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Despite 0-3 start, maybe Las Vegas Raiders are primed to succeed

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Stephen A. blames Derek Carr for Raiders' 0-3 start (1:04)

Stephen A. Smith says the Las Vegas Raiders' 0-3 start to the season mainly comes down to the poor form of Derek Carr. (1:04)

HENDERSON, Nev. -- As easy as it is to compare the Las Vegas Raiders using seven different offensive line combinations in three games to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, maybe things aren't so bad after all?

No, this is not an exasperated Kevin Bacon in the parade scene in "Animal House," either, telling the crowd to remain calm, that all is well.

And sure, Raiders owner Mark Davis held coach Josh McDaniels in his office for a lengthy meeting after Las Vegas lost at the Tennessee Titans last week to fall to 0-3 after an offseason of high expectations. That Davis, fresh from celebrating his Las Vegas Aces winning the WNBA title the week before, was rocking an Aces T-shirt at the game added a layer of ironic intrigue.

It has not been the start the Raiders' new regime of McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler expected. But there have been glimpses of positivity. Look, the Raiders are the best 0-3 team in the NFL ... even if they are the only 0-3 team in the NFL. And while McDaniels, who is just 5-20 as a head coach since starting 6-0 in 2009 and has been winning press conferences with the Raiders, he needs to start winning games.

A look, then, at why things are not as dire as they may appear in Silver and Blackdom.

There's simply too much talent on the roster

Pro Bowlers -- from quarterback Derek Carr to running back Josh Jacobs to tight end Darren Waller to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow to defensive end Maxx Crosby to linebacker Denzel Perryman to punter AJ Cole -- already dotted the roster when the new regime acquired arguably the best receiver in the game in Davante Adams and a potential future Hall of Famer in sack master Chandler Jones. So why hasn't all of that talent translated into a win, or three, yet?

The low-hanging fruit answer is that the transition period is taking longer than expected. And yet, there is truth in that statement. Yes, the Raiders were a playoff team last season, so shining up a 10-win squad with a purported elite playcaller who owns six Super Bowl rings was reason for optimism.

But remember, the Raiders won many of those games by razor-thin margins (hence the NFL record six walk-off wins) ,and this roster still had to learn an entirely new system.

"When you come in and you're attentive and you acknowledge some of the things that you did negatively that impacted the game in a bad way, you've got to come back and make those changes, and I saw that type of turn was made [Wednesday]," Adams said.

And while McDaniels insists he learned how to handle people better from his last stint as a head coach in Denver more than a decade ago, you have to wonder -- is McDaniels adapting his system to the roster at his disposal, or does he insist the players adapt to his system? In either case, an adjustment period was/is needed. For the Raiders' sake, it better not take too much longer.

Hey, it's not like they've been blown out, right?

True story. You can cherry-pick whatever stat you want to prove your point. So let's imbibe. The closest the Raiders' offense has looked to being what was expected comes when you combine the second half of the opener at the Los Angeles Chargers and the first half against the Arizona Cardinals.

In those four quarters, Las Vegas outscored its opponents, 36-7. On the flip side, if you combine the second half and overtime of the Cardinals game with the first half at Tennessee, the Raiders were outscored, 53-13. Yikes.

So, which is it? The truth, as with so many other things, is somewhere in the middle. But if you're rocking some Silver and Black-colored glasses, you can say with a straight face that the Raiders are three plays away from being 3-0.

They did, after all, have the ball with the opportunity to drive for a game-winner at the Chargers and were already in Daniel Carlson's field-goal range when Renfrow's fumble was picked up for a walk-off scoop-and-score by the Cardinals. And a better hands day by Waller (and, maybe, better ball placement by Carr) in the end zone has the Raiders beating the Titans, um, handily.

"We haven't won this year. That solves everything. When we went on our run last year, a lot of things got overlooked because we were winning," Carr said. "Everyone's frustrated. I was pissed after we lost. No one wants to lose, especially the way that we've lost – 13 points or whatever it is in three games. That's crazy."

As the Associated Press pointed out, the Raiders have been in a position to drive for a win or tie at the end of each game. Thing is, Carr is just 9-for-21 passing for 112 yards with two fumbles, a touchdown and a failed 2-point conversion pass on those drives for a 75.9 passer rating.

More frustrating, Carr is just 1-of-7 for 12 yards when targeting Adams for a 39.6 rating on those drives. Hey, as Adams said in Nashville, it's O.K. to be frustrated, so long as you do something about it. Stay tuned.

Maybe the AFC West is not the beast we thought it was

Look, the Chargers (1-2) are already a walking M*A*S*H* unit, with quarterback Justin Herbert nursing injured ribs and defensive Joey Bosa and left Rashawn Slater being placed on injured reserve, the latter out for the season. The Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) suddenly look human after losing at the Indianapolis Colts and surviving the Chargers thanks to a 99-yard pick-six. And the Broncos (2-1) should be nicknamed Melatonin. Yes, even with Russell Wilson at the helm, the Broncos offense has been boring enough to put you to sleep.

"It's still September, and I think all three other [AFC West] teams -- and then you throw ourselves in there -- I can't imagine that there's any team in the league that's saying right now, 'Man, we're where we want to be at the end,'" McDaniels said.

With a win Sunday against Denver, the Raiders position themselves well. Especially with a prime-time game in Kansas City next week.

A 2-3 record at the bye, with two wins in the division and the confidence and momentum that would come with that, certainly makes things look a lot less formidable. And the post-bye schedule sets up well. Of course, the Raiders have to win a game first before even talking about taking a two-game winning streak into the bye week. First thing's first.

Still, coming into the season, the AFC West was thought to be the strongest division in the league in recent memory, that perhaps it would cannibalize itself over the course of a 17-game season and cost a team, or two, a playoff berth. As it looks now, after just three games, no one is truly primed to run away with the division.