I am a ravenous consumer of NFL preview guides. I love them. I buy every one I can find. It’s an expensive sickness. Do I really need to read five separate breakdowns of all 32 teams? Yes, apparently I do.
It is fashionable to mock these guides as being preposterous in their predictions, given the fact that they are published long before training camps have even commenced, and given the competitive volatility of the NFL from year to year. But I ask: What else are you going to read in June and July? TV Guide? Lonesome Dove? Tour de France recaps? Raider Take’s favorite columnist?
Of course these guides are preposterous! After all, look at what they are saying about the Oakland Raiders. In fact, let’s have a close look at what they are saying about the Oakland Raiders….
I have in my possession the 2006 preview guides by Pro Football Weekly, Athlon Sports, Sporting News and Street & Smith’s, who have all picked the Raiders to finish dead last in the AFC West. The two publications that predict actual records, Sporting News and Pro Football Weekly, put the Raiders down for four and six wins respectively.
Street & Smith’s is especially brutal in their assessment of the Raiders. Here’s what they say: “Shell of a team…It is probably fair to say that Art Shell wanted to return to coaching in the NFL in the worst way. It is probably fair to say that he will…The Raiders last won a Super Bowl in 1984, have been back to one once since then and now may permanently drop anchor at the bottom of the AFC West…The Raiders? Keep those slogans coming, Al. That’s all you’ve got left.”
You can pull a muscle hating like that!
Do you notice that these folks are always prattling about Super Bowls when it comes to the Raiders—owners of three Lombardi trophies and Super Bowl participants after the 2002 season—while rarely mentioning the last time teams like the Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Jets, Bills, Browns, etc. have appeared in, let alone won, a Super Bowl? I smell an intellectual rat, don’t you?
Anyhow, I have found similarly dismal projections across the Internet, a virtual plague of groupthink. For example, Gil Brandt ranks the Raiders at 26th in his team rankings on NFL.com. Someone sent me a link the other day to a questionable site that proudly rips the Raiders by ranking them 29th in their team rankings. Why stop there if you hate the Raiders (and reality) so much? Why not rank them 34th out of 32 teams? In the classrooms of the Raiders Haters, that’s called math.
All I can say is that we shall see. Before these preview guides were published, I made my case for a minimum of eight wins for the Raiders, which would exceed every expectation published in these preview guides. Of course, it’s all talk right now. We will start keeping score in September. I can’t wait.
Anyhow, don’t you just love all of this doubt and dissing? I do. I have this vision of NFL groupthinkers sunbathing on a cruise liner, umbrellas in their drinks, smug in their creature comforts. Then suddenly the horizon darkens. There’s a tall ship on the approach. It’s got sails. It’s loaded with rum and gunpowder. It’s coming to change some minds and right some wrongs. It’s the 2006 Oakland Raiders. Bombs away.