Raiders are legit playoff contenders

Wrap your arms around this, if you can: Darren McFadden and Oakland might be going places this season. Jason O. Watson/US Presswire

One of the central themes of the excellent ESPN Films documentary "Catching Hell" was that Cubs fans believed the Steve Bartman interference play was a sign that the 2003 version of the team was just as cursed as all of its predecessors. It wasn't anything special; it was just the same old Cubs.

That same thought may have crossed the minds of Raiders fans this season. Over the past few years, Oakland's front office has frequently stockpiled the roster with talented players, but that talent hasn't led to a stockpile of wins. Instead, those players have consistently failed to perform up to their talent level. The scoreboard has shown some of those same inconsistencies so far this year. Victories over Denver and the Jets were both impressive achievements, but in between was a contest against the Buffalo Bills that saw Oakland get out to a 21-3 halftime lead and then give up 35 second-half points on the way to losing 38-35.

A stretch like that might make Oakland fans wonder if this is the year the Silver and Black finally turn the corner or if this is simply another instance of the same old Raiders, blowing games they have the talent to win.

But after doing detailed game tape and metric analysis, it is clear this team is not the same old Raiders. In fact, it looks like a bona fide playoff contender.