After three years of rebuilding, the Raiders may be ready to challenge for the NFLs biggest prize. Sky Sports considers if Oakland is ready to return to winning ways. The last time the Raiders had a winning season, they got to the Super Bowl. MVP quarterback Rich Gannon led the team to an 11-5 season before throwing five interceptions in a crushing loss to the Tampa Bay Bucaneers.Since that season in 2002, the Raiders have gone 63-145, finishing with double digit losses in 10 of the last 13 seasons. In 2012 Reggie McKenzie became general manager of the organisation, taking on the unenviable task of rebuilding a team that ranked 29th in points conceded, without a draft pick until the third round and some $30m over the cap budget. Oakland will be hoping to mount a push for a play-off spot at the Coliseum It was a tough couple of years for Raiders fans, who watched their team decimated in a desperate attempt to stabilise the franchise.As a result, between 2012-2014 they won a total of 11 games, used six starting quarterbacks and faced ridicule from all corners of the NFL. Throughout it all, and in the face of overwhelming pressure, McKenzie began the painful process of a methodical rebuild, through a balance of effective draft strategy and smart free agent signings.At last years draft, Amari Cooper, Mario Edwards Jn and Clive Walford all landed in Oakland and instantly became key pieces of head coach Jack del Rios redevelopment puzzle. Amari Cooper has been a success after being drafted last year In the draft class the year before, six of the franchises seven picks have played more than 25 games over the last two seasons. That includes first and second round picks Khalil Mack and Derek Carr, who have played in every game. In Carr, the Raiders have a promising young quarterback to build their team around. Mack was equally important on the defensive side of the ball, registering 15 sacks last year and becoming the player in NFL history to be named a first team All Pro at two different positions in the same season.Factor in the experience of free agent signings Kelechi Osemele, Bruce Irvin, Shaun Smith and Reggie Nelson, and Jack del Rios Oakland Raiders are a vastly different prospect to that of four years ago. The addition of Nelson addresses a weakness in dealing with pass catching tight ends.While in Osemele and Irvin, the Raiders have Super Bowl champion experience, which will help to guide a youthful team, taking the leadership reigns from the retired duo of Justin Tuck and Charles Woodson. Reggie Nelson has joined Oakland from the Cincinnati Bengals Going into their second year working togther, Del Rio and McKenzie seem to be on the same page when it comes to the regeneration of Oakland. Both former NFL linebackers, the mantra is focused on attitude over talent, and developing a team-first philosophy.The Raiders will look to reinforce their defence for this years draft with the primary focus at cornerback and defensive tackle. If they can land talent as they have done over the last two drafts, the team will be a fierce opponent, not only in the AFC West but throughout the play-offs.The Denver Broncos offer a great example to the Raiders. In 2010 the Broncos won only four games and finished bottom of the division. Five years down the line, after astute drafting and savvy free agency, the reigning Super Bowl champions have won the division every year since and been to two Super Bowls.For the first time since Hue Jackson led the team to an 8-8 season in 2011, the Raiders will look to become a credible contender for a play-off berth. If they can maintain their upward trajectory, there may be more competition in the West. Also See: 2017 NFL schedule released Can Jacksonville challenge? What next for Cleveland? Play-offs could expand? Robert Svehla Jersey
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