With Ascending Derek Carr, Raiders Finally Look Like Legitimate Playoff Team

Since they were demolished by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII, the Oakland Raiders have won an NFL-low 60 games over the course of 12-plus non-playoff seasons.

In fact, no other NFL team has won fewer than 65 games during that span, and in terms of point differential and turnover margin, the Raiders are in a league of their own (in a bad way).

Sports writers have become so accustomed to writing it that there are tweens in the Bay Area who think "the lowly Raiders" is the team's official nickname.

But after a second consecutive impressive victory on Sunday, the upstart Raiders are officially no longer lowly.

Instead, a team that has quietly accumulated a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball and avoided the kind of off-the-field shenanigans that handcuffed it in previous eras deserves the respect of observers as well as opponents.

The Raiders are 4-3, which alone might not be enough to convince anyone that they've finally turned a corner. After all, they started 3-4 or 4-3 in each season between 2010 and 2013 but finished with a winning record zero times during that stretch.

This year, Oakland is two heartbreaking losses to the Bears and Broncos short of being 6-1. They've been clearly outplayed just once all season, and that was nearly two months ago in a season-opening loss to a Cincinnati Bengals team that has still yet to lose.

The major difference this year, though, is that the Raiders finally have a quarterback they can hitch their wagon to.

Second-year sensation Derek Carr had the best game of his young career on Sunday, throwing four touchdown passes and no interceptions in a 333-yard performance against a New York Jets defense that entered Sunday ranked second in football.

Opposing quarterbacks had completed a league-low 54.8 percent of their passes and had an ugly combined passer rating of 78.5 against...

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