The NFL bye week is a blessing for most teams, but timing is key. In recent years, the Oakland Raiders had their bye week fairly early, leaving many to wish it was later in the season when the team was more worn down and could use the rest. This year, the bye week comes just after the quarter point of the season, which is fairly early but perfect for the Raiders.
While we don’t know what the injury situation will be like later in the year, we know what it’s like now and it’s bad.
Both starting safeties, Charles Woodson and T.J. Carrie, as well as starting running back Latavius Murray, are playing with shoulder injuries that are clearly still painful. Taiwan Jones, Justin Ellis and Denico Autry, three guys who were receiving significant playing time, all missed the game against Denver. And to make things worse, defensive end Justin Tuck injured his shoulder on Sunday.
And those are just the more serious injuries. Benson Mayowa, C.J. Wilson, Ben Heeney and Michael Crabtree all played after nursing minor injuries in the week leading up to the game.
The bye is also coming at a good time just in terms of pure football. The Raiders will enter the bye week with a 2-3 record that easily could have been 4-1. The Raiders have been equally frustrating and exciting so far. They’ve been more competitive than expected, but have also bungled opportunities to win in each of the last two weeks. They lost by less than seven points in each game and had gaffs that likely made the difference.
This team does not look like it’s taken the so-called “next step,” but it looks like that next level could be reached this season. The roster has shown it’s good enough to compete with good teams. The only major hole is in the secondary, and with the pass rush playing better, that hasn’t looked nearly as bad as some expected.
Both sides of the ball have had very good games while struggling with inconsistency. Having the bye now will give the Raiders coaching staff a chance to re-evaluate everything they’re doing, and they’ll have more than enough film at their disposal. The coaching early has been solid but nothing special and this is the chance for the staff to change that. With a few tweaks to play-calling and personnel, Jack Del Rio can probably get a lot more out of his team.
Coming out of the bye, the Raiders will have their annual ninth home game at the Coliseum South (also known as Qualcomm stadium) when they take on a San Diego Chargers team that is not playing as well as they would like thus far. It’s a great opportunity for the Raiders to put together everything they learned through the first five weeks and get a win against a decent opponent.
If they can do that, they will take momentum into a part of their schedule with a number of winnable games against teams like Tennessee, Minnesota, Detroit and Kansas City. Finishing .500 is not out of the question for this team, but they need to take advantage of the bye week if they want to get there.