Here's a look at the first half of the season for the Oakland Raiders and a preview of what to expect the second half:
First-half snapshot with grade: What started out with so much promise -- a 2-0 start with Marshawn Lynch getting "hyphy" by dancing on the sideline in a rout of the New York Jets -- has become a frustrating muddle in Oakland. The Raiders' high-powered offense, which was ranked No. 6 last season, was just 20th at the midway point, seemingly having lost its identity. A year ago, the Raiders were a smashmouth, power-running team that rode Derek Carr's arm to late-game heroics. Now, under new offensive coordinator Todd Downing, Lynch is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, though his two-TD performance at Miami last weekend provided a spark, and Carr, who missed a game with a broken bone in his back a season after breaking his right pinkie finger and his right leg, was throwing too many short passes for the liking of anyone in Silver and Black, before going deep with success in Miami. A 4-5 record is the epitome of underachieving in Oakland these days. Grade: Below average
Midseason MVP: Michael Crabtree. The receiver, in his third year in Oakland, has been a constant in an increasingly inconsistent offense. His 411 receiving yards on 33 catches and 12.5 yards per reception average led the team through eight games. His six touchdown catches were tied for the third-most in the NFL. Sure, someone has to throw the ball to him, but with his sure hands you could make a case that he should be targeted on even more passes, especially on third down. In the Week 8 loss at the Buffalo Bills, Crabtree ran a deep in route that had many old-school Raiders looking on in admiration. Alas, Carr did not see him.
Best moment: Upending the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7, 31-30, during a Thursday prime-time affair in Oakland. The game ended with Crabtree's 2-yard TD catch from Carr and a Giorgio Tavecchio PAT with no time on the clock, which halted the Raiders' four-game losing streak. It appeared as though the offense had rediscovered its mojo after Carr directed an 11-play, 85-yard drive in the final 2:25. Plus, it lifted a huge weight from Carr, who beat the Chiefs for only the second time in his four-year career.
Worst moment: Getting beat up and embarrassed on national television at the Washington Redskins in Week 3. As if losing 27-10, while going 0-for-11 on third down, was not bad enough, a string of conspiracy theories followed. One included the offensive line being so upset with Carr for not kneeling with them during the national anthem that they let him take a beating that night. Another had the Raiders too distracted with planning a protest in the wake of President Donald Trump's national anthem comments two nights earlier. Think what you want, but this much was true: Oakland was the only NFL team some 3,000 miles away from home, cooped up in a hotel all day long, watching protests across the league and, with the Raiders' heritage of social advancement, had been given the green light by owner Mark Davis to demonstrate, if they pleased. You could say the Raiders have yet to fully recover from that game, in which they were dominated physically.
Second-half outlook: Five times during his 15-minute media conference following the Week 8 loss at Buffalo that dropped Oakland's record to 3-5, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said "mojo," as in that is what his team needed to recapture to get on track. Davis sat in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota, Florida, where the team stayed between games at Buffalo and at the Miami Dolphins, for a couple of hours two days after the loss to the Bills, cooling off from the disappointing start while offering encouragement to passing-by players. Words will not help as much as production. For the offense to achieve what is expected, it needs to go back to being a forceful unit that sets up the play-action pass with Lynch pounding the ball up the middle; and Carr has to be confident enough to take more deep shots, rather than settle for 3-yard passes on third-and-7. Meanwhile, the defense is only ranked 26th in the league through nine games, despite the presence of reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack.