OAKLAND, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable has told anyone willing to listen the past two years that the team he inherited from Lane Kiffin was on to something, that the Raiders were making steady progress toward ending their skid that began in 2003.
For the most part, it fell on deaf ears as the losses mounted and the tangible signs of a turnaround failed to manifest themselves in a concrete manner.
Three weeks ago, the Raiders entered a game against the Denver Broncos at 2-4 and at the precipice. Today, they are 5-4 and the talk of the league for their remarkable resurgence.
"You all thought I was crazy when we were struggling early in the year, and I just knew that we were that close," Cable said.
Cable isn't ready to pronounce the Raiders' arrival as an elite team just yet. However, he now has everyone's attention and a slew of evidence to support his contention that there's a revival taking place from the ashes of seven straight seasons of at least 11 losses.
The Raiders are above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2002 as they enjoy their bye week. They tied with Kansas City Chiefs atop the AFC West and one win away from surpassing their victory total from any of the past seven seasons.
His players are all-in, that's for sure. Outside linebacker Quentin Groves was told by peers that he was going to a place where players "go for your career to die" when he was traded to the Raiders in the offseason.
He said he told himself that it couldn't be that bad and his faith has been rewarded.
"The sense that we have and the presence that we have is not the old Raiders, the Raiders of old, the Raiders of these past seven years," Groves said. "We have a sense of, 'OK, we can compete against anybody.' If we strap on our helmet, buckle our chin strap, we can compete with anybody. And that's the thing we take into each game, that, hey, you're not going to beat us, we can only beat ourselves. So once we do that, we're a hard team to beat."
The Raiders have seven games left this season. A game against the 3-6 Denver Broncos is the only one that qualifies as somewhat of a breather between now and the playoffs. Yet, there's hope this late in the season, where in seasons past there was none.
What follows is a look at the reasons there are people beyond Cable thinking the Raiders are a legitimate playoff contender and not just a first-half feel-good story:
1. Rushing offense
The Raiders are second in the league at an average of 162.2 yards per game. Darren McFadden has developed into one of the league's best all-around backs in his first season as the featured running back.
McFadden's ability to break tackles, turn short runs into long ones and keep the Raiders in favorable down-and-distance situations paves the way for an efficient offensive attack.
Michael Bush and Marcel Reece complement McFadden well and make the Raiders difficult to defend for an entire game. The ability to run the ball well also keeps the defense off the field for longer stretches and, by extension, fresher late in games.
2. Defensive pressure
Tackle Richard Seymour is playing as well as any defensive player in the league. Fellow tackle Tommy Kelly, ends Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston and numerous others are feeding off Seymour's intensity and leadership.
The result is the No. 3 pass defense, a tie for the second-most sacks and less pressure on the linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties to execute their assignments beyond three seconds.
"Tommy and Richard, there's times when they're unblockable," Cable said. "They're really playing at a high level."
The consistent play of the defensive line has enabled the Raiders to impose their will on their opponents.
"We're lining up and we're playing and we're saying, 'Here we are, let's fight,"' Cable said. "That has probably paid off more for us than anything else."
3. Young and new faces
Only five of the 22 offensive and defensive starters--left guard Robert Gallery, right guard Cooper Carlisle, tight end Zach Miller, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and Kelly--were starting for the Raiders at the end of the 2008 season.
Seymour, linebackers Groves and Kamerion Wimbley, center Samson Satele and quarterback Jason Campbell arrived via trade within the past two years.
Middle linebacker Rolando McClain, Houston and Shaughnessy, strong safety Tyvon Branch, wide receivers Louis Murphy, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford came in the past two draft classes.
"Youth is probably the best thing because this is a young man's game," Groves said. "We are growing together as a team. College is one thing but the NFL is a totally different thing. We're learning how to win. We're blowing guys out but, at the same time, we're fighting back, too. That's the thing that molds and builds a team."
4. Conquering demons
The Raiders carried numerous ignominious streaks into this season. One by one, they are falling.
The Raiders beat the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 10, snapping a 13-game losing streak to the AFC West's dominant team the past four seasons. Their victory over the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday at the Coliseum ended a seven-game losing streak against the Chiefs at home.
In the process, the Raiders cobbled together their first three-game winning streak since 2002. They also are 3-0 in the division for the first time in eight seasons.
The Chiefs game attracted enough fans for the Raiders to notch their first sellout of the season and first since the 2009 regular-season opener. Media from several national publications were there to take note.
Slowly but surely, fewer and fewer people look at Cable as if he is delusional or seeing things through silver-and-black-colored glasses.
"Results are always the exclamation point," Cable said. "But the real truth of it is, you got to more stubborn as a coach than the problem, if that makes sense. We've never ducked trying to change the attitude, trying to change the environment in the locker room and that sort of thing.
"We've never dodged that. We've dealt with it. We've talked about it. We've learned to communicate, learned to trust each other. You have to do those things. You have to work at those things. They just don't happen. Knowing what the problem is, you have to be willing to stand up to the problem.
"If you're bigger than the problem, then you can make it happen. If you're not, the problem wins. So, I feel like, as a coaching staff and as a football team, together, that we've become bigger than what our negatives are, and that's why we're succeeding."