Thursday, May 18, 2006

AFC West: For The Taking

Expectations were high for the Raiders last year and we bombed. Expectations are low for the Raiders this year and I’m licking my chops. If you listen to the talking heads on Sirius NFL Radio and elsewhere, you’d think that the Raiders are primed for another 4-12 season, that the team is nothing more than a reclamation project. Personally, I can’t wait for the Raiders to smite the mockers and shut some pieholes.

I have no doubt that the Raiders offense will unleash much more of its explosive potential this year. In the wake of the recent draft, the defense should also be (and had better be) much improved. And while the AFC west is surely one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, I see some cracks in the competitive armor:

DENVER BRONCOS

After
flipping off the home crowd in Denver (and who here hasn’t wanted to do that?) in 2004, Jake Plummer decided to get down with the Rocky Mountains and grow a Sasquatch beard for the 2005 season. Along the way, he managed to contain his personality issues and led the Broncos to their first AFC Championship since the 1998 season. His reward? The Broncos traded up to snag QB Jay Cutler in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft. I’m sure Plummer is thrilled and handling the situation with the utmost composure. Meanwhile, the Broncos’ fabled luck with their running game is about to run out as they field the fearsome tandem of Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne. Yes, the Broncos got the injured malcontent Javon Walker to bolster their receiving corps, but how can Jake throw an accurate pass to Javon while looking over his shoulder at Jay?

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

The San Diego franchise’s lone Super Bowl appearance was a loss that came eight years before the Raiders’ most recent (and fifth) Super Bowl appearance. With playoff-challenged Marty Schottenheimer at the helm, the Chargers' fortunes won't likely change anytime soon. In fact, Marty starts the season as a lame duck as friction grows between the coach and general manager AJ Smith, who, against Marty's wishes, dumped Drew Brees in favor of rookie Philip Rivers. From the team the brought you Ryan Leaf comes another unproven QB who was chosen over a Manning. In other words, the Chargers are perfectly poised for a meltdown. Personally, I can’t wait for Mr. Burgess to introduce himself to Mr. Rivers.


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

The zebras ripped us off not once, but twice, against the Chiefs last year. Now comes new coach Herm Edwards, whose clock management skills rival those of Norv Turner. I think Herm Edwards looks the part, but I’m not convinced he ultimately has the right stuff. This is a team in coaching transition, with a quarterback who isn't getting younger and a receiving corps that, aside from tight end Tony Gonzales, fails to impress. Their defense, touted as "much improved" early last year, barely ranked above ours by the end of the season (like us, they focused on defense in the recent draft). Barring more zebra heists, there's no reason we can't make this team pay for last year's heartbreaks.


In summary, the AFC West is for the taking. I think that the Raiders can win at least one matchup against each of our division rivals, for a minimum total of three divisional wins. I also believe we can beat the Niners, Cardinals, Rams, Jets, Browns, Texans and Ravens. All together, that would mean ten victories—far more than most are predicting for the Raiders this year. Heck, I think we can beat anyone on the right day. Losing record? I don’t see it. Put me down for eight wins minimum.

In other words, the playoffs are definitely in reach. Cue the Hells Bells, because here come the Raiders.

25 Comments:

Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

"GONG!" (<--hell's bells)
I'm hopeful of our season as well. The Raiders have no excuse for the past 3-4 seasons, after the Super Bowl appearance. Yes, we lost Gannon; but we have always had talent (with exception of KFC). One thing is for sure, win or lose, people are going to be punched, and we will play tough. Our defensive and offensive lines will improve!
My only question marks (and they are key question marks) is at the linebacker position, and the running game. I wasn't too impressed with LaMont, despite having 1000 yard rushing, he barely made it because nobody else stepped up. I was hopefull with Vargas, but he has lacked greatly.
But there's hope, at least at the linebacker spot. Thomas Howard, I've been hearing good things from him out of the mini-camps. Darnell Bing sheds hope too, with his speed at OLB, he can pop Tony Gonzales good, as well as Gates; and also rush in to smack the opposing Q around. But the question mark comes with the inexperience. I don't see significant improvement with the running game though.
But I agree with you RT, Playoffs are in our reach, will we beat ourselves like we have the past 4 years, or will we play to our potential.

6:18 AM  
Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

I know this isn't really the spot for it, but I have a KFC story. I went to the Raiders-Texans game after Gannon went down. KFC threw 3 INT's (within the Red Zone), and fumbled twice (in the Red Zone).
I sat behind the Raiders bench in front of the Gatorade table, 3 rows back.
KFC's 3 interceptions came on the same format and play. 3 WR's (2 to the right, 1 to the left). The outside WR on the right, did a 7 yard out, while the right slot went a deep out. The WR on the left ran a deep post. KFC, all 3 times, pumped to the deep out, and pulled the trigger on the deep post, only to have the Texans Safety right there to snake it.
He'd come back to the bench, get slapped on the butt by Norv, and grab a Gatorade. That's when I laid into him. I'd yell at him, "WHAT TEAM DO YOU PLAY FOR? THROW THE BALL TO THE GUYS IN THE BLACK JERSEYS (because the Texans wore white). BASTARD!"
Had to share, because I was looking through my pictures yesterday of all the games I've been too, and was reminded of that by my wife, who was embarrassed at my yelling. I explained to her, that I was equally embarrassed by KFC's play and had to tell him about it.
Praise Jesus those KFC days are over!

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mean looking over his shoulder at Kollette!

9:03 AM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

I've received a few emails telling me that this take is off base and unrealistic (one likened it to smoking crack). These are from Raiders fans who think that my optimism is clouding my intelligence. Here is my reply:

I might be sticking my neck out a bit, but I truly believe that we can get to eight wins, as stated.

While I listed seven non-divisional 2006 scheduled teams that I think we can realistically handle (notice that I left the Steelers and Seahawks of the list, for obvious reasons), I don't necessarily expect to beat all seven, but perhaps five of them. You don't believe that the Raiders can beat at least five of those teams listed?

I also believe that we can go .500 in our division, for the reasons cited: rookie QB in San Diego, the fact that the Chiefs weren't all that great last year (despite two squeaker wins over the Raiders) and they are in coaching transition, and that I think Denver is going to face some issues on offense.

Hence, my prediction of eight wins minimum. Unrealistic? I don't think so.

And if we do knock off one of those stronger teams, and/or six of the listed seven, then I believe that the playoffs are in reach at nine or ten wins.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

I cannot believe that we have "haters" in our own family. I can understand not getting our hopes up, but come on; we have the talent year in and year out to win at least 8 games.
Here in Austin, all the Dallas Crackwhore fans say that the Raiders year in and year out are "Paper Champions." Meaning that on paper, the talented names on their roster should make them champions. What does that make the Dallas Crackwhores then, the Buffalo Bills? That's a slap in the face to be called a paper champion, because it tells me that we are not playing to our capability.
With Shell at the healm, I think we play to our capability; hence why 8 wins is reasonable. So to all the "in-family" doubters and haters, tell me why you think we won't. Grant it, it still has to be played on the field. I'm more optimistic about this season because of who are coach is, and the fact that KFC is not the Q. I think if the key questions, mentioned in my first comment, work out for us then yeah we will be in the playoff mix. If not, then we won't. Either way, I believe we will win more than 6 games.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Stick'Em said...

Let's just look at the history:

In '89, Mike Shanahan was taking the team down the Norv Turner highway to Hades with a 1-3 record, He got fired for imposing silly rules like you can't sit on your helmet during practice and not doing things the Raider way.

After Shanarat was canned, Art turned things around from the dismal morass of crummy morale, finishing '89 with a 7-5 mark.

Art then went 12-4 the next year ('90) and got Coach of the Year honors.

My point is, yes the Turner regime left things a mess. But Art's history ocumented as one of turning things around quickly.

This is the history.

Art means business - this is the truth - his previous record shows it.

Will it happen again? Dunno, but 8-8 seems and easy goal to me with the new talent on board (Huff, McQuistan, Brooks, Johnstone, etc).

Perhaps more important than the new talent is the addition by subtraction. The bonehead character problems (KFC, WTF Chuck, SOR Grant, Nap Harris, Lifetime Buchanon) were all have given Greyhound tickets and a baloney sandwich to go.

I'll wager anyone here the Raiders make at least 8 wins.

If you wanna take the under and I'll take the over, just say so.

And lay your $ down...

Put your money where your mouth is. I am willing to.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I definitely think 8-8 is possible, and things will be very interesting in the AFC West this year. San Diego is starting a rookie QB, and Philly gave the blueprint for stopping Tomlinson. KC will miss Tony Richardson and if Willie Roaf goes down, look out. Denver looks to be the frontrunner but is only a "Jake the Fake" moment away from crashing and burning.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Raider Greg said...

I MUST agree with you RT! For different reasons......
First, I think that Brooks is going to be a suprise on this team. Unlike KFC, he plays with heart and wants to make it to the SB before he's done. He has all the talent to make it happen..........Like you, I hear him coined as the second coming of KFC........I think otherwise. Second, the offensive line will be much improved with the new Beef on the team. With Booth and McMullet to help, Brooks will have the time he lacked with the Saints. This will also help our running game that has been questioned by the geniuses of sports media....Classic. Third, the defense has been much improved with the combination of young players and one and two year vets. Ryan has been given the tools he lacked the last two years and he will use them. I expect the "D" will have the Nasty back this year.........Shell will make it a point to show what is expected.
Last but not least.........This team is not expected to do much this season and our opponents will take us lightly.......Big mistake...............
And let's not forget.......Every season, every RAIDER FAN has HOPE to see the "Greatness of the Raiders" RETURN!

5:22 PM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

Thanks for all of the backup, guys! Great points, guess I'm not crazy. Raider Nate definitely feels it. Stick'Em is ready to double down. Anonymous invokes Jake the Fake.

Raider Greg, your latest Raider Nation Podcast rocked, you've got the team improvements well documented, and those improvements, coupled with beatable division and non-division opponents, tells me that we should make a nice leap forward in 2006.

5:51 PM  
Anonymous raider00 said...

Look, Art Shell took the Raiders to the Championship game in 1990, with Jay Schroeder as his QB. Nuff said. I doubt coaches such as Walsh, Parcell's, or even Lombardi himself, could have done the same. Let's just say I expect Shell to make the Raiders compete for every minute, of every game, and I expect the Raiders to break some bones on game day,(Not their own). This, to me, translates to a 9-7 record.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Doobie said...

stick'em: I'm sure you targeted the Raider Haters with that proposal, because I don't think any true fan here would put money down *against* the Raiders!

6:21 PM  
Blogger frkyraider said...

if norv turner told you to do something, you may do it.....you may not, depends on how you felt he said it to you, what kind of mood your in. did he say please?

when Art Shell tells you to do something, you better get it done in the most expeditious manner you know, if you know whats good for you. believe it.

you can't win without a few good leaders and the most important one is HC. but you need at least one per unit also.

the O's leader doesn't have to be the QB altho it is helpfull, but as long as you have a quality guy there that everyone respects your golden.

Defense.... well we've been missing that "leader" for several seasons. since Rod Woodson was roaming the backfield. miss him.
we've got the DC that likes to be aggresive and now we've givin him all the tools he needs to make it work. Huff has a great deal of people hoping that he is "that leader" that we've been waiting for, including myself.

added lots of speed and new blood for ST.

we're young, real young, might be our biggest thing to overcome. but i think we're and up and comin team that people are not going to want to face.

worst to first happens all the time in this league because the line is sooo fine between winning and losing. it's not that odd of thing for a 4-12 team to be in the playoff hunt the next season.

8-8 is a modest Take, in my humble opinion.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

The key to a winning season (above .500) is the 1st 6 games.

The Raiders have a fairly easy 1st 6 games; vs. SD, at Balt, bye, vs. Clev; at SF, at Den, vs. AZ.

A reasonable person could say that 5 of the 6 games are very winnable with 1 tough game (at Den). Come Oct. 29 when we face Pitt at home, we could very well be 5-1 or 4-2.

The middle part of the season (games 7-11) is a very difficult stretch (vs. Pitt, at Sea, vs. Den, at KC, at SD). A 2-3 record during this stretch should put us in the run for playoff contention at either 7-4 or 6-5.

The last 5 games (vs.Hou, at Cincy, vs. StL, vs KC, at NYJ) will ultimately determine whether or not we can get over the hump.

When looking at the big picture, I see 10 very winnable games and 6 difficult games (at Den, vs. Pitt, at Sea, at KC, at SD, at Cincy). It is interesting to point out that 5 of the 6 tough games are on the road.

I am predicting a 6-2 home record and 3-5 road record for a 9-7 record. With a few breaks, luck, and inspired play, I am hopeful that we can finish at 10-6 and in the playoffs! If nothing else, I expect the 2006 Raiders to play with passion, committment, and a dedicated team effort which will be the building block and spring-board to a VERY successful 2007 campaign. The return to glory will be within our grasps.

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bamma raider-
we should immediately... imediately try to sign Donnie Edwards. He'd be the best LB on our team and the dolts would be less a quality defender & leader. I know others have chimed in about the new kid from UTEP... please... every scouting report I read labels him just like James Folston, Travian Smith ad naseam... incredible athlete, rarely translates to the field.
Nuff said.
I too like the Bing pick but he'll take a year or two. Morrison looks solid. He wasn't the football (read, athlete) player Al likes... Al just took him cuz he was a Raider fan and a homeboy. We got lucky. Danny Clark is a plodder... career 2nd string guy. Nothing fancy, but I like him. He needs great players around him to do an adequate job. Edwards would be the leader we need. The leader on defense should come from the LB side not from the secondary. We need an experienced, leader at LB. A player. A football player... not an athlete. If we had Morrison and Edwards on the field at the same time, we'd have the best LB's in the west.

I agree with raider nate 75 about the concern as to the running game. Shell and Slater will fix the attitude/nasty problem... no worry. It was the scheme and lack of faith/leadership in the QB that was the lines problem... AND.. Gallery at LT should have happened his rookie year. Simms just couldn't handle a speed rusher (see superbowl 37... all I needed to see). I think he'll be great at guard.

After Jordan there is nothing in the RB stable. MAybe Zack. Fargas? PPPPLLLEEAAASSE.. this guy is awful. I wouldn't take him in the CFL. He's still there cuz he's an Al fave.

In addition to trying to get Edwards, the only other thing we need is to try to get the best RB that gets cut off another team.

We're close to getting respect back but the OC choice was terrible. Ask Hoss.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Stick'Em said...

Anon 8:29

Unless I'm missing something (which has been known to happen), Donnie Edwards is already signed with the Dischargers through the next two seasons.

I'd love to have Edwards on the team, but am a bit confused as to how the Raiders could "sign him".

9:57 PM  
Anonymous raider00 said...

Edwards is locked up by the Charmers. Another guy who might get waived, who the Raiders should strongly consider, is Priest Holmes. This guy, if his neck comes around, could really help the speed part of the running game.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

Anon 8:29 - I think we are fine at LB. Between Robert Thomas (FA acquisition), Sam Williams (finally healthy), and rookies Thomas Howard and Darnell Bing, I think we have the 1 LB opening well covered.

I agree with trying to scoop up a RB in the June 1st cuts. Ideally it would be nice to find a back who is a change of pace, good receiver/3rd down specialist who could take 8-12 carries to lighten Jordan's load. Michael Bennett would be a good pick-up since his outside speed would compliment Jordan's inside running attack.

10:08 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

Raider Nate,
There is a huge difference between "Raider Haters," and pessimistic Raider Fans. I find myself constantly changing from extreme optimism that borders on dillusion to extreme pessimism. Maybe it is fun for some Raider fans to get there hopes up for a Super Bowl every year, but not for me. The NFL is much more than a game to me, I take the Raiders extremely personal and each loss signals a bad week. Perhaps some Raider fans can shrug of these losses but some of can't. (Thank god for fantasy football which gives me another outlet to express my misery)

At the moment I am very suspicious of our offensive coordinator. Personally, I believe that we should have chosen someone that has been involved with the NFL(or at least the NCAA) and was filled with ambition.

It is true that I can find 10 wins on our schedule, but then I always find 10 wins. I have been trying to temper my optimism and pessimism, but it is hard. To make a short story long, there is a huge difference between Raider Haters and pessimistic Raider FANS!

9:37 AM  
Blogger NFL Adam said...

The NFL is full of teams going from perennial losers to the head of the class. Look at the Bears last season.

The only problem I have with your assessment is that the Broncos get lucky each year with running backs. After a decade of turning down-trodden running backs into NFL stars, it is time to give the team a little bit more credit. Fortunately, that will all be negated as Shanahan will turn Jake into a shaky remnant of his Cardinals days by drafting his successor instead of addressing some of his teams needs.

Either that, or Cutler will turn into his Tommy Maddox and Jake will reunite with Gary Kubiak to force Shanny out of town and win consecutive Super Bowls. (Sorry, that flew over the head of some of you.)

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

Roy,
I'm not saying that you have to hope for the Super Bowl every year. I'm not even saying that you cannot be realistic about a season, where you know you're team is not going to do well. I, for one, did not have my hopes up last season because we did nothing to address our weaknesses (Norv, KFC, and the D) to prove that we were a playoff caliber team, despite acquiring Randy Moss.
We have addressed our weaknesses this year, and I am more optimistic than "piss"imistic. I feel if you can't get past last season, and not be excited about the changes made this offseason, I doubt that you are more than "piss"imistic. I would say that you are a doubter/hater that listens way too much to the media, and not reading/hearing the good news coming out of the Raider camps by the coaches players.
Let me help you out of your "piss"imism, this is the first offseason in 4 years, where the Raider players were excited about the up-coming season, and excited about camps and the coaches, and the changes taking place.
This tells me a lot, it tells me the players are down with what Shell and his coordinators (including the offensive coord) are teaching. It tells me that they are excited about what they are running, and they are buying into the system. When you have a coach that can bring this excitement to the players about the system to be ran, your football team is going to be good.
If you're still "piss"imistic after that, you're a hater.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Raider Take said...

I believe that the definition of "realistic" can be varied in the Raider Nation. I appreciate Raider Nate's fighting spirit, but I also know that Roy is a diehard Raiders fan.

The past three years have been rough. If we were winning big, we'd all be on the exact same page. But losing naturally breeds uncertainty and doubt. Nevertheless, we remain united both in support of the Raiders and our defiance of the true Raiders Haters.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Raider Nate 75 said...

I'm not trying to call anyone out, or accuse anyone of being a hater. I know it's been hard to see our team lose, and I know it brings doubt (see my comment about last season).
I'm trying to get us to look past the past 3 years because of the changes made. How can you say that you doubt this coming season with the excitement the players are showing? Again, quit listening to the likes of ESPN, Fox Sports, PFW, SI, etc. Start listening to what Raider players and coaches are saying on the Raiders' website. Start listening to what those close to the team are saying. This is where the true hope comes from.
Like I said in my last comment, when players and coaches are excited about the near future, and are displaying emotion that they are buying into what the coaches are teaching; then we are going to have a good season. Unlike last season when half the players were optimistic, and the other half were complaining about something.
Does it mean we will be perfect, and win it all? Not by any means (see my first comment about the question marks I have). It just means that I am more hopeful than I am doubtful because of what the Raiders are showing me this offseason, in acquisitions and attitude.
We all have doubts that are results of the past 3 seasons, but if you are stuck in the doubt, and cannot see hope; all I am saying is you are stuck in a hater mentality, and are coming across as such.
So, please, don't take my comments wrong. It sometimes takes me awhile to get out what I want to say, the way I want to say it. You guys are family, and it's time to put the hater/doubter mentality aside, and start reflecting what the players and coaches are reflecting.....excitement!

12:34 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

Raider Nate,
Definitely no offense taken here, being offended is for sissies. I really like this forumn and believe that Raider fans need to air out their views. While I never diss the boys in front of other fans, in the company of die-hards we should be able to be honest about our doubts and fears. Perhaps I am just too supersticious. I actually was very optimistic about our chances last year, furthermore, I believe if we could have pulled off the Eagles and 1st Chiefs game our season would have been much different.

As for our chances this season, I like em. I think that we have all of the right personell. I really like Jordan (not just because I have him on my fantasy team), it was our line that took a shit last year not him. It would appear that our line should improve with the Shell and Slater. My only question is Walsh, he has been out of football for quite awhile. But so was Vermiel and Gibbs. I am very glad we got rid of Woodson, KFC and Norv. I would have like to keep our special teams coach Avezanno(not sure on the spelling). I am a little concerned about our LB's, we upgraded the safety position and if Huff can live up to the hype we should at least win 8 games. The NFL has changed over the years and each year is a new slate so a team can be horrible one year and great the next. I am concerned about the Cheifs though. I like Herm, while his play calling is questionable, he always has his team playing hard. I have never seen his team quit.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous RAIDERWAYZ said...

Don't count on the Donkey's to dominate the West with their aging receivers and poor secondary also with Jake Plummer wondering why the Donkey's drafted Jay Cutler it might just make it hard on him not to make any mistakes.As for the Deadbolts don't count on them to make any noise either without Drew Brees,David Rivers doesn't have the experience yet to lead them anywhere.The Chefs don't know who their star running back will be next season, their defense hasn't gotten any better and their head coach Herm Lewis is just another coach who lost in the playoffs to the Raiders.Now for the Oakland Raiders having a moble QB like Aaron Brooks and two young and aggresive receivers like Randy Moss and Jerry Porter and a strong RB in Lamont Jordan the Raiders even with their defenes the Oakland Raiders under new coach Art Shell have everything they need to win the West and more so don't count out the Raiders this season remember "The Will To Win Will Be In Their Future".

10:29 PM  
Anonymous RAIDERWAYZ said...

Don't count on the Donkey's to dominate the West with their aging receivers and poor secondary also with Jake Plummer wondering why the Donkey's drafted Jay Cutler it might just make it hard on him not to make any mistakes.As for the Deadbolts don't count on them to make any noise either without Drew Brees,David Rivers doesn't have the experience yet to lead them anywhere.The Chefs don't know who their star running back will be next season, their defense hasn't gotten any better and their head coach Herm Lewis is just another coach who lost in the playoffs to the Raiders.Now for the Oakland Raiders having a moble QB like Aaron Brooks and two young and aggresive receivers like Randy Moss and Jerry Porter and a strong RB in Lamont Jordan the Raiders even with their defenes the Oakland Raiders under new coach Art Shell have everything they need to win the West and more so don't count out the Raiders this season remember "The Will To Win Will Be In Their Future".

10:30 PM  

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