the day before Super 54 in Miami.

Here is the complete list of inductees selected by the blue-ribbon panel as part of the 2020 Hall of Fame Class that consists of 10 seniors, three contributors and two coaches:

Coaches

Bill Cowher – 1992-2006 (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Jimmy Johnson – 1989-1993 (Dallas Cowboys(, 1996-99 (Miami Dolphins)

Contributors

Steve Sabol, Administrator/President – 1964-2012 (NFL Films)
Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner – 1989-2006 (NFL)
George Young, Contributor/General Manager – 1968-1974 (Baltimore Colts), 1975-78 (Miami Dolphins), 1979-1997 (New York Giants), 1998-2001 (NFL)

Seniors

Harold Carmichael, WR – 1971-1983 (Philadelphia Eagles), 1984 (Dallas Cowboys)
Jim Covert, T – 1983-1990 (Chicago Bears)
Bobby Dillon, S – 1952-59 (Green Bay Packers)
Cliff Harris, S – 1970-79 (Dallas Cowboys)
Winston Hill, T – 1963-1976 (New York Jets), 1977 (Los Angeles Rams)
Alex Karras, DT – 1958-1962, 1964-1970 (Detroit Lions)
Donnie Shell, S – 1974-1987 (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Duke Slater, T – 1922 (Milwaukee Badgers), 1922-25 (Rock Island Independents), 1926-1931 (Chicago Cardinals)
Mac Speedie, E – 1946-1952 (Cleveland Browns AAFC/NFL)
Ed Sprinkle, DE/LB/E – 1944-1955 (Chicago Bears)

NFL rumors: Raiders fire D-line coach Brentson Buckner after one season

NFL rumors: Raiders fire D-line coach Brentson Buckner after one season

Brentson Buckner's time with the Raiders appears to be over after only one season. 

NFL Media's Jim Trotter reported Tuesday that the Raiders have fired Buckner and will name Rod Marinelli as their new defensive line coach. As Trotter pointed out, the Raiders improved tremendously under Buckner in 2019, improving their sack total by 19 compared to the previous season. 

Buckner reacted to the news later Tuesday afternoon.

While the Raiders vastly improved their sack numbers, they still finished the regular season tied for 24th in the NFL. But fifth-round draft pick Maxx Crosby finished the season with 10 sacks and 14 QB hits this season as a rookie, and there's no doubt Buckner played a large role in Crosby's fast transition to the NFL.

Marinelli served as the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator since the 2014 season. He coached the team's D-line the year before. 

[RELATED: Gruden, Mayock spotted at East-West Shrine Bowl practice]

The Cowboys ended 2019 with 39 sacks, good for 19th in the league.

Coach Jon Gruden's decision to fire Buckner as one year in Silver and Black surely comes as a surprise.