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“How Far Will The Oakland Raiders Go This Year? Answering the Detractors & Predictions”

NFL: Oakland Raiders-OTA
Marshawn Lynch & Derek Carr sharing a laugh during practice

What a fun year it will be for the fans in Oakland.  With a fun team and great personalities, there will be many smiling faces all around.  Some have said 12-4; some say 9-7 due to the defense.  Let’s quickly look at each position and get a better understanding of the 2017-18 Oakland Raiders.

Oakland Raiders v New Orleans Saints
Derek Carr

Quarterback: (Derek Carr, EJ Manuel, Connor Cook)

It’s nice for the Raiders to be set at QB.  Derek Carr was the best protected QB in the NFL last year and he sliced and diced his way to a great season.  Carr struggles at times if he’s rushed, but as long as their OL protects him the way they have, he should have another stellar year and will wow the NFL.

Even with today’s rules making passing so easy, the QB position has never been worse in the NFL.  That means an excellent QB like Carr’s value is huge. EJ Manuel and Connor Cook are not waving around a Super Bowl trophy any time soon so Carr’s health is obviously imperative.  No team can win without their starting QB.

Grade:  A

deandre washingto
DeAndre Washington breaking a run against the Titans

Running Backs: Marshawn Lynch, Jamize Olawale, DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard)

I think the Raiders have the best set of running backs in the NFL.  If Marshawn Lynch can find some life left in a body that has taken a lot of punishment, the Raiders running game should be excellent.  Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington can do it all at a smaller level.  They can run, catch, and are the best pass blockers against the blitz in the NFL.  Add an underrated fullback like Jamize Olawale and this crew is as good as it gets for 2017.

Grade:  A

Panthers Raiders Football
Raiders LT Donald Penn

Offensive Line: (LT Donald Penn, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Rodney Hudson, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Marshall Lawson; T Jylan Ware, G Denver Kirkland, T Vadal Alexander, G-C Jon Feliciano, T David Sharpe)

Donald Penn did what many players used to do in the NFL.  He took training camp off with a hold out.  With him back the Raiders OL is intact.  I’ve seen some on Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports say the Raiders OL is overrated and that’s laughable.  This is a top 3 line in today’s football.  Carr was the best protected QB in the NFL and the Raiders were solid on the ground and they will again be a top 10 offense; maybe even top 5.  This group is the engine and driving force of the Raiders.  This group HAS to stay healthy.

Grade:  A+

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Michael Crabtree warming up before a home game in Oakland

Wide Receivers: (Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Cordarrelle Patterson, Johnny Holton)

The Raiders have an excellent core of WR (maybe the best) with the addition of speedster Cordarelle Patterson.  This is a huge upgrade to Seth Roberts who the Raiders are infatuated with.  Johnnie Holton is solid and plays a key role in special teams.

Grade:  A

jared cook
New Tight End Jared Cook

Tight Ends: (Jared Cook, Lee Smith, Clive Walford)

Bill Musgrave gave me a headache.  His WR heavy and at times conservative offense has been replaced with new offensive coordinator Todd Downing.  So far I like what I’ve seen.  The Raiders tight ends were near the bottom in attempts thrown to them last year.  Can’t have good TE if you don’t throw to them.  Lee Smith is the best blocking TE in the NFL and can catch the ball when needed.  The Raiders are excited about the addition of Jared Cook from Green Bay.  Clive Walford is set at #3 but should see more time in obvious passing downs.  Walford has been a bust so far and he needs to show he belongs.

Grade:  B+

khalil mack
Khalil Mack rushing the QB

Defensive Line: (DE Khalil Mack, DT Eddie Vanderdoes, DT Justin Ellis, DE Mario Edwards Jr.; DE/LB James Cowser, DT Darius Latham, DT Treyvon Hester, DL Denico Autry, DL Jihad Ward)

The Raiders were last in sacks in the NFL last year and 26th in overall defense.  Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are fine but then what?  Justin Ellis looks good at times but he hasn’t had a sack in 3 years and is inconsistent.  Jihad Ward started 13 games last year and played in all 16.  In those games he only had 16 tackles, 14 assists and no sacks and was invisible at times.  If he can’t step it up this year, it may be another draft bust.

To bolster the DT position the Raiders drafted Eddie Vanderdoes out of UCLA.  He was hard working and tough against the run, but not a good pass rusher. He had 4 sacks in 4 years.  Mario Edwards Jr. comes back for a key year but it remains to be seen if he’s the answer.  A bright spot this pre-season has been Treyvon Hester out of Toledo.  He has been a quality pass rusher with a big motor.  He had 5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss his senior year at Toledo and was a great pick at #7 this year.

Grade:  C+

corey james
LB Corey James

Linebackers: (SLB Bruce Irvin, MLB Marquel Lee, WLB Cory James, Tyrell Adams, Nicholas Morrow, DL/LB James Cowser)

Jack Del Rio has told the media several times that the Raiders haven’t put as much into LB’s than they were able to.  “When you have only so much money, you can’t fix everything”.  Many times Irvin rushes the passer so he’s kind of a hybrid LB/DL.  A couple of publications have said the Raiders linebackers are the worst in football.  The biggest knock on this group is that they play passively and are more finesse than physical.  To be fair, these guys give huge effort, but it’s obvious there needs to be improvement.  Cory James has had his moments and the hopes are that he’ll keep improving.  Free agent Jelani Jenkins is now out for the year on injured reserve.  Rookie Marquel Lee has good mechanics and he may start but he lacks speed and coverage skills.  Shalique Calhoun; the 75th player taken in last years draft;  was recently cut and signed to the practice squad.  A wasted pick.

Grades:  D 

david amerson jjj
CB David Amerson

Defensive Backs: (LCB Davis Amerson, RCB Sean Smith. Backups–Gareon Conley, TJ Carrie, Antonio Hamilton, Dexter McDonald)

For several years the Raiders have tried to fix their pass defense by constantly drafting and signing DB’s.  It hasn’t worked & it’s a bad philosophy.  I think if they spent the same money and drafts on pass rushing DT’s and tough LB’s, things would be a lot better on defense.  I’ll take a great front 7 over stud DB’s any and every day.  With today’s rules making it so easy to pass, DB’s have no chance if there isn’t a pass rush in front of them.

It took teams a year to realize David Amerson struggles against the deep ball.  It took teams a week to find out high priced CB Sean Smith was a lot better with Chiefs safety Eric Berry and the Kansas City Pass rush in front of him.  TJ Carrie has really struggled.  Gareon Conley was drafted out of Ohio St. but missed all of training camp and pre-season.  To get a rookie corner to jump in with out much preparation and expect him to excel is a bit much.  He’s a straight cover guy and isn’t a good run tackler but people are excited about his potential in coverage. With all of the money and picks the Raiders have spent on this group, it’s been a big disappointment.  The hopes are Conley will be a mainstay.  Raider fans on social media have also pointed out that it’s hard watching 49er’s rookie LB Reuben Foster look like a one man wrecking crew as well.

Grade D:

joseph-raiders
Safety Karl Joseph

Safety: (FS Reggie Nelson, SS Karl Joseph, S Erik Harris, S Shalom Luani, S Keith McGill)

Obi Melifonwu has been placed on IR today and the Raiders have signed veteran Erik Harris.  Karl Joseph is a tough player and has looked good against the run, but he’s struggled in coverage.  He seems more passive and has to improve his positioning on tight ends.  Reggie Nelson is good for interceptions every year but he’s far from great.  Draft pick Obi Melifonwu is a physical specimen and a great athlete.  He’s a good tackler but lacks instinct in coverage and is a project.  I like Shalom Luani a lot.  He has good size but also has amazing instinct and a nose for the ball, something that seems to be getting rare in the NFL.  With the NFL so obsessed with size and athleticism, the Raiders think that they got a huge steal getting Luani who was a great player at Washington St. Look for Luani to get more playing time as the season progresses & maybe even take over for Nelson.  I’d like to see him and Joseph play together.

Grade:  C

marquette king
Raiders punter Marquette King

Special Teams:

The Raiders are set with Marquette King but the Raiders want Sebastian Janikowski to rework his contract & he said no. The Raiders are worried about his bad back and age (he already looks to be out for week 1) and they have been working kickers out. He’s getting 4 million in this, his final year of his contract.  I give you permission to slap all of the Monday morning quarterbacks in the back of the head who say that players should honor their contracts when 90% of the contracts in the NFL are NOT honored by the teams.

Grade:  A (for now)

Jack Del Rio
Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio

Coaching/Front Office:

The Raiders have a solid coaching staff lead by Jack Del Rio.  With the defense lacking talent in areas, look for Ken Norton Jr. to be on the hot seat all year with fans.  They say change the scheme.  WHAT SCHEME? If the Raiders blitz, now their DB’s who struggle in coverage are playing man to man and they will be exposed.  If they play zone, the Raiders have a poor pass rush so the QB has too much time to throw and will pick them apart.

And with DB’s getting penalties for being anywhere near WR in today’s NFL, no DB is going to be able to cover for that long of a time.  If you take out the 2014 draft, the Raiders have had a ton of busts with signings and draft picks.  Hayden, Calhoun, Ward, Woodley, Schaub, Walford, Smith, Amerson, Lofton, Allen and many other names are adding to the list of busts.  I defended Reggie when few would and here is part of his history.  Some good, some bad.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/how-reggie-mckenzie-turned-around-the-oakland-raiders-what-lies-ahead/

Grade:  A-

AFCwest

The State of the AFC West:

While Philip Rivers is being lauded by many in the press, they forget how bad he was in the 4th quarter last year and that he lead the NFL in interceptions with 21.  The Broncos still don’t have a QB & have questions at OL.  On defense they have to rely on the health of often unhealthy Shane Ray and Derek Wolfe for their defense to thrive.  The Chiefs have an aging defense (pass rusher Tamba Hali literally has no cartilage in his knees) and a conservative offense that is built, “not to lose”.  It took them this long to see Alex Smith will never win anything?  They also lost their starting RB to a season ending injury.  What this means is that the Raiders are prime to take over the AFC West.  If they don’t, this will be a disappointing season.

raiders win

Detractors to Defenders:

I think it’s ridiculous for some writers to say the Raiders are overrated.  Larry Kreuger of KNBR had them going 9-7 and missing the playoffs and some have them 10-6.  Not a chance.  With teams struggling to score at times, and with the QB position so bad in the NFL, (Matthew Stafford gets 27 million and he’s 5-46 in his career against teams with winning records) the Raiders offense will shine and be the key to their quality season.  They will flat out beat teams with their offense.  That style though doesn’t work in the post season.

Now I get the detractors.  The Raiders will have some good moments, but overall this looks like a really bad defense. I get that the Raiders won close games against some bad teams last year and that their schedule is much tougher (4th hardest) but their offense is better and they are more balanced.

They start off the year with 3 very winnable games that could get them on a roll.  The first 9 games are a lot easier than the second half and they should go 7-2 or 8-1 (again, no win is for sure).  In the last 7 games though they play New England in Mexico and host Denver, Dallas and the NY Giants.  They have to play 2 cold December games, at Kansas City and then on Christmas at Philadelphia before ending the season in San Diego. Christmas in Philly? That’s a rough second half.

My Prediction:  11-5; AFC West Champs; losing in AFC Championship game

Calm down non-Raider fans; I’m not saying Derek Carr is as good as Dan Marino, but the Raiders remind me somewhat of the 80’s-90’s Miami Dolphin’s.  This defense is no where close to being a championship defense.  Offense excites the fans and puts butts in the seats, but defense wins championships.  If the Patriots defense doesn’t completely shut down Atlanta in the second half, Tom Brady doesn’t get the chance for a come back. And as Matt Millen said several times, the Raiders defenses dominated in all 3 Super Bowl wins.  In the future they have to get a pass rushing DT, a physical LB and to a lesser extent another CB before they can get to the next level.  If somehow a DT comes out of the ashes this year to have an amazing year putting pressure on the QB, then something magical can happen.  I don’t see it but crazier things have happened.

With the Raiders ability to score, even with the tougher schedule I don’t see them losing anything more than 5 games.  If the AFC West tanks, then a 12-4 season is possible. Getting home field advantage is vital because winning in New England or Pittsburgh in the Winter is near impossible.

With the Raiders in full lame duck mode before their move to Las Vegas, this will be a wild ride, so hang on.  And loyal Raider fans of all ages, keep your wits about you.  If you thought Bay Area millennials jumped on the Warriors bandwagon, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  So move over and let people on because NOTHING about this NFL season will be boring in the city of Oakland.

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“GRADES: The Raiders Make it Official by Beating Denver; They Are Back”

raiders-broncos-1
Oakland Raiders’ Latavius Murray (28) leaps to score a touchdown against the Denver Broncos in the fourth quarter of their NFL game at the Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 30-20. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

 

Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Denver Broncos; Week 9:

Denver Broncos  20 (6-3)

Oakland Raiders  30 (7-2)

The Raiders came through in a near must win situation, beating the Denver Broncos at home. It was a physical pounding of the Super Bowl champs that was loved by all in attendance.   Oakland had only played 2 teams with winning records all year and both ended up in losses at home. To go 0-3 against teams with winning records; all at home; would have been a hard pill to swallow.

Overview:

The offensive line flat out dominated this game.

Quarterback:

Statistically this was one of Carr’s worst games of the season but this is against the Broncos and it was no where near as bad as the numbers suggest. The success of the running game also limited him.  Carr was steady and accurate and didn’t make the mistakes that have plagued him against the Broncos in the past. Against good offensive teams though, the Raiders can’t settle for field goals in the red zone.

GRADE: B

Carr was 20 for 31 for 184 yards with no TD’s or interceptions. He missed on some passes but there were only a few issues that he had. Raider fans cringed when they shockingly called a pass with less than 8 minutes to go in the game and Carr made a horrible throw that was intercepted. The referees looked at it and reversed their decision because it hit the ground. Carr has to throw that away or throw to a place where only his guy can catch it. Better yet just run the ball.

Running Backs:

SO SICK of NFL ex jocks who are now sportscasters saying the Raiders can’t run the ball. The Raiders are now #4 in the NFL in rushing yards and #3 in rushing touchdowns. The Raiders running game is just fine thanks.

Latavius Murray had his best game of the year and everyone contributed. Jalen Richards looked like a rocket when hitting the hole. The Raiders offensive line is an excellent one playing at a high level and the running game is doing well.

Grade A

A thing people don’t talk about is the excellent pass blocking by the running backs when picking up the blitz. Good all around game by everyone.

Offensive Line:

Derek Carr is going to have to come up with more than big screen tv’s for presents for his OL this Christmas. The Raiders have only allowed 11 sacks all year and he’s the best protected QB in the NFL.

Round 1 against Denver goes to the Raiders OL. Dallas and Oakland have the best OL’s in the game right now and both of their QB’s are playing great. Not a coincidence. The Raiders are #3 in passing and #4 in rushing offense. A dominating performance with over 200 yards on the ground. Denver got 2 sacks but they didn’t affect the game much.

Grade A+

The OL is the key to the Raiders. Carr and the other offensive weapons get all the credit but this is the engine of the team. This OL is the “HEMI” of the NFL.

andre-holmes-broncos-raiders

Wide Receivers:

Nothing really special from this group but a solid game. Andre Holmes made an amazing one handed catch of a ball thrown behind him.   Even with Denver’s injuries at DB, the Raiders were held under 200 yards passing. They did their job and it helped win the game.

GRADE: B

A solid game.

Defensive Line:

Kahlil Mack had a great game and his slow start is a thing of the past. The pass rush overall was good all game as the DL put pressure on Broncos QB Trevor Siemian. Siemian struggles a ton when he’s rushed and it showed all game. Denver showed the same arrogance as last year, for the most part not trying to double team Mack and they paid for it.

The Broncos only ran 12 times and the Raiders did well to stop the run. They miss CJ Anderson. Siemian at times is a train wreck and no one has stepped up at RB.   Denver’s offensive line is very inconsistent and the Raiders took advantage of it.

Grade: A

Is the Raiders DL great; not a chance. But for this game they played great and was a breath of fresh air for a group that has struggled this year.

Linebackers:

The LB’s were very active.   Other than the long catch and run by RB Kapri Bibbs (wow was that an ugly play for the Raiders), this group played well.

Grade B+

Overall solid game.

Defensive Backs:

The pass rush definitely helped this group and they had a solid game.   Karl Joseph was fooled on 2 play action passes; one he was beaten for a TD; which shows he’s still learning the game.   Overall a solid game though. Siemian’s pathetic accuracy didn’t hurt either.

Grade B+  

This was one of their better games.

Coaching:

The Broncos had a bizarre game plan, concentrating on the passing game when it’s obvious QB Siemian is limited. Another coaching staff outthinking themselves. The Raiders took advantage of this by really going after the QB.

It was a bad decision to allow Carr to throw the ball late in the game which almost lead to an interception when it was obvious Denver could not stop the run. The Raiders need to be smarter. Just run the clock out.

They greatly improved their sloppy play from the previous 8 weeks where they lead the NFL in penalties and set a record against Tampa Bay. On a side note the game has definitely changed and there are so many pass interference penalties in the NFL that it can be hard to watch sometimes.   There is a reason passing records are falling like stars in the sky in the NFL and college game.  With the NFL rules, Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be DB’s.

Grade B+

Solid game plan against a bad run defense and limited offense.

Special Teams:

Janikowski is showing that it’s a lot different hitting 50 yard field goals in the first half of games on a losing team, than it is on a winning team trying to make the playoffs. He missed again this week. King had a solid game; could do without the Cam Newton dance party after his punts, but overall a solid game by King. Field position played a key role in the first half. The coverage team did a good job and the return game was nothing special.

Grade B+

A solid game other than the blip from Janikowski.

Conclusion:

I’ve been saying it all week. This is not a great team in Denver. They have an inconsistent OL, a QB that can throw long but not much else; and a defense that was 25th against the run coming into the game and is now 30th in the NFL after the Raiders game. Denver has had a lot of injuries and other than Marshall, their LB play isn’t the same.   The injury to CJ Anderson really hurt this team. The Raiders match up great against them. Last year the Raiders didn’t allow a bad Denver offense a TD in both games.

The game plan was good and the Raiders showed they can beat a good team. They are now on a bye week. They haven’t won anything yet though and the season is a long one so there is still work to do. They are now 1-2 against teams that presently have winning records, and those two teams had something Denver hasn’t got; good offenses. The Raiders still have holes on defense.

This was a game I thought they had to get and they did. The OL completely dominated and showed why the Raiders are doing so well this year. It was a fun night for all.

Outlook:

Tomorrow I will break down the AFC West and look at each team. The Raiders are in great shape but they still have to play each AFC west team on the road. They will next go to Mexico against Houston and even though Carolina isn’t that good this year, it will still be a tough game. Kansas City has dominated Oakland and San Diego with a pass rush is now much improved.  No one is talking about the Chiefs but they aren’t going away.   Denver is still Denver especially at home.  It should be a fun second half of the season, but for now, take 2 weeks off Raider fans to celebrate; you’ve earned it.

“GRADES; Raiders Magic v.s. Chargers Curse; Looking ahead to rival Kansas City”

raiders-chargers

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Baltimore Ravens; Week 4:

San Diego Chargers  31 (1-4)

Oakland Raiders  34 (4-1)

In a crazy game in Oakland, the Raiders outlasted the San Diego Chargers 34-31.

Overview:

There are some years where everything seems to go right and so far all the bad years in Oakland are forgotten for the moment.  The San Diego media; usually very soft on their teams; sliced and diced the Chargers like a Ginsu knife commercial while the Raiders and their fans basked in the California sunshine.  The Chargers have been train wrecks late in games.  Add a punter who has now played key roles in losing 2 games, and the fervor for the city of San Diego to want to have the Chargers stay has waned a bit. With another fourth quarter fail which has been the downfall of QB Phillip Rivers career, the Raiders again did just enough to chalk up their 4th victory of the season.  Rivers is a good QB but I don’t like when they say all time great because he isn’t.

Don’t look now but the Raiders are now tied for first place with the Broncos who found out quick Rookie QB Paxton Lynch holds onto the ball longer than a 4 year old on Christmas morning.  As for the Raiders, the magic goes on.

Quarterback:

Carr had a pretty good day.  In the first 4 games of the season, Carr had been TOUCHED only 7 times.  (Colts QB Andrew Luck has been sacked 20 times and touched 39 times).  The offensive line has been amazing.  In the Chargers game they blitzed Carr often and he struggled at times.  Carr made a poor throw on the interception during the screen, and also avoided another interception when San Diego backup CB Steve Williams flat out dropped an easy pass.  On the good side Carr calmed down and clicked with Amari Cooper much of the day, and his long throws were great.

The Chargers brought up a safety much of the game to help with the run defense and that freed up Cooper in a lot of easy matches against backups due to injuries.  Easy pickings for a quality WR like Cooper.  If they play 2 deep, throw to Crabtree; if they try to stop the run, go to Cooper.

GRADE: B –

Carr’s connections to Cooper were nice to see.  He was sacked 3 times and his throws were rushed in the first half.  I like Carr and his poise.  The key though isn’t Carr, the key is keeping people off of him.

Running Backs:

Most fans don’t notice it but wow, do the Raiders miss TE Lee Smith who is maybe the best run blocking TE in the NFL.  The Chargers game plan was to rush Carr and stop the run.  They now have the 13th best run defense in the NFL.  The Raiders rushed for 89 yards but their RB’s also caught 12 passes for 97 yards.  Their pass blocking wasn’t bad as well having to deal with the blitzes of the Chargers.  They looked fast out of the backfield and were a key part to the win.

Grade B

In the 3 key facets of the game, they played well.  They didn’t have a lot of breakdowns in pass blocking.  The Chargers wanted to stop the run so they improvised.  I liked the effort, speed and the results of everyone.

Offensive Line:

The Raiders are now #1 in sacks allowed in the NFL.  The Raiders OL continues to be the glue that holds this team together.  The Chargers really came after Carr and disrupted his rhythm at times.  The OL also had several penalties that still are a problem.  Not the best day of the season for this group but they got the job done.

Grade B-

They still played fairly well but Carr did get hit more than any other game and the Chargers weren’t bad stopping the run.  The penalties eventually will catch up to the Raiders if they don’t fix them.

Wide Receivers:

Overall this was another quality game from this group.  As long as Crabtree and Cooper don’t start worrying about their TD’s and catches, this is a solid tandem that is as good as any in the game right now.  Crabtree had a drop but in the end came through with the key TD grab.  Cooper was given one on one coverage more than at any time this year and he made the Chargers pay.  Andre Holmes and Seth Roberts contribute as well.

GRADE: A

The Chargers defensive backfield is a mess with so many injuries but this was still a quality performance and break out game for Cooper.

Defensive Line:

I’ve been saying for a while that Dan Williams needs to be playing more and rookie Jihad Ward a lot less.  The Raiders listened and their run defense improved.  Williams played 28 plays; by far the most he’s played all year; and Ward’s playing time was cut in half.  Williams even had half a sack.  San Diego only had 72 yards rushing on 19 carries.

The pass rush was a little better getting to Rivers twice, but overall he had time to throw for most of the day.  The Raiders are now 27th in the NFL in sacks with only 7 in 5 games.

Grade: B-

The Raiders were good against the run and not so good against the pass.  This pass rush isn’t scaring anyone right now but with Williams playing more their run defense is much better.

Linebackers:

The Raiders LB’s played well against the run.  In the blitzes they did though, there was only occasional push.  Cory James struggled all day covering the pass.  Newly signed Perry Riley Jr. lead the team in tackles.  He was beaten on a couple of pass plays but his forced fumble on Antonio Gates was a huge play early.  The Raiders overall struggled with the tight ends again giving over 100 yards passing and 2 TD’s to Hunter Henry and Gates.

Grade C+

I said it at the start of the season; there are going to be plenty of highs and lows with this group.  Riley Jr. played instead of Malcolm Smith and he was a burst of energy to the team but at times its a struggle.

Defensive Backs:

The Raiders defensive backs are going to also have ups and downs all year.  They struggle against fast WR and they did again Sunday.  They gave up 3 plays over 50 yards and Rivers threw for 359 yards total and an amazing 17.1 yards a reception.  Amerson was beat deep twice and Travis Benjamin juked him for a long pass and run.  Sean Smith had an INT but he also was torched often.  The last 2 weeks Oakland played 2 teams with little team speed at WR and they looked good.  Against New Orleans, Atlanta, & San Diego who have fast WR, they struggled.  Not a coincidence.  The 2 starting WR for the Chargers caught 12 passes for 234 yards and a TD.  Smith and Amerson really struggled all day.

Karl Joseph several times played 5-8 yards near the line of scrimmage for much of the game to stop the run and the short TE pass.  It also freed up their WR’s though for the long ball with one less safety.  I’m not a Reggie Nelson fan; he takes a lot of bad angles when he helps.  Joseph got his first INT when Rivers just heaved one.

Grade D  

They will struggle against speed, and thrive against teams that lack it.  Giving up 17.1 yards a catch in today’s game is bad.  Really bad.

Coaching:

I didn’t get why the Raiders were so worried about the running game of San Diego when it’s ranked 20th in the NFL and really isn’t that great.  I also don’t get if you have a good offense why they just lay back.  Playing bad teams you can get away with that but they need a killer instinct.  With 4 turnovers and 4 drives starting in San Diego territory, this is a game you need to hang a 40 on them and send a message.  It’s just too conservative on offense for my taste.  Some fans want Rocky Road and the Raiders are serving Vanilla.  It’s not a huge issue but I dont like playing good enough to win because eventually you won’t.

Grade B

With the rules of today, there is no reason why the Raiders should not be hanging 40’s on these bad defenses.  What good is having a Hemi if you are driving the speed limit all the time; take it to the track and let it go!

Special Teams:

Marquette King is a force.  Janikowski was awful on one FG try; not close; but redeemed himself.  The return game wasn’t a big factor and the coverage teams were fine.

Grade A-

Solid day all around other than the missed field goal.

Conclusion:

Already in 4 losses this season Rivers had chances to seal the games or win them with 4th quarter drives and his offenses failed several times; the story of his career.  The Raiders played well enough to win but there still is work to do especially on defense.

Explaining the Raiders/Chiefs Rivalry:

Kansas City Chiefs:

When everyone was screaming the KC Chiefs will win the West, I said no way.  There are 3 reasons why; no pass rush, Alex Smith and Andy Reid.  I told 49er fans at the time after the 49ers beat the Saints in the playoffs that you are not going to hoist any trophies in the NFL throwing 1-3 yard passes with Alex Smith.  Reid and Smith are just too conservative.  Their unwillingness to take chances throwing to WR is of legend.  The Chiefs running game also has suffered and with an aging Tamba Hali and an ailing Justin Houston who will probably miss most of the season, this team has no pass rush and are now 31st in sacks.

Outlook:

Raider fans hold on to your seats because this is going to be a wild one.  Nothing is going to be easy but the Raiders should be favored for almost every game looking ahead.  Look for another close game with the Chiefs.  The Raiders defense has holes but this offense is good.  With Kansas City and Carolina struggling, the Raiders schedule is a lot easier than first thought.  Other than Denver the Raiders don’t play any elite team.  No Minnesota, New England, Dallas, Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.  All of a sudden this really is turning into a magical year.  Fans can afford to go overboard but teams can’t.  Look for the Raiders to take every week the same and not overlook anyone.  For older Raiders fans the Chiefs are the big rival game that they look forward to every year.

“Raiders v.s. Titans; What to Look For Today & Why Khalil Mack Will Be Just Fine”

Raiders Titans Football

Week 3 Preview; Oakland Raiders (1-1) @ Tennessee Titans (1-1):

The Raiders venture to music city to play the rebuilding Tennessee Titans in an important early season contest.

What to look for on Offense:

The Titans defense has improved a lot from last season. In the first two games they played well. They’ve only given up 1 offensive td on the year.   They are ranked 13th in both passing and rushing defense but their pass rush has been inconsistent.   They do have 4 sacks on the year with all of them coming in game 2 against the Lions. The Vikings offensive line seemed to control the game for the most part against Tennessee’s pass rush.

Look for the Titans LB Brian Orakpo to be the key pass rusher against the Raiders. He already has 2 sacks on the year and he was very disruptive against the Lions.

The Titans have said that they are wanting to stop the Raiders running game.   If that is true the Raiders should be able to throw deep when their safeties are playing up to stop the run.   I question if that is their main game plan though and look for them to mix it up at times & play their safeties back to protect for Cooper and the long ball.

Cooper is averaging an amazing 18.9 yards a catch with a long of 43.   Even with teams trying to stop the long ball, he has had a great start to the season. With the Raiders balanced attack, they should be able to handle the Titans defense. Carr will definitely have his chances to audible today.

The Raiders running game is #2 in the NFL. As I said before the season started, if the Raiders use ALL of their running backs, they will thrive. They have done that and the running game looks fine. Clive Walford saw some targets last week and was effective.   With Melenik Watson back, the Raiders offensive line should do very well.

A key matchup will be Titans CB Perrish Cox v.s. Amari Cooper. The great Dick Lebaeu is the Titans Defensive coordinator and he loves zone blitzes. This should free up Cooper so look for Amari to have a big day.   Perrish Cox is also one of the slower CB’s in the NFL so if the safeties give help on Cooper, this should open up the run game. Carr rarely calls audibles but he needs to do it today if the Raiders are going to continue their high powered offense.

What to look for on Defense:

The Raiders are averaging giving up an unheard of 8 yards a play on defense.   Some have tried to pin this on Ken Norton Jr. and Ben Heeney but to be honest there is a WHOLE lot of blame to go around. Sean Smith has played passively and is really struggling; the safeties have also struggled in their help defense. The pass rush is non existent at times and Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack have a combined 1 sack in 2 games.

Rookie LB Cory James will play for Ben Heeney. At Colorado St. Cory James was a consistent player and quality playmaker but he also has the same 40 times and same speed as Ben Heeney.   James is athletic but not fast.

Look for the Raiders to make QB Marcus Mariota beat them. I see the safeties playing much more aggressively to stop RB DeMarco Murray and his backup Derrick Henry. What makes Murray such a threat is that he’s a great pass catcher as well. Murray has 131 yards rushing on the year but he’s also caught 12 passes for 91 yards and 2 TD’s. Murray will be a handful for the LB’s to cover today.

The Raiders will crowd the box on early downs to stop the run, and try to force obvious passing downs. This will help the pass rush and also make possible blitzes more effective.

Stacy McGee and Jihad Ward played most of the game against Atlanta and that should continue. McGee did get a sack but their effectiveness was definitely in doubt. Justin Ellis and Dan Williams continue to struggle for playing time. It will be interesting to see if that continues.

Bruce Irvin was invisible for most of the game and even though Khalil Mack has been absent on the pass rush, he’s been excellent against the run.   Look for Mack to come out swinging to get his first sack of the year.

The Raiders blitzed on several of the big plays for Atlanta last week and it was not very effective. So far the DL hasn’t played well so look for a CB or safety blitz on occasion. The fearful thing obviously is that if the blitz is picked up, this defensive backfield is in trouble.

Titans WR Kendall Wright is their deep threat and he is not going to play.   The Raiders should be able to handle the Titans passing game.

Delanie Walker is a top tight end but he’s hurting and will be a game time decision. That definitely helps the Raiders.

Look for some turnovers today. Mariota already has 2 INT’s and 1 lost fumble (he had 8 fumbles last year).   Mariota’s accuracy is hit or miss at times. He did play well last week in Detroit in the 4th quarter to help them win. Murray will fumble on occasion as well so look for the Raiders to get their first turnover of the season.

Will Khalil Mack be Back?:

In today’s social media environment, people live and die with each game. Seasoned fans know this is a marathon and not a race. What people also aren’t getting is that some players take time to get going, and Khalil Mack is definitely one of the them.   In his rookie year he didn’t get his first sack until week 10.

In the first 8 games last year, Mack had 27 tackles and 4 sacks. In the last 8 games he had 50 tackles and 11 sacks.   In last years game at Tennessee he had 6 tackles and 2 sacks. Look for a good day from Khalil in Nashville.

Interesting Facts:

-Tennessee did not win a home game last year and they are 2-15 in their last 17 games at home; worst in the NFL.

-Titans kicker Ryan Succop has made his last 19 field goals inside the 50 yard line.

-Raiders are averaging 7.0 yards a play on offense, and give up 8.0 yards a play on defense. They are allowing 4.5 yards per rush on D.

-Oakland is one of 3 teams that has yet to get a defensive turnover.

-Raiders return teams are near last in most categories. They are averaging 15.7 yards per kickoff return, and 5.3 yards per punt return.

-Oakland Coach Jack Del Rio is 76-81 in 11 years as a head coach and is 8-10 as Raiders head coach.

-Titans haven’t won a game at home against a non AFC South team since 9/29/2013. They have not won 2 games in a row since 12/22 & 29/2013.

Outlook:

The Tennessee Titans have arguably been the worst team the NFL the last 3 years. Playoff teams do not lose to the Tennessee Titans. In the Titans last 34 games, they are an abysmal 6-28.  If the Raiders can’t win today, this greatly hurts them.  No excuse can make it acceptable.

All the stars are aligned for a big Raider win and that can spell trouble.  In the NFL anything can and does happen. The offense played well last week but you would have hoped for more than 28 points against a bad pass rush which was last in the NFL in 2015.  Especially in a home opener.

The Raiders have come out sluggish in both their games and have not played well in the first half. They need to come out fast and even think of going no huddle. The Titans do not have the offense to score a lot of points so if the Raiders can get out to a big lead, their pass rush can tee off against Mariota.

Amazingly the Raiders are only a 1 ½ point favorite. It’s hard to see the Raiders losing this game but crazier things have happened. This is an early must win game and the hopes in Raider nation is that they will come out aggressive in the first half and take control of the game early. If not, the talk shows in the bay area will be must listen to radio on Monday.