Seem to remember there was some clown a year ago who wrote “10 reasons the Raiders will beat the Broncos.”
We all remember what happened. Broncos 41, Raiders 14, and Lane Kiffin’s fate was sealed when the bye week arrived.
In the world of Internet media, I can always claim I broke the story first because the Raiders did beat the Broncos 31-10 the second time around on Nov. 23. I just had it more than two months before everyone else.
Instead, I’ll just get out of the prediction business. No grand forecasts of a stunning Raiders upset or the 12th consecutive defeat tonight against the San Diego Chargers.
After six years of you-know-what, I’m willing to buy in to a certain extent because just about anything is possible in professional sports.
All the Raiders have to do is prove the following things, both against the Chargers as well as over the course of the season:
— That Tom Cable’s plan to dedicate much of training camp and the preseason to upgrading the passing game can result in more touchdowns. At virtually every public appearance over the past five years or so, Al Davis has bemoaned the lack of scoring, and with good reason. Sounds simplistic, but scoring changes everything.
Or didn’t you notice that the Raiders defense looked much different in the final two weeks of the season when their own offense was putting points on the board?
— That some of those points come in the final two minutes of a game, with JaMarcus Russell leading the way, putting the Raiders ahead in a game they were trailing.
Concerns? Protection issues, particularly on the right side, Russell’s tendency to get stripped and an extremely young receiving corps.
— That despite putting all that emphasis on the passing game, the Raiders will still be able to run the ball and have a balanced attack.
Do that, and they might even reach 400 yards in a game. Four-hundred yards is a good day’s work, one that decent offenses do a few times every year. You know the last time the Raiders gained 400 yards? Try Oct. 23, 2005. In a 38-13 win over Buffalo with Kerry Collins at quarterback, the Raiders gained 416 yards. That was 58 games ago.
Someone with a subscription to the Elias Sports Bureau ought to look it up. If it’s not a modern NFL record, it’s got to be in the ballpark.
The last two NFL leaders in total offense, New Orleans in 2008 and New England in 2007, averaged more than 400 yards per game.
— That Richard Seymour’s acquisition can have a ripple effect among the front seven that results in more tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage, enhancing both the run defense and the pass rush. Even allowing for the lack of points the offense scores, the whole run-defense issue has been downright embarrassing for the last 96 games. No need to hash over the stats.
— That the Raiders can create some turnovers with their safeties in crucial situations, something which hasn’t been done consistently here until the last game of Rod Woodson’s Hall of Fame career.
— That whatever existed within the makeup of the team which allowed last year’s games against Denver (Week 1, of course) and Atlanta has been removed like a bad microchip. This last two weeks of 2008 gave cause for optimism, but the New Orleans preseason effort gave cause for concern.
— That Cable can work in partnership with Davis in a way which leaves his team to believe he’s in charge while at the same time pleasing the boss. He has to know which battles to pick, which things to let go. It’s a delicate balance that most coaches aren’t up to or simply don’t want to take on.
Notice how Cable stayed out of the way at the Seymour press conference? The last thing he needs is to become a star, a role reserved for the players and the man at the top.