I called the Raiders overrated before the season and said they were one of the worst teams in the league and an ugly 35-13 loss to the Dolphins is making that look pretty good. The new regime has a lot of promise, but they inherited a mess, an 8 win team (with a Pythagorean Expectation of 6 wins for stat nerds) that was above the cap and didn’t have very many draft picks. Whether or not the future is bright remains to be seen, but the present is pretty bad.
On top of all that, they’ve been destroyed by injuries. Linebacker Aaron Curry is expected to miss the entire season, while top cornerback Ronald Bartell will miss at least 6 weeks after being put on non-season ending IR. Shawntae Spencer, another starting cornerback, will also miss this week, as could middle linebacker Rolando McClain. McClain’s potential absence hurts as he’s one of their best defensive players and plays in a unit already starting a 4th round rookie. Travis Goethel, an inexperienced 2010 5th round pick, would start in his absence if he couldn’t go. He’s been practiced in spite of a concussion, but it’s unclear if he’s been given the necessary medical clearance to play. If he can’t obtain that by Sunday, it won’t matter that he practiced this week.
Spencer, meanwhile, isn’t very good, but he was a starter at a very thin position to begin with. After failing to return everyone at the position who played a single snap for them in 2011, the Raiders have lost their top two cornerbacks with injury and will likely start Patrick Lee and Phillip Adams in this one. Yeah, good luck containing Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown this week, as they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Raiders know they’re thin at cornerback, so they’re considering moving safety Michael Huff there, at least in certain situations, this week, but I don’t know if that will help. Huff hasn’t played cornerback since college, so he might not be any better and that would leave them short a starter at safety, one of the few positions where they actually have talent.
Offensively, they are expected to be without right tackle Khalif Barnes this week. Barnes isn’t great or anything, but replacement Willie Smith was horrendous last week after Barnes left the game. They’re already the 8th ranked offensive line in pass blocking efficiency and that will only get worse this week as they face a tough Pittsburgh pass rush. The Steelers tend to flat fall on the road, as they are -40 on the road since the beginning of last year, including playoffs, and +137 at home. They beat Indianapolis by just 3, Kansas City by just 4, and Cleveland by just 3 last year. However, they’re heading into a bye and good teams tend to be very focused and cover heading into a bye. Road favorites of 3+ and home favorites of 7+ are a combined 34-18 ATS heading into a bye since 2002, as long as their opponent isn’t also heading into a bye. I have a hard time seeing the Raiders avoiding on 0-3 hole this week.