The NFL and numerous other sports leagues are full of unpredictability. Because of this, teams often need to take advantage of their opportunities when they finish with a strong season and make it to the playoffs. The trajectory of the Oakland Raiders serves as a perfect example of why teams cannot just assume they will continue to be in contention for years to come. In 2016, Oakland finally reached the NFL playoffs for the first time in 14 years. Then the Raiders' star quarterback, Derek Carr, broke his leg, they were bounced from the playoffs, and it all fell apart.
1. False hype
There was an abundance of hype for the Raiders for the 2017 season after their first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Houston Texans. What analysts failed to take into account was that a good number of Oakland's 12 wins were close wins and could have just as easily have been losses.
2. Derek Carr was no longer the same.
The gunslinging signal-caller lost his confidence for the most part after his gruesome leg injury in 2016. In 2017, he seemed afraid to step up in the pocket as he made errant throws and displayed poor decision-making. He still showed flashes of his form from the previous year, but the regression was noticeable to all. The Raiders ultimately finished the year with a 6-10 record, missing the playoffs in the process.
3. Former Raiders head coach, Jon Gruden, was re-hired.
Gruden served as an ESPN analyst for nearly a decade before his return. Gruden made a number of controversial moves, one of which signaled the downturn of the franchise from here on out.
4. Before the 2018 season, the Raiders traded star defensive end Khalil Mack.
Mack, who was holding out for a lucrative contract extension during the offseason, to the Chicago Bears in exchange for significant draft capital in the next two years. This move was met with an overwhelmingly negative reception from Raiders fans and many analysts. Mack was viewed as one of Oakland's only defensive stalwarts, if not their only one. To add to that, he was entering his prime. Teams rarely trade or release athletes who are in or entering their prime because they need all the firepower they can get. This was especially true for the Raiders defensively, and their defense is now nearing the bottom of the NFL.
5. The veteran Mack is thriving with his new team.
The Bears signed him to a six-year contract extension which made him the highest-paid defender in the NFL. His presence has elevated the rest of Chicago's defense to the top of the league and it seems like they will not slow down. The Raiders sorely miss his presence, as perhaps the weakest area of their defense is their pass rush, which is virtually nonexistent.
6. Carr and the Raiders offense have been stagnant throughout the first few weeks of the season.
As a result, they have not won many games this season, and do not look capable of doing so. This should stress how important it is to take advantage of favorable opportunities when you have them, not just for sports, but for life in general.