NFL

NFL: Will a Trade Turn the Oakland Raiders Into Playoff Contenders?

We’re nearing the make or break point of the NFL season. The league’s trade deadline is October 29, meaning that teams have one more weekend to decide if they are buyers or sellers. The Oakland Raiders, it seems, are firmly placing themselves in the former camp.

On Sunday, news broke that the Raiders were looking to trade for some defensive reinforcements. Could that deal turn them into contenders, though?

The Raiders defensive struggles

The Oakland Raiders had an elite defensive player in the form of Khalil Mack. Ever since they traded him to Chicago at the start of last season, though, their defense has fallen off. The Raiders finished the 2018 campaign with only 13 sacks and gave up over 380 yards per game. With the Bears, Mack had 12.5 sacks by himself.

Oakland brought in veteran linebacker Vontaze Burfict to try to sure things up, but his disciplinary record promptly earned him a season-long suspension. In his absence, the Raiders have continued to struggle. They’re still allowing almost 400 yards per game, and generate very little off the pass rush. Opposing quarterbacks can sit in the pocket and pick the secondary apart like Aaron Rogers did on Sunday.

There’s clearly an area of need in the Oakland defensive ranks. The team might have created their own issues by trading Mack and trying to replace him with Burfict, but there’s no time like the present to set things right.

An obvious trade target

With the trade deadline more than a week away, there’s still a bit of uncertainty about who the Raiders could actually target. One name definitely makes sense, though: Vic Beasley.

The Falcons have reportedly placed the pass rusher on the trading block. Beasley isn’t agitating for a move but understands the reality of the NFL. “If that happens, then it happens,” Beasley explained on Sunday. “But right now, I’m still on the team.”

On the surface, it might seem like a bad idea to pluck Beasley from Atlanta. The Falcons defense has been remarkably bad this season, and the pass rusher’s personal numbers have also fallen off. While Beasley has struggled to sack the opposition quarterback this season, he is pressuring the pocket at a good rate. For a meek Raiders pass rush, something as simple as creating extra chaos in the backfield could make a world of difference.

Can the Oakland Raiders make the playoffs?

Even if they can add a defensive end or linebacker, the Raiders will still have to make up some ground to crash the playoff party. Oakland is currently sitting at .500, making them the seventh-place team in the AFC. The next few weeks, however, will be critical.

After next weekend’s tough game with the Houston Texans, the Raiders will enter a winnable stretch of their schedule. They’ll face the Lions, Chargers, Bengals, and Jets before traveling to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Kansas City Chiefs. They must seize their opportunity and win at least three of those middle four games; with Patrick Mahomes on the sidelines, this is Oakland’s opportunity to gain ground.

As of now, the Chiefs are still favored to come out of the AFC West. Patrick Mahomes’ injury, however, has opened up a window for Oakland; perhaps the right trade can help them burst through that crack. As the old cliche says, nothing ventured, nothing gained.