Raiders fans, don't get apoplectic when you read this, but DEREK CARR is not the savior of the NFL. He's just an extremely talented 26-year-old quarterback who can run a wide-ranging offense and flick strong, tight-window throws anywhere on the field. MVP-caliber stuff? You bet. But understand: Carr did not play like an MVP last year until Week 8. Before that, he had been inconsistent in his mechanics and decision-making. This is actually good news for the faithful, because it suggests that Carr is in the early stages of his growth, and he could have an even better season in 2017.
• What first-time offensive coordinator TODD DOWNING wanted most this offseason was to acquire a tight end who was a true weapon in the passing game. (Incumbent CLIVE WALFORD is a backup.) Downing got that in former Packer JARED COOK.
• Remember: MARSHAWN LYNCH last produced like a star running back in 2014. It will be interesting to see how he comes back after a season off. The Raiders have two excellent backups in DEANDRE WASHINGTON and JALEN RICHARD. Most likely the 31-year-old Lynch will lead the rotation as a first- and second-down back.
• Overall, the Cowboys have the NFL's best offensive line—by far. The argument is whether Oakland has the best interior offensive line in football. Guards GABE JACKSON and especially KELECHI OSEMELE can displace defensive linemen in the ground game. Center RODNEY HUDSON is alert and technically sound blocking on the move.
• The Raiders have perhaps the least appealing group of linebackers in the NFL, so the defense must continue to be aggressive schematically. Raiders DC KEN NORTON JR. would presumably prefer the straightforward zone tactics that he learned as an assistant in Seattle. But that defense is about reading and reacting. Oakland's linebackers would get exposed playing that kind of football.
• Instead of significantly addressing their linebacking corps in the offseason Oakland drafted cornerback GAREON CONLEY of Ohio State in the first round and safety OBI MELIFONWU of Connecticut in the second. The better your defensive backfield, the more creative your scheme can be.
"LYNCH, WITH TWO EXCELLENT BACKUPS, WILL LIKELY LEAD THE ROTATION AS A FIRST- AND SECOND-DOWN BACK."
SI'S 2017 PREDICTION
IN MEXICO CITY
ANDY BENOIT'S 400 MMQB ON.SI.COM/400
8 KHALIL MACK DE
66 KELECHI OSEMELE G
102 RODNEY HUDSON C
124 DEREK CARR QB
141 AMARI COOPER WR
144 GABE JACKSON G
179 BRUCE IRVIN OLB
244 JARED COOK TE
245 MICHAEL CRABTREE WR
250 KARL JOSEPH SS
262 DAVID AMERSON CB
283 DONALD PENN T
355 REGGIE NELSON FS