McFadden is the fourth-leading rusher in the NFL and a prime reason the Raiders find themselves in the thick of a playoff race for the first time in nearly a decade.
At 5-4, the Raiders have as many wins as they've had in any season since 2002. Yet the national perception is more pessimistic, perhaps natural for a franchise that has had an NFL-record seven straight years with 10 or more losses.
McFadden hopes a win against Pittsburgh this week will change that.
"It's always going to be one of those questions," McFadden said Wednesday. "I feel like people are just expecting us any time to fall back into (playing like) last year's team, but I don't think that's something we're going to do. If we can go out there and put up a win against Pittsburgh, we're going to be able to show people that we are a for real team."
Only two of Oakland's five wins this season have come against teams with winning records, Seattle and Kansas City. The Raiders' four losses have been against teams struggling to stay above .500, like Tennessee and Houston. They've also dropped games to Arizona and San Francisco, both of which are 3-6.
Oakland coach Tom Cable hopes the critics stick around, and he points to early-season losses at Arizona and San Francisco as reasons why they should.
"For one, we haven't done anything yet," Cable said. "Those two things gnaw at you because you kind of know what your team should be, but we're not. We have got to keep grinding and fighting and going to work and cutting it loose and doing what we do. If I ever feel like we lose sight of that, I'll reel them back in."
The Raiders' schedule gets considerably tougher from here on out.
After Pittsburgh, they're home against Miami, then go on the road against Jacksonville and San Diego, followed by home games against Indianapolis and Denver and a season-ending trip to Kansas City. Of those seven, only the Chargers (4-5) and Broncos (3-6) are below .500.
"Teams start to separate themselves in November and December," defensive tackle Richard Seymour said. "We want to be one of those elite teams."
The Raiders are coming off their bye week and used the time off to get healthy.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle), tight end Zach Miller (arch) and defensive tackle John Henderson returned to practice, albeit limited. All three are expected to play in Pittsburgh, barring a setback.
The news wasn't as encouraging on wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Heyward-Bey strained a hamstring during the bye week and was held out of Wednesday's workout.
"It's just sore," Cable said. "It's a real slight sprain -- it's not real serious. But it's one of those things where if you push it too much too quick, it could become serious, so we're trying to take care of this a little bit."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press