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“How to Beat Insomnia. Can’t Remember Your Last Good Night’s Sleep? Real Answers and Tips to Getting Your Life Back”

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PROBLEMS SLEEPING?

Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to go to sleep, but there is hope.  More and more studies are showing that proper sleep habits or “sleep hygiene” is as much or more important that medications in fixing your sleep.  There are many things you can do to help without medications!  The following tips can help you attain the quality sleep you need.   If you are a Type-A person that can’t let go of things, those days need to end for you.  Be it exercise, baths, or whatever makes you feel relaxed, it’s time to lower the stress and increase the sleep hours with good quality sleeping habits.

hrs sleep per night

  • Why 8 hours of sleep is important:

Most adults need 8 hours of sleep.  Research has shown that the average American in 1900 got about 9.2 hours of sleep a night.  The average American in 2018 gets about 6.8 hours of sleep.  It is predicted that only 60% of all Americans sleep enough hours each night.  With everyone eventually getting electricity, radios, television; and now smart phones and laptops; there is way too much keeping us alert at night. A good night sleep releases various hormones, can elevate your mood, keep you sharp and alert, and make you feel rested so that you can take on your day.  For adolescents growth hormone is released as well.

An important thing to remember is that the longer you sleep the deeper you sleep. If you need 8 hours of sleep and you only sleep 5 or 6 hours, the 2 hours of missed sleep at the end may have contained important deep sleep to make you feel refreshed. The two types of deep sleep are Stage 3 and 4 Delta sleep, and REM sleep or Rapid Eye Movement sleep which is dreaming. In the sleep field we like to say Delta sleep restores the body, REM sleep restores the brain and emotions.

sleep-quote

  • If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring in another room until you feel sleepy. Do not eat or drink in bed!

Sit quietly in the dark or read something very boring in another room. Don’t expose yourself to bright light while you are up. The light gives cues to your brain that it is time to wake up. If it takes you longer than 20 minutes to go to sleep, you also may be going to bed too early.  Some people stay in bed for 10-12 hours a night but only sleep 6-7 hours so they should go to sleep later. As we said before, the longer you sleep, the deeper you sleep.

  • Don’t take naps unless absolutely necessary

This will ensure you are tired at bedtime. If you just can’t make it through the day without a nap, make sure it is less than one hour, and before 3 pm, or your sleep at night may be affected. Even a short nap though can decrease your sleep at night. Each person is different.  If you just can’t get enough sleep, power naps are used often to help you, so if you don’t have insomnia, taking a short nap is a great idea so restoring you somewhat.  When you take a power nap, the brain will often go into REM sleep quickly which helps to restore you. I use them often.

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Exhausted woman sleeping in front of her laptop
  • Get up and go to bed near an hour the same time every day and night respectively

Even on weekends! For instance if you sleep from 11 pm to 7 am every night, try to do that on the weekends too. When your sleep cycle has a regular rhythm, you will feel and sleep better.   Staggering your sleep times will make sleeping consistently difficult and sleep deprivation will usually occur.   You will then often feel fatigued and tired.

  • Refrain from exercise at least 2-3 hours before bedtime

Regular exercise is recommended to help you sleep well, but the timing of the workout is important. Exercising in the morning or early afternoon will not interfere with sleep.

insomnia cell

  • Develop sleep rituals

It is important to give your body cues that it is time to slow down and sleep. Listen to relaxing music, read something soothing for 15 minutes, have a cup of caffeine-free tea, or do light relaxation exercises or stretching. Do whatever works for you.   (Make sure to do this outside the bedroom).

  • STAY OFF OF THE INTERNET WHEN YOU SHOULD BE SLEEPING!!

This is self-explanatory. If you have insomnia then obviously do not text, or talk on the phone in bed. If you do, you then train your brain that when you are in bed it’s now time to be alert and on the phone. Don’t use your laptop to do work in bed. Do not sleep with your cell phone next to you. Instead put it away from you so that you can’t get to it. I charge it on my nightstand where I can’t reach it.   Every tiny text or notification is not going to change your life. Getting a good night sleep will. I have very few notifications on my cell. I don’t need them for social media or basic apps.

  • Only use your bed for 2 things; no TV, eating or reading:

Refrain from using your bed to watch TV, eat/drink, pay bills, do work, or read. This is so that when you go to bed your body knows it is time to sleep. Sex and sleep are obviously the only exception.

  • Stay away from caffeine, nicotine and alcohol at least 3-4 hours before bed

Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Coffee, tea, cola, and some prescription and non-prescription drugs can contain caffeine. Alcohol may seem to help you sleep in the beginning as it slows brain activity, but you will end up having fragmented sleep. If you snore or have apnea, alcohol will make it worse. Do not take OTC cold remedies (that I can’t name) to make you sleep. They have a rebound effect that will make you sleepy the next day, and also if you do sleep, it may decrease the amounts of Delta and REM sleep.

insomnia sleeping moon

  • If needed, Have a light snack before bed

If you eat early and your stomach is too empty, that can interfere with sleep so a light snack may help you. However, if you eat a heavy meal before bedtime, that can interfere as well. Dairy products and turkey contain tryptophan, which may act as a natural sleep inducer. Tryptophan is probably why a warm glass of milk is sometimes recommended. If you have reflux problems, try to sleep on your left side, and don’t eat near bedtime.

  • You can take a hot bath 90 minutes before bedtime

Some people enjoy taking a hot bath near bedtime. This will raise your body temperature, but it is the drop in body temperature afterwards that help some people sleep.

  • Make sure your bed and bedroom are quiet, cool, and comfortable

SUPER important. A very warm room may feel comfortable, but it will make sleeping difficult because it will increase your body temperature. That’s why during hot days in the summer, it’s part of the reason why it’s so hard to sleep. A cooler room along with enough blankets to stay warm is recommended because it will increase your bodies melatonin production and bring you to a state of sleepiness. If light in the early morning wakes you up, get a blackout shade or wear a slumber mask. If noise bothers you, wear earplugs or get a white noise machine.

  • Use sunlight to set your biological clock

Soon after you get up in the morning, make sure that you create a lighted environment. The sunlight and activity can increase seratonin levels which will elevate your mood and also make you more alert. This will tell your brain that it’s time to get up.   (i.e. open the curtains, electric lights, sunlight by going outside, etc…) If you travel a lot, it’s imperative that you stay out in the sun during the day as much as possible. This will increase seratonin production and greatly help your jet lag and listless feeling that many business travelers experience.

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In ending, to sleep well you will need to create a cool environment, and have consistent quality sleeping habits.   We all have different personalities; and some are more anxious or “Type-A” than others; but don’t make sleep such a stressful event that it makes sleeping even more difficult. People that sleep well don’t think much about it because their quality sleep habits have become second nature to them. If you’re a worrier and think about things over and over in bed, then take these suggestions to heart to improve your sleep. Some people have had difficulty sleeping and poor sleep habits for years, so this may take time. You are the key to getting a good night’s sleep and creating proper sleep hygiene. REMEMBER, EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT SO DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND YOUR SLEEP WILL IMPROVE SOONER THAN YOU THINK! Be positive and consistent with these changes and you too can sleep well without much worry.

“Will Oakland Raiders Khalil Mack Sign a Long-Term Deal or Won’t He? Cutting to the Chase”

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With the announcement of Oakland Raiders star pass rusher Khalil Mack’s hold out, some began to worry if there was a possibility the Raiders may eventually lose Mack after this season. I love social media and it already has many comments on the subject.  Some are tweeting Mack is done with the Raiders and others are saying he won’t be there week 1.  As we always do, let’s be realistic about this situation.

I said after the Super Bowl that if I was Khalil Mack, I would not play another play without a long term deal. If Mack plays the last year of his contract and gets hurt, he will lose money, and maybe a lot of it.

Some said that they want Mack to just show up and play because he is making a good salary now but that would be ridiculous. At 27 years old, this will be Mack’s biggest contract signing of his career, so he needs to cash in on it big time.

Recent Holdouts:

Last year the Rams all world DT Aaron Donald held out until the day before the season started wanting a new contract. Rams fans/writers were losing their minds saying he ruined his season and he was done in Los Angeles. After a few weeks Donald was back to form terrorizing offenses while being double teamed most of the year. I do agree that it remains to be seen if the Rams burned a bridge with him but the hopes there is that they can work out a long term deal.

Le’Veon Bell didn’t show up for Pittsburgh until September 1st and after a sluggish start, began to dominate in week 4 becoming maybe the best all around RB in the NFL.   After the season ended, ridiculous rumors started popping up that the Raiders were in the lead to get Bell. I reminded a national writer and several local writers that this was nonsense. For a year Pittsburgh said that they were going to franchise Bell and that was that.   Well, that is exactly what happened.

You have to think these things through and not just throw things on the wall to get a rise out of people. Thus when you hear rumors, read the people you trust and do your own homework and see that most rumors are nothing to worry about.

The Reggie McKenzie Factor:

Just like with Derek Carr, Reggie McKenzie isn’t the type to want to wait until the last second to sign a player. They want to sign Mack quickly before his final year begins. Both sides are reasonable, want to have a relationship, and feel good about getting it done. Remember that Derek Carr signed on June 22nd of last year so there is no need to panic. I would not overreact to all of the nasty nipping and fighting that may occur during these types of negotiations. When a deal is done, most everything is forgiven no matter how nasty the negotiations.

Last year in a nice interview with NBC Bay Area, Mack stated that he knows this is a business. He also said he wanted to be a Raider for life and that it’s a no-brainer for him to stay with Oakland for the rest of his career. Mack has shown himself to be honest and level headed. Nothing has changed and I see Mack signing something long term most likely sooner than later.

 

Jim’s Jamz:

Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald are playing a cat and mouse game to see who signs first, so the other player can get an idea of what to ask for.  As for head coach Jon Gruden, he just wants him on the field again.  Even in a couple of press conferences this week, Gruden said that what the Raiders do in contracts is private, but he said they would like to have Mack back signed as quickly as possible and he’s hopeful they can reach an agreement.  He also commented that part of coming back as a coach was to coach for Mack.

Should Raider fans be worried right now? No. If I was Mack I’d hold out until the season started if needed, and then I’d tell the Raiders the time to talk ended and I’m opting out for free agency at the end of the season.  Of course during the season I’d still be negotiating and trying to sign a deal.

I personally think Mack will sign in late June or even July. I don’t think it could play out until August but who knows. Either way I’d be shocked and stunned if he kept holding out. It’s the same thing I told fans back when Derek Carr signed and people got worried. If Khalil doesn’t have a contract after the season starts then I’d worry, but even then I wouldn’t lose my mind.

The Raiders are not going to be pushovers and just cave in to his demands but as long as he’s not hurt, Mack is holding all of the aces. With him there are still some big questions on defense for the Raiders but without him there are HUGE issues. The Raiders are not going to let him go because they need him big time. This is not Jr. High School loyalty folks, this is the NFL and it’s business. In the end I see Mack playing for the Raiders for a long, long time and I’d worry more about other things in life like what you are having for dinner and who will win the World Cup.

“Remembering Anthony Bourdain. The Epic Fail of the US Treating Depression, and How to Better Help Those Struggling With It”

Anthony bourdain

An epic fail.

With the death of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain by suicide, another soul is lost to the wasteland of depression. It shows that what we are doing now is not working, and it has to change.

What bothers me so much is when a celebrity commits suicide people give an 800 number for suicide prevention and say get some help if you need it. What would be great is if the medical field and society got the person some help before their tragic end. It’s also strange that we accept so many on medications as a treatment, until a person commits suicide and then we say they should talk to someone.

I’m not naive; depression has been around forever and no culture will probably ever get rid of it.  In some cases though a patient may be helped with proper medical counseling.  If needed, medications can also be used. On the other hand what is going on in the U.S. is a HUGE fail when it comes to our suicide problem.  Handing patients powerful meds and saying good luck doesn’t work.

https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMrgQ_dOyhk

HMO’s and Drug Companies Team Up to Market Medications:

One service that health insurance organizations found was killing their revenues was counseling.   Over the years they found out that counseling was expensive, time consuming, and some patients needed it for years. It didn’t matter that it could work on many people; what mattered was that it was costly. What to do about the problem? Give a drug. It’s easy, takes up little to no time, and it’s profitable for both the insurance company and the drug company. And before laws changed, the perks and gifts that doctors got to push these drugs were of legend. I’m stopping here before I get into trouble.

Over the years drug companies went on a huge advertising campaign to get people to use their medications, and it’s unreal how intense it has become. The other day I watched network television for the first time in a while and I was shocked. I used the DVR and counted 14 commercials and EIGHT of them were drug commercials.

With the help of insurance companies and physicians, the drug companies created a society of drug addicts. Slowly, counseling became a thing of the past and giving medications became the rage. Insurance companies profits sky rocketed and drug companies made more money than they knew what to do with while patients suffered.   One medication can make billions of dollars per year. Now millions of patients are on powerful medications with little to no counseling. Some of these meds are so powerful it makes heroine seem like candy. Many people are getting addicted.

With opiates alone, some will have phantom pain when they try to get off of them creating more of an addiction. People pop these dangerous pills like tic tacs but they often still struggle because their problems are not fixed, just medicated. Instead of a professional helping them through their issues and how to handle situations better, they are drugged and unprepared. Patients at times are also part of the problem. We want fixes fast, easy, and with no fuss. Popping a pill to fix everything is just the ticket for our lackadaisical society.

Now thousands die from prescription drug overdoses without an end in site. Our society accepts it even though there were almost 45,000 suicides in 2016 in the U.S. And those are only the recorded ones.  Since 1999, the suicide rate in the U.S. has increased a whopping 24%. The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/

AMAZINGLY 250,000 INFANTS are now on psychotropic medications in the U.S. That is CRIMINAL! Are you kidding me? Now infants are depressed? OMG. Please Americans; stop the insanity. What is scary is these are only the confirmed cases listed by the Center of Disease Control.

How to Help the Situation:

First off, we need to teach our society that needing therapy is NOT a weakness. Counseling can and does greatly help people.

Second, there is no 100% easy fix. Sadly, some are overcome by the pain in their lives or the hopelessness that they feel. Some do have mental illnesses that need medications but for various reasons, they don’t survive. Some get addicted to drugs and alcohol and refuse to be helped. It’s not cut and dry. People usually commit suicide not to die, but to stop hurting. That’s why therapy is so, so, important. Giving someone medications doesn’t make the hurt go away, it numbs it.

I feel citizens must demand that Congress create a code of ethics and a procedure for fighting depression. Counseling HAS to be a key element of this. Insurance companies are not going to do counseling again unless they are made to.  Obviously for some, medications are needed to cope with their mental illness but surely not a majority of depressed people need them long term.

They need to understand what is going on with themselves and how to cope with the pain they are feeling.  So many have abuses or childhood trauma’s that create immense pain.  Some will say, well I have a chemical imbalance. Alright, what chemical? Let’s balance it. These generic phrases to justify going on medications doesn’t cut it anymore.

I’ve dated and known some people that crumble at the sign of any stress or difficult situations and I’ve encouraged them to get help. One friend thank God reached out for help and has greatly improved. She went to a good therapist for months.   She said it changed her life.   She now takes no meds and has the coping skills and techniques to handle situations that were created by emotional abuse.   I also agree with many that not all therapists are good. Her first one told her to get on dating sites and date men to find companionship to make her happy. The opposite happened.

Now that she’s doing so well she loves the fact that she’s off all medications when before getting help, she said she was on 7 of them. Another friend after 9 months of counseling is getting off her meds and also feels like a million bucks. We must make counseling a paid service as a part of our health plans that is pushed by the doctors. Again, needing therapy is not a weakness and people should encourage others to get help.  Sometimes going through counseling, drug therapy helps as well.

Parents Can Help the Situation:

Good parenting also plays a role. Teach your kids to respect everyone because you don’t know who is struggling.  On the other hand talk to them and belong to every social media site they are on and check it regularly.  Many kids will not come forward so you have to take the initiative.

If you do not learn how to handle stress, disappointment, tragedy or difficult people when you are young, you sure in the heck aren’t going to magically handle it when you are an adult. It’s important not to handle every tiny thing for our kids.  They even have ridiculous seminars now on how to handle young adult workers so you will make them happy and you won’t upset them. It’s shocking how emotionally handicapped an entire generation has become due to people spoiling so many.

Let’s All Listen:

I hate when I hear some people say, I don’t really like to talk, I text. Well sorry, so do robots. Put down your phone and communicate with me.

I often look into a restaurant or even a bar and see people that are sitting together not talking with each other and looking at their stupid phones with their mouths open like zombies. When I go somewhere with someone, the first thing I say is “excuse me, I’m sorry. Let me turn off/silent my cell phone”. EVERY TIME the person or people with me will silence or turn off their phones. What I’m telling these people is that I’m going to listen to them. You will be amazed at how much better your interaction will be.

The only way to learn about something or someone is to listen. With social media and cell phones taking over, now many are self important and feel they are curing cancer when they open their mouths and say something.   Now everyone is an expert. Truly listening to someone is one of the kindest things you can do for them.

Stop The Negativity & the Hate:

Stop the stupid political hate and social media nastiness. Fun fact; one party is as screwed up as the other so blindly following either is pretty ridiculous in my book. If people would show as much loyalty to their loved ones and friends as they do to their stupid political party affiliation, the U.S. would be a lot nicer place to be. And a lot smarter. Racism, sexism and anger cloud the mind. They do not create peace, or contentment, thus do not associate with it. So much murder and chaos on television. Reality shows with scripted fighting and drama.   Social media nonsense. Political fighting like little kids. Rarely is there anything positive or happy anymore.

Jim’s Jamz:

We all get depressed and down sometimes. I remember I’ve been really low at times thinking there was no hope. Those are the times though I rely on the things that get me through the day until I can see light. I was taught how to deal with hardships from my parents and the lessons I learned as a child help me today. Even if you have those skills sometimes we still need some help.

For others, they may not have those tools, or are just really struggling.  They have to get that help in the form of talking with professionals and getting a plan on how to beat the struggles that are faced. Loving friends and family to discuss things help a ton as well.

Some people have chronic mental illness.  Some have emotional pain that has never been dealt with. Some have money or tax issues or relationship/family problems. Unless it’s a true mental illness though, you have to deal with the foundational problem and not just mask it with medications for the rest of their lives.  For some, medications have to be used but for many, they just need support.

As a society let’s not wait until someone is on the ledge of a mountain before we give them an 800 number to call to get help.   Let’s give these people support and someone to talk to in the valley before they climb up the cliff.

Remembering Anthony:

Anthony Bourdain was not a culinary genius or the greatest of chefs, but what made him popular was he was real. He was a quality chef who was honest about his talents and his thoughts. He was one of us traveling the world enjoying food without political correctness or limitations. We saw the inner belly of societies that many in the U.S. never get to see, with an open mind and an open heart.  Non-judgemental in a way that brings people together.

Suicide is so raw and painful to those left behind. The way I will remember Anthony though is from the end of the episode of his first series “A Cooks Tour”, Childhood Flavors. He and his brother Chris went to Arcachon, France where his father grew up and where they spent many vacations. He said that maybe he and Chris were actually emotionally looking for their dad.

At the end of the episode after throwing firecrackers in old Nazi bunkhouses that sat on the beach, Anthony and Chris looked back thinking about how much their father would have loved it. He talked about the pure joy on his father’s face when they were on the beach at Cap Ferret as kids.  A family having fun, eating baguettes, cheese, and sausage, with a glass of cheap red wine in hand. A sense of true contentment.

With this sad act, I hope Anthony has found peace. I somehow see Anthony meeting with his father again at the beach. Anthony’s greatest food adventure ever, that we all know he took far too soon.

“The 5 Best NFL Draft Classes in Raiders History; With Video Comments from Phil Villapiano, Madden, Atkinson, Tatum & Stabler”

 

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Phil Villapiano

*Raider fans are the best!  Please show your Raider loyalty and sign the petition to put Cliff Branch in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/276/842/889/

 

*Please follow Phil Villapiano’s Facebook page supporting him entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (#PhilVForHOF)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1878470965816620/

 

*And Follow Phil’s page on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/VillapianOk?lang=en

 

*Want some Phil V “Foo” Gear for the HOF?  His College BGSU has you covered! 

Phil Villapiano Hall of Fame Rally T-Shirt

NFL: Oakland Raiders-Jack Del Rio Press Conference

The NFL draft can make or break you.

The NFL draft has always been fascinating to me.  It’s an amazing thing to see how teams choose who they want to create the foundation of their team.  It’s not a coincidence though that with the greatness of the Raiders of the 1960’s into early 1980’s, most of their drafts were excellent getting at least 2 good starters in many drafts.  Director of Player Personnel Ron Wolf was a key element of these drafts and he is now in the HOF.  As John Madden said, “Al listened to only one person and that was Ron Wolf”.

To establish a great team you have to have excellent drafts.  Back in the day, a guy that could scout and pick out a good player was worth their weight in gold.  A recent ESPN study showed just how bad the NFL teams of today draft, especially missing on so many QB’s that it’s ruined some franchises for years.  In the olden days they relied on game films and occasional interviews with the players and their coaches.  Now they over analyze and see things that aren’t there and refuse to see things that are.  Paralysis by analysis.  If you look at something long enough you begin to see flaws.

For now though, and look to the draft picks that did work out well often leading to wins and championships.

henry lawrence

#5:  1974 Draft:

1st Henry Lawrence T

2nd Dave Casper TE

3rd Mark Van Eeghen

4th Morris Bradshaw

Henry Lawrence was a pillar in the OL for 13 years for the Raiders with much of it being as a starter. He has 3 Super Bowl rings and in the last 2 Raider titles he was a starting tackle.  Dave Casper is a HOF player and was one of the best all around tight ends in history.  With his tough and physical blocking and his amazing hands; Casper, Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, and Ken Stabler made one of the greatest passing combinations of all time.

mark van eeghen

Mark Van Eeghen took over for Marv Hubbard and could do it all.  He wasn’t fast, but he was amazing at following his blockers and soon became one of the best all around RB’s in the NFL.  A great pass catcher, Mark also was a key pass protector for his ability to pick up blitzing LB’s.  Even though he ran for over 1,000 yards in the 1976 season, Oakland’s game plan was for Mark to be the lead blocker for most of the game and the speedy Clarence Davis (who ran for 516 yards the same year) would get the bulk of the carries against an older Minnesota Vikings team.  The plan worked to perfection as Mark had an amazing game blocking and Davis ran 16 times for 137 yards.  Van Eeghen ran for 73 yards and the Raiders rushed for 266 yards which is still the 3rd highest Super Bowl rushing game in history.  You wonder if players of today would sacrifice like that.

In the 4th Round the Raiders got WR Morris Bradshaw who became a key member of their special teams unit for 8 years.  He also was a part time starter with his best year being 1978 when he caught 40 passes for 552 yards.

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Cliff Branch scoring another Post Season touchdown this time against Washington in SB XVIII

#4:  1972 Draft: 

1st Mike Siani WR

2nd John Vella OL

4th Cliff Branch WR

4th Dave Dalby OL

7th Alonzo “Skip” Thomas DB

To be honest you could interchange the #4 and #3 drafts and still have winners.  What a problem to have.  Mike Siani was a poor man’s Fred Biletnikoff and while he never lived up to his #1 status, he was a vital contributor in the Raiders passing game with many key pass catches in important games.  John Vella and Dave Dalby were part of what many consider the greatest offensive line of all time.  Their size and toughness wore opponents down.  Dr. Death Skip Thomas was a key member of the famous “Soul Patrol” that many feel is the greatest defensive backfield in NFL history.

skip thomas
Dr. Death Skip Thomas

Cliff Branch will eventually get into the Hall of Fame but he remains one of the greatest deep threats the NFL has ever seen.  During a talk show Raiders great Ken Stabler said, “I had a great offensive line, Casper, Biletnikoff who caught anything and Cliff Branch who could outrun half of the cars in the parking lot”.  This amazing draft class is just another reason why the Raiders were so dominating.

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Mike Davis & Lester Hayes

#3:  1977 Draft:

2nd Mike Davis

4th Mickey Marvin

5th Lester Hayes

5th Jeff Barnes

8th Terry Robiskie

12th Rod Martin

Maybe this draft didn’t have the iconic talent of other drafts, but it definitely filled a lot of holes with excellent players.  Mike Davis was a key member at safety and his interception against the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs helped propel the Raiders to eventually win a Super Bowl. Mickey Marvin was an excellent OL for years.  Lester Hayes started out slow, but eventually became one of the best cover corners in the game and should be in the HOF.  Jeff Barnes and Rod Martin were excellent LB’s that helped the Raiders shore up their defense after the Villapiano, Willie Hall and Monte Johnson era.  Terry Robiskie was a great special teams player and backup RB.

 

sea of hands
Clarence Davis with the “Sea Of Hands” catch surrounded by 5 Dolphins

#2:  1971 Draft:

1st Jack Tatum DB

2nd Phil Villapiano LB

4th Clarence Davis

5th Bob Moore

12th Horace Jones

“They changed the rules because of Tatum and Atkinson”, said HOF QB Fran Tarkenton on San Francisco’s KNBR radio.  “The 5 yard chuck rule was created because of them and the other Raiders DB’s because the WR’s literally could not get off of the line against them.  They were so physically imposing and strong.”

Jack Tatum hit harder than any DB in history and should no doubt be in the HOF.  Phil Villapiano said, “Tatum’s shots just sounded different.  His hits sounded like a car wreck”.  George Atkinson added, “I once saw Jack hit Denver’s Riley Odoms so hard that I thought he killed him.  It sounded like a car wreck”.  He was a star at Ohio St. where Woody Hayes loved his hard hitting style and instinct to be where he needed to be, and he brought that to the Oakland Raiders.  Jack’s timing was unmatched.  If it wasn’t for the Darryl Stingley hit, Tatum would already be in the HOF.  RIP to both of them.

A huge get was Phil Villapiano.  Supposedly an undersized LB out of Bowling Green, most teams had him as being too small.  Almost everyone had him as a possible 3rd round pick, but most had him going into the 4th round.  The Raiders; who were the only team that would not share information with other teams; picked him in the second round.  They knew that Phil was really 225 and not the 210 that everyone else said he was.  Villapiano became a key element shoring up their back 7 on defense.  He could tackle and stop the run, and with his lateral speed and timing he was a great pass defender.  There are many that feel Phil should be in the HOF as well.  His personality and fun spirit is classic Raider.  The below video shows Phil Villapiano leading the Raiders on and off the field.

Clarence Davis was a fast and clutch player.  His catch in the famous “Sea of Hands” game and his amazing performances in post season including his 137 yards rushing in the Super Bowl win against Minnesota are immortalized.  Bob Moore was a solid NFL back up tight end and Horace Jones was an important defensive starter for four of the 5 years he played for the Raiders.

eerie magazine ken stabler
This is the 1979 popular Eerie Magazine cover paying homage to the Raiders and Ken Stabler

#1:  1968 Draft:

2nd Ken Stabler QB

3rd Art Shell T

4th Charlie Smith RB

7th George Atkinson DB

11th Marv Hubbard

Now finally the greatest draft in Oakland Raiders history, the 1968 draft.   If you can draft 2 quality starters in your draft, usually your draft is considered pretty good.  Draft 5 key starters and 2 Hall of Famer’s and I’d say your draft was awesome.

In 1967 the Raiders drafted HOF guard Gene Upshaw who would help anchor an amazing offensive line.  In 1968, they chose other big pieces that would lay a foundation for their success in the 1970’s.

marv-hubbard
Marv Hubbard on the cover of Sports Illustrated

This draft was the key to the Raiders success in the 60’s and 70’s and this draft topped them all.  They now had one of the greatest QB’s in history in Ken Stabler, and another HOF player on the OL in Art Shell.  With Charlie Smith and Marv Hubbard they had a set of starting RB’s that could run and catch the ball.  All 4 players were big parts of the success of the Raiders in the 1970’s and late 1960’s.

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Charlie Smith catching a pass and scoring the go ahead touchdown in the famous “Heidi” Game v.s. the New York Jets

Then oh by the way add 7th round pick George Atkinson who was considered too small to be a full time safety.  What teams didn’t get is that Atkinson was as tough as nails, hit like a ton of bricks, had a bad attitude on the field and was as fast as lightning.  Early in his career he was a great kick returner on both punts and kickoffs and held records for a number of years in the return game.  He was also the voice of the famous “Soul Patrol” defensive backfield.

Jim’s Jamz:

So there you have it.  These are the 5 greatest draft classes in Raiders history.  The hope of all fans is that their favorite teams draft choices will reach their full potential and step up to be great players.  In the following years we will find out how the draft choices of the new millennium rank.  History shows us that if you consistently draft poorly, you will eventually erode your foundation and have to start over.  If you excel in the draft, you create a winning team for years to come.  When the Raiders had great drafts, they succeeded and were the winningest franchise in U.S. sports.  When they didn’t, they failed and struggled breaking records for futility.  Here’s to a future of great draft picks and great success to this amazing franchise.

 

“Remembering Oakland Raiders Al Davis (& the AFL) on MLK Day & His 5 Decade Fight For Equality”

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Al Davis, civil rights pioneer.

Al Davis has been called many things. Innovator, rebel, leader, dictator; and many other things that are not for print. One thing many will remember him for though is as a civil rights leader.  Al Davis had one goal in sports; winning. And because of that spirit, he didn’t care what color or sex you were.  Just win baby.

Davis Stand against Racism in the 1960’s; The AFL makes history in a boycott:

The 1960’s was a heck of a time. It had a lot of turmoil due to military conflicts and racial injustice.   From the college game to the NFL game, there were still many fans, coaches and administrators that didn’t like having blacks on their teams. We applaud the storied Alabama football program for it’s winning today but we forget it didn’t integrate black players until 1971 when John Mitchell and Wilbur Jackson first played for the Crimson Tide. Even though the civil rights bill threatening to take away federal funding to schools that discriminated against African Americans was enacted in 1964, it took years for some schools to comply. In fact, even though they have tried to hide it,   look at the Mormon Church and BYU’s history in the 1970’s in regards to race. Quite a read.

The same was seen at a smaller level in pro football. Even though there were many African American players, they were not welcomed by everyone with open arms. Al Davis really helped in opening doors for many people.

The AFL and Al Davis especially were different.  In a 1963 exhibition game in Mobile, Alabama, Al Davis demanded the contest be moved to Oakland because he was not going to separate his players in segregated hotels. He also tried to do this in many other games through the 1960’s.  When Raiders outspoken star Clem Daniels complained about the way black players were treated at the 1965 AFL All-Star game in New Orleans, Al Davis supported them when they voted to boycott the game unless it was moved.  Other owners and commissioner Joe Foss joined the outcry.  Even many white players including Ron Mix stated that they would no longer play in the game if it stayed in New Orleans.  The organizer of the All-Star game went so far as to tell the minority players that they and their families were welcome in New Orleans but that was far from the case.  African American players were left stranded at the airport with some not being able to get taxi’s while others were not allowed to go into restaurants and bars in the french quarter due to the color of their skin.  Eventually the game was moved to Houston and even though it was a spur of the moment thing, Houston did a good job of hosting.  AFL Commissioner Joe Foss wrote a letter to the people of Houston thanking them for the classy way they supported the AFL’s players.  The actual letter is below.  Pretty cool letterhead.

afl-letter

African American Colleges Play a Big Role in Player Drafts:

When he took over for the Raiders, Davis was one of the first to specifically target black/small colleges. Some of the greatest Raiders were from small or black colleges including Hall of Famer’s Gene Upshaw ( Texas A & I) and Art Shell (Maryland St.).   Both Hall of Fame players were thought of as somewhat risky picks because they were from schools that were too small or too abstract.

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Two of the Greatest to play the game.  HOF players Art Shell, and Gene Upshaw.

When Raiders all world WR Warren Wells was in Texas state prison serving time, the Raiders had an important team celebration. Mr. Davis contacted the state of Texas stating that he would pay for security for Warren to attend, but the state denied the request. It didn’t matter that Warren was an African American to Al Davis. What was important was that he was a Raider.

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The greatest catch that few remember.  Wells Makes Miraculous grab with 8 seconds to beat the Jets in 1970.

The Good Old Boys Network Get’s a Shakeup:

When Davis hired Art Shell to be the first African American head coach, it had broken down decades of prejudice.  It was groundbreaking and even today name all of the GM’s in the NFL that are African American or Hispanic?   There aren’t very many, but of course the Raiders have one of them in Reggie McKenzie. Al Davis also hired the first Hispanic head coach in Tom Flores, and the first female executive in Amy Trask. If he thought you could do the job, he didn’t care if you were a blue smurf, he would hire you.

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Art Shell and Al Davis 1989

In an episode of HBO’s amazing series “Real Sports”, they talked about the lack of support and care for retired NFL players. One owner had an idea of building a hospital in Utah or another inexpensive state for the retired players that would be funded by the NFL retirement plan through the profits of the league. Who was the owner that created the plan and was the only one that voted yes for it? Al Davis.

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No One but Elvis could rock a white jumpsuit like Al Davis

Jim’s Jamz:

There have been many white owners, coaches and players in pro footballs history who have done their part in helping to cross the barriers of prejudice and hate.   None of them though did it with the confidence, fire and flare that Al Davis did.  On the field Mr. Davis didn’t want to lose and he didn’t want to tie. He wanted one thing and that was to win. And if you could help the Raiders get to that goal, he wanted you and you were a Raider brother for life no matter what your religion or race was. Especially in today’s America, wouldn’t it be nice if that was the way things were?

Sadly we still have a long way to go in eliminating hate and prejudice, but it’s people like Martin Luther King Jr.; and to an extent Al Davis; that gets us closer to that goal.   I know today is MLK day but on this day I always think of Mr. Davis. From Terry Bradshaw to Derrick Thomas to the countless number of players from other teams that he supported during bad times, Mr. Davis really cared about them.  The football world is not as fun without Mr. Davis but few see his other side because like most men his age, they didn’t want the attention it gave. The thing that everyone in football knows about Al Davis is that even though he loved the Raiders tough, renegade image, he had an awful soft heart under that ugly white jumpsuit.

“Is Jack Del Rio’s Day’s Numbered & is History Repeating Itself; Las Vegas; Oakland Raiders Looking for Answers”

 

Jack Del Rio

When Ken Norton was released from being the defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders, it started the ball rolling. According to some reporters, the ball is still rolling.

With Offensive coordinator Todd Downing being the scapegoat to all of the Raiders offensive problems, he is probably gone. He definitely didn’t do a good job, but there was a lot of blame to go around.   People forget the main reason to hiring him was to make Derek Carr happy before negotiations to his huge contract.   Carr loved the hire. Todd Downing was not ready for the job but it is what it is.

The blame is also being given to OL coach Mike Tice now which is puzzling. He’s a good coach and I feel something is fishy here and we will talk about this in a bit.

Going back to Downing, Some complained about the play calling but Derek Carr has the final say on what plays are called. He can audible any time he wishes but usually doesn’t. You can’t blame Downing without giving blame to Carr.   And that’s the tip of the iceberg on offense and defense.

Is Del Rio Still The Answer?:

When JDR was hired, only a few would say that the hiring of Jack Del Rio was not as great as many thought. Most Raider fans loved Jack Del Rio; “in Reggie we trust; in Jack we trust!” was all you heard all off season on social media. Now the same loyal soldiers are carrying pitchforks and torches.

As is the norm, I took ton of heat for my article on Jack Del Rio when he was hired but many of the things I warned fans about are now coming to fruition.  It was a safe hire but there were many others I liked more.

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To refresh our memories, Jack Del Rio went through 19 coaches during his 9 years at Jacksonville.   Usually when coaches are fired and the head coach isn’t, that means the blame is being put on the coaches instead of the head coach. (Insert Mike Tice’s name here). In 2016 when Mike McCoy kept his job for the Chargers, most of his staff was fired.  John Pagano the defensive coordinator of the Raiders was one of them. Frank Reich the Offensive coordinator of the Eagles was also fired by the Chargers, who before their Qb’s injury was the #1 offense in the NFL.   His staff was sliced and diced but Mike McCoy Survived another year before he was fired.

Gary Radnich of KNBR 680 and KRONTV fame, is a media icon in the bay area and he never says insider information unless he has facts to back them. When Norton was fired Gary said he knew people in the Raiders front office and there were grumblings about Del Rio. The complaints were mostly about the same issues he had at Jacksonville.   Jack was a control freak and didn’t let the coordinators or other coaches do what they wanted. Jack also manipulated people so that he deferred blame to some players and coaches when things didn’t go well. The magical kingdom was crumbling.

The question is will the Raiders give Jack Del Rio three years of free money to go away and get nothing in return? It’s hard to think they will do this but crazier things have happened.

Jims Jamz:

Every teams fan base is pretty much the same. The New York Giants fans last year raved about their front office and coaching staff when they made the playoffs. Now after a terrible season, the fans want their entire front office fired; which most will; even though this was the same coaching staff that lead them to the playoffs last year. I guess they all have Alzheimer’s now and forgot how to coach. The fact that they had more injuries than any other team in the NFL might be more of the reason but that would be too easy. Many fans give all the credit to the players when they win, and all the blame to the coaches when they lose. And if the player is on the field but not playing well, then he has to be hurt. Personally I don’t get it.

And the fact that the Raiders played the 2nd easiest schedule in the NFL last year and had to struggle to barely beat some of these teams with 7 last minute wins means nothing I’m sure. This year they had the 2nd toughest schedule. There are many other reasons but I’ve talked about it at nausea in previous articles.  Firing Downing is not going to bring a Super Bowl to Oakland.

Will Jack Del Rio Survive:

As I said previously, it’s hard to think that the Raiders will pay Jack Del Rio 3 years of salary to go away. I think he gets one more year.  They have other problems too.   The Raiders are near the poorest team in the NFL. The Las Vegas stadium is a mess. If the new GOP tax plan passes, it eliminates any public funds to be used for NFL stadiums. This means the Raiders would have to somehow be grandfathered in, but that will take time and may never happen.  That means they may now have to come up with 750 million more dollars. It could get ugly real quick.

At the end of last year there was so much hope, and now there is lots of turmoil. This is the era of the salary cap and this is how things can change so quickly. With the Raiders making changes and getting an easier schedule next year, I see them coming back and having a good season.  In reality I hope this makes more fans appreciate the 3 Super Bowl Titles the Raider greats of the past won. Daryle Lamonica was 40-4-1 in his first 45 starts as the Raiders QB. Ken Stabler was 56-13 in his first 69 starts. Oakland was 18-1-1 in their first 20 Monday night games. That’s why the Raiders of the past are so revered. It’s not that easy folks.

 

 

“Raiders Matt Millen relives The Day That Eagles Fans Threw Snowballs @ Santa; Is Santa Safe When The Raiders Visit Philadelphia on Christmas”

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Santa’s in Trouble

You Have to be a Philly fan to get it.

On December 15th, 1968; the craziest Christmas story ever told occurred. And to think, this story almost was never known. In fact until Howard Cosell released the news and showed some footage on his weekly show, hardly anyone outside of Philadelphia even knew it happened.   After Cosell reported it, it had a mind of it’s own and it became a part of football lore.

A Miserable Day:

It was a miserable cold December day in Philadelphia, and the fans were not in a good mood. To be honest fans in Philadelphia are rarely in a good mood but they had reason this time.   Their fans are unlike any other fan base in sports. They might be the smartest in the U.S., but they also will go off in a heartbeat if they feel things aren’t going well. Fans that day had arrived to over a ½ foot to a foot of snow on their seats in old Franklin Field. In true Philly fashion, 54,000 die hard Eagles fans came to see one of the worst teams in the NFL on a terrible winter day.

A few weeks earlier there was joy with many fans thinking the Eagles would have the worst record in the NFL. This would mean they could draft a cant miss super star in USC tailback OJ Simpson.   Sadly, they won 2 meaningless games so they now had the #3 pick in the draft. Buffalo chose Simpson #1 and the Eagles chose Leroy Keyes, a RB out of Purdue.   He showed so little promise at RB that they moved him to Safety after 1 year. Keyes was out of the league in 4 years and OJ became one of the greatest RB’s in history. Their fans knew.

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Frank Olivo (In Santa’s hat) with his loving family

Philadelphia fans are as passionate as any fan base in history.   They treat their teams like family members. Tough, rough and hardcore, if their teams do well they will be favorite sons. If they fail, they will rip them to shreds like newspaper. Not every athlete can play in Philadelphia.   Thin skinned, sensitive athletes need not apply.

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Schleprock from the Pebbles & Bamm Bamm Cartoon

Philly fans are the “schleprocks” of the sports world. They feel there is a black cloud over them at all times, just waiting to drop down a curse that will eventually ruin even the best of seasons.   I remember a tweet by a Philly fan a week ago. He said, “I’m so freaking scared; things are going too good. I know something is going to happen”. The next game star QB Carson Wentz tore up his knee and is now out for the season.

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On this cold day in 1968, there was nothing to play for. The Eagles lost to the Vikings but that was not the story. Already in a bad mood, the Eagles fans wanted nothing to do with cheer or with crappy halftime entertainment.   The temperature had now dropped to the low 20’s with wind gusts to 20-30 mph. At half time the Eagles had promised a small parade. The Philly cheerleaders would be in cute elves costumes followed by a large band. They also had a Santa float. The Santa float started to go across the field but fans booed because it got stuck due to the bad conditions. The worst part is that the Santa that they had hired, didn’t even show up and wasn’t in the float as expected. There are still stories that he may have possibly had too many adult beverages after seeing how cold it was outside, but that isn’t confirmed.

Eagles Entertainment Director Bill Mullen had an idea. He saw a 20 y/o fan by the name of Frank Olivo in the stands who was dressed as Santa Claus. At 5’ 7” and about 170 lbs., he was a poor imitation at best. Nicknamed “beefy”, Frank was a small, portly Italian man who had lots of personality and he loved to ham it up. Never shying away from attention, Frank agreed.

Olivo found out quick that Eagles fans were in no mood for second class entertainment. Seeing a wannabe Santa was too much for them to take and they started to boo. After someone in the upper deck chucked a snowball at Frank, it created a domino effect. First a few and then dozens of snowballs from all over the stadium started to rain down.

Matt Millen Remembers:

At 11 years old, a young Matt Millen knew what being an Eagles fan was all about. The future Penn State and Raiders star was all Pennsylvanian.  He knew that he was a part of a generation of Philadelphia fans and there was a passionate responsibility to it. As your fathers and grandfathers go, so go the children.

 “I was 10 or 11 at the time and it was a miserable day and they were a miserable team”, said Millen to reporters. “To be honest the snowball throws were the only fun thing about the game.   Dads, kids, grandfathers, and even old ladies started throwing them. I mean he had it coming. When the band played Here comes Santa Claus, that was it. It was no big deal. It was just what we did”.

Matt Millen said it was a much different era obviously. “Fans of today don’t realize how serious Philly fans take their football. Franklin Field was a crazy place to play. More than a few times people would leave the stands and go onto the field to physically confront players and coaches alike if things weren’t going well”.

The Aftermath:

Frank Olivo from the start was a good sport about it. “I’m one of them”, he said often. “I understand them so I didn’t take it personally. They didn’t like anyone at that moment. I do admit though when the Eagles asked if I would do it again next year I said no”.

Frank did admit he never booed a player ever again. “When they boo, you feel like they’re all against you individually,” he said. “And that’s why, when I heard it, I said to myself, ‘My God, what do these players think or feel when they’re getting booed?’ It’s like you’re being told you’re not good enough to be here.”

Frank and his family members were eventually priced out of Eagles games not being able to afford the PSL’s with the new stadium.   Much like in other areas, the most diehard of fans were eaten up by the greed machine that is the NFL.

Years later though, Frank was asked to be Santa at a 76ers game reliving that day and he accepted. At first they cheered him on, and then in true Philly fashion, they realized that for old times sake they had to boo Olivo. He loved it. Frank passed away in 2015 but he treasured his memories of his beloved Eagles until the day he died.

Bracelet Snow:

The latest situation where Philly fans took some heat was last year during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Flyers were down 2-0 to the Washington Capitals and before game 3, they were honoring owner Ed Snider who had recently passed away. Every seat had a white bracelet on it that lighted up.   The light show before the game in honor of Snider was a sight to see and everyone was in great spirits before the first puck dropped.  That feeling eroded though.

As the Capitals pulled away late, fans began to pelt the ice with the bracelets. The game was halted for a time. Not even the Flyers ice girls; who pretty much wear strip club school girl outfits; could stop the madness. The white bracelets were literally impossible to clean up because they matched the color of the ice.  This incident also included a few obscenities yelled out by some fans during the moment of silence.

What Will Happen on Christmas v.s. The Raiders?

Things are going pretty good where the Eagles fly, but you never know.   What if the Raiders somehow beat them?   What if Nick Foles implodes.   What if somehow something bad happens?   If these things occur, I think that whoever is playing Santa better have a thick suit and a thick skin. And if he is anywhere near the good sport and the great Eagle fan that Frank Olivo was, if snowballs come his way then so be it.   He would understand. You have to be a Philly fan to get it.

 

 

“Are the Raiders in Better Shape Than People Think? Key Stats on The Teams of the AFC West”

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Navorro Bowman makes a tackle against the Chiefs

 

While people were trying to figure out why the Raiders were 2-4 in the early season, I and others took a simple approach and looked at the x’s and o’s. Teams had adjusted to the short passes of the Raiders passing game and we’re forcing them to throw deep and they were failing. I’ve been screaming for three weeks for the Raiders do to two things; open up the offense and throw downfield; and blitz often. They did both and pulled out a win at home against Kansas City and looked like a different team.

Even with the trying season and the need to talk fans off the ledge due to week to week reaction, in reality the Raiders have more of a chance than people think to get into the playoffs and possibly even win the division.

In Reality:

Let’s stop kidding ourselves. No, the Raiders don’t have amazing talent on defense and no they are not going to be good on that side of the ball this year. They may have some moments but for the most part they are not able to get it done.  The offense is going to have to carry them and if they don’t play well, the Raiders are toast. Next year the Raiders HAVE to fix the defensive front 7 or they are going to turn into the Miami Dolphins of the 80’s and 90’s; all offense, little defense. Ask Dan Marino how many Super Bowl trophies he has.

No, Derek Carr isn’t the greatest QB in Raiders history and yes, he struggles big time if he’s rushed. Last year he was the best protected QB in the NFL and he thrived. This year he has had just ok protection and he’s struggled for the most part. In the KC game he was never sacked and had great protection and threw for over 400 yards. NOT a coincidence.

After admitting these facts, we can now look at the 4 teams and how they may fare for the rest of the season.

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L.A. Chargers Melvin Ingram

Los Angeles Chargers:

As wrestling star Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner used to say, pass rushing star Melvin Ingram is “legit”.  While future star Joey Bosa gets most of the publicity, Ingram has turned into a one man wrecking crew with his fast and physical style.  The Chargers DL is the real deal.

I like what is happening on the defensive side of the ball in Los Angeles for both teams. The formula in the wins for this team is simple; keep it close or get a lead, and then let the pass rush and pass defense take over. In the last 3 weeks that formula has worked.

The Chargers have been on their biggest high in a very long time. They have won their last 3 games beating the Giants and the Raiders on the road in close games, and then last week they shut out the punch-less Denver Broncos 21-0 in Los Angeles.

Their defense has been a key to their wins, especially in the red zone, not allowing a red zone touchdown in 3 weeks. They are 5th against the pass but are 31st against the run.

We will find out just how good the Chargers are this weekend when they visit New England. At 3-4 they still have a long way to go to take the division and their offense hasn’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard. They are still very one dimensional being 8th in the NFL in passing yardage per game, and even with Melvin Gordon they are 31st in the run game.

Can They Win The AFC West:

The Chargers have some brutal road games ahead at New England, Jacksonville, Dallas and at Kansas City. They also have home games with Washington and Oakland ahead.

They will go as far as their offense takes them which I don’t think is far enough. Even with all of the publicity Phillip Rivers gets, earlier this year they broke a 24 game streak of not scoring a TD in the last two minutes of the half or at the end of a game. Could you imagine Tom Brady, Joe Montana or Ken Stabler having that streak? I don’t trust Phillip Rivers who to me is more of a stat stuffer than a winning QB at the end of games. A good guy, good QB but not great. The new rules are making legends out of average to good Qb’s because their stats are extremely hyper-inflated due to the rule changes the past 6 years.  Look at the ridiculous illegal use of the hands call against KC on the play when Derek Carr fumbled.  He literally didn’t touch the WR after 5 yards and barely patted him within 5 yards.  In the 70’s-90’s that would have been considered a hand shake.  That changed the game and it was a call you don’t see in flag football.  The rules have gone overboard, but that is for another day.

The Chargers lack of a running game also continues to limit their offense. I don’t see them winning the division but a possible .500 record isn’t a crazy idea.

justin houston

Kansas City Chiefs:

I’ve never been a huge Andy Reid fan but I’m really not getting what is going on in KC.  I just read where Justin Houston; the Chiefs all star stud pass rusher; is now being asked to fall back into pass coverage 25% of the time.  That is the third highest % of any edge rusher in the NFL.  Here is a guy that can take over a game by himself and he’s in coverage 1/4th of the time?  Wow.

The Chiefs defense used to carry them, and now it hinders them and they continue to struggle on defense. They are 25th against the run and 28th against the pass. Their pass rush when only rushing 4 players, hasn’t been good at all. They have only 15 sacks in 7 games and that is not KC football. The offense continues to shine being a top 5 offense. They did fail on their last drive against Oakland though when they could have iced the game.

The Chiefs offense is still on a roll and they have a key game at home with Denver next. With Denver struggling so much on offense this looks like a Chiefs win right?   This is the NFL folks.

Can They Win the Division?:

Right now they are in the drivers seat, and if they beat Denver they are in great shape. With the easiest schedule ahead of all of the 4 teams, it will be hard to beat the Chiefs for the division.  KC is the odds on favorite right now but anything can happen.

CJ ANDERSON
Broncos CJ Anderson scores a TD in the snow in Denver.

Denver Broncos:

I don’t care about all the love that Tony Romo and all of the other announcers give to Bronco QB Trevor Siemian; I think it’s become illegal for announcers to tell the truth anymore about NFL QB’S; he is a bad NFL QB.

With a lack of accuracy and vision to make the right throw, the Denver offense is hamstrung at QB. In their 3 losses this year, Denver has scored a total of 26 points. And to be shut out on the road against the Chargers 31st ranked run defense, is a bad sign. Bill Musgrave is Denver’s QB coach and he seemed a lot better coach when he had Derek Carr didn’t he? For all of you that want coaches fired after every loss, isn’t that crazy how that works out? Better players make coaches look better?  Insane, I know. (highly sarcastic comment)

To be fair the Broncos left side of their offensive line has struggled all year and that hasn’t helped. Denver is 24th in scoring offense and is middle of the road in many offensive categories, but where they fail is in the red zone. They are 29th in scoring TD’s in the red zone and in their last 3 games they scored a TD in only 11% of their times in the red zone.   On the road for the year their % is an abysmal 25% TD rate in the red zone. I don’t think this trend ends any time soon either. Siemian is a very limited QB and they will struggle in the red zone all year. What is scarier is how come Paxton Lynch cant’ beat him out when he was healthy?

Defensively Denver is 6th against the pass and 2nd against the run but they are 13th in sacks with 18 for the year. Their defense is still really good, but just not as dominating as in the past.

Can They Win The Division:

Denver will always be in the hunt because of their defense, but their offense is a hindrance. It’s hard seeing Denver taking this division unless Siemian improves, especially in the red zone. Don’t be surprised if you have a Brock Osweiller sighting soon.  Osweiller was re-signed in the first week in September.  Looking at the QB situation in Denver, it’s like I’m a sick child and the doctor asks if I want castor oil or a shot. With Paxton Lynch’s constant injury issues, the QB situation is as bad as it gets in the mile high city.

In regards to their schedule, Denver also has to play away games in Kansas City, Oakland, Philadelphia and Washington, along with home games with New England and Kansas City.  With that schedule the odds of winning the division is shrinking. They are on the outside looking in if they lose to Kansas City in their next game.

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Raiders DeAndre Washington scores a TD against KC on a tough run

Oakland Raiders:

After 4 straight losses with some Raider fans getting ready to throw everyone off the plank including the cheerleaders and announcers, the Raiders saved the season from going under with a big win against Kansas City at home. Even with this win there is a lot to do.

With the signing of Navorro Bowman, the Raiders now have a quality LB that is better than anyone they presently have on the roster. He’s no where near the same player that was one of the best in the NFL, but he definitely can still produce. Even with Bowman the Chiefs were 8-15 on third down and had 425 totally yards of offense. I’ve talked at length about the defense in past articles, so let’s just say that Oakland’s defense is not good, and it’s not going to be good for the rest of the season.  He’s not going to help much in coverage but he does make the defense a little better.

For the Raiders to win, their offense will have to carry them like they did in the previous game. I was against the signing of Marshawn Lynch from the start and I really like the Raiders stable of RB’s.  It will be interesting to see how they do against the stout defense of the Buffalo Bills.  The Raiders have a nice match-up against a Buffalo team that has a solid defense but not much of an offense outside of LeSean McCoy. Tyrod Taylor is very limited at QB and a close Raiders win is probable but nothing is for sure.

The problem is down the road. After playing in Buffalo, they play a night game against Miami which I think they can do well in. Then it gets interesting. The Raiders go to Mexico to play New England, and have home games against Denver, Dallas & the NY Giants. Add road games in Kansas City, Philadelphia and against the Chargers and the Raiders second half schedule is as tough as anyone’s. The Chiefs and Eagles (on Christmas Day) games will be at least cold if not snowy. California teams don’t exactly thrive in the snow.  As a lifelong northern Californian, I personally don’t even like to open the freezer let alone be in the cold midwest or east.

Will The Raiders Win the Division?

There are two huge games that will help in determining if the Raiders can win the division. One will be the Denver game in Kansas City this weekend. If KC wins that game, they regain control. Another game is the Chiefs hosting the Raiders in December.   If the Raiders lose that game it’s hard to impossible to see them winning the division. As viewers it’s always fun to look ahead but in reality every week is like the playoffs and you can’t take anyone lightly anymore in the salary cap era.   Every team has issues and it all changes week to week, especially with injuries.

The Bills game should be a tough, grinding game for Oakland.  With temperatures in the 40’s with a 70% chance of rain expected, the road starts out as a tough one in upstate New York for the Silver and Black.  The road to the AFC West crown will be a wild one for each team.

“After Week 1; What Are Each Team’s Chances in the AFC West; The Best Division in the NFL “

AFC_West

philip rivers
Philip Rivers calling an audible

San Diego Chargers:

WEAKNESSES: 

The Chargers should be improved and fun to watch, but I’m pretty shocked that so many in the media are so high on the Chargers this year.  They are definitely improved but for years they have had issues closing games.

4th Quarter Fails:

ESPN gave a shocking stat that said that the Chargers haven’t scored in a two minute drill in 22 games.  22 GAMES!  River’s is a good but not great QB and that is a very ugly stat.  Last year it was painful watching him and the Chargers struggle late in games.  In last years opener they were beating the Chiefs in Arrowhead 27-10 with 13 minutes to go in the game; and lost!  Closing games has haunted Rivers and the Chargers for a long time.

Run Defense: The Chargers were 23rd in rushing defense last year and they struggled again opening night giving up 140 yards on the ground.  They will need to control first and second down runs to allow for their pass rush to attack the QB on third down.

Lack of Depth: Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen HAVE to stay healthy.  Branden Oliver is a nice player but he’s no where near as good as Gordon, who is the answer to the Chargers running game.  Gordon can make plays catching or running with the ball and I really like him.  Wide Receiver Keenan Allen is one of the most underrated players in the game.  He brings an attitude and a confidence that is infectious and he is the backbone of the Chargers offense.  If either goes down, then the Chargers are in big trouble.

STRENGTHS:

Pass Rush: With Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers have a legitimate pass rush duo that can stand up to any team in the NFL.  If the Chargers can stop the run on the early downs, they will have success on defense.  Ingram is fun to watch.

Playmakers: Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen are the real deal.  Gordon can do anything on the football field and he is as tough as nails.  Keenan Allen is the confidence and swagger that they need on offense.  With them in the game, the Chargers are a different team.  Mike Williams is still hurt, but Travis Benjamin is a speedster that spreads the field out.

Linebackers: I like their young linebackers too.  Jatavis Brown is a comer and at only 23, he is still learning the game.  Hayes Pullard III is 25 and he also has a lot of potential to be good.  Korey Toomer is 28 and plays with heart.  If the DL can keep guys off of them, these LB’s make plays.

PREDICTIONS:  8-8

If the Chargers were in the AFC South they would win the division. I think they have improved but they are in the toughest division in football.  They struggle finishing games and I see them near a .500 team this year.  It’s hard to see them winning on the road in the division but they will make most games pretty close.

alex smith
Alex Smith finding the open man against New England

Kansas City Chiefs:

WEAKNESSES:  Now before you get Super Bowl tickets Chiefs fans, let’s let the euphoria and overreaction to the opening day win in New England subside.  I do like them though and you always have that home field advantage.  New England has 3 Super Bowl wins after losing their opening game.

Alex Smith:  I said it when Alex Smith was doing great with the 49ers; he is an average to good QB but he will never win anything in the NFL.  So far I’m right.  Alex is the perfect QB for an Andy Reid team.  They are the Ichabod Crane’s of the NFL; play not to lose.  Smith’s 1-3 yard passes may work some in the regular season, but if you don’t take risks in the NFL, you don’t go far in the post season.

Age/Health:  Pass rushing stud Tamba Hali will be 34 this year and is already on the PUP list and will miss the first six games.  He has failed to even practice.  He’s admitted he pretty much has little to no cartilage in his knees which greatly limited him to only 2 games last year.  Chiefs fans will remember his torrid and long twitter rant on how upset he was that the Chiefs wouldn’t let him play last year.  Hali can’t have much left.  Safety Eric Berry is lost for the season and this really hurts this defense. Justin Houston’s health is always a concern.  After losing starter Spencer Ware, Kareem Hunt had a great opening day at RB and the hopes are that he is the answer.

STRENGTHS:

Justin Houston:  He finally seems healthy.  He played a great opening day game and if he stays healthy, watch out.  He’s great against the run and as a pass rusher and he’s a game changer.

Pass Rush:  Dee Ford was a pleasant surprise last year ending the season with 10 sacks with Houston and Tamba Hali physically limited.  The hopes are that they can get all three on the field at once in some passing downs.

Run Game: The Chiefs offensive line just keeps chugging along. Doesn’t matter who the running back is, they seem to get the job done on the ground and short passing game.

Playmakers: With WR Tyreek Hill, underrated Albert Wilson and TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City has a lot of weapons to throw to.

PREDICTION:  11-5

I’m not a fan of Alex Smith or Andy Reid but I do like this team. I know it’s crazy trusting a rookie QB, but if somehow Patrick Mahomes II takes over and plays well, then all bets are off.  He really throws a great long ball and accounted for 41 passing TD’s and 12 rushing TD’s his last year at Texas Tech.  Health on the DL will play a big role on where the Chiefs go.  I see them getting into the playoffs again and being a dangerous team that no one will want to play.

von miller
Von Miller celebrates another Bronco win

Denver Broncos

WEAKNESSES:

QB:  I don’t like ANY QB on the Denver roster.  Trevor Siemian is average and always is good for 1-2 bad mistakes a game.  I think they will struggle late in games holding leads and coming from behind.  Denver last year got conservative when they would be ahead when they should have went for the throat.  They have the worst QB’s in the AFC West in my humble opinion.

RB/injuries: This group has to stay healthy.  Jamaal Charles isn’t what he once was with the burst that was seen for years now gone.  CJ Anderson is solid but not great.  The hope is that injured RB Devontae Booker will be back in week 3 or 4.

Offense:  Denver was 21st in passing offense and 27th in rushing offense in 2016.  This defense isn’t what it once was and they won’t be able to carry a team with a struggling offense like they have in the past.

Defense/Health:

Derek Wolfe and Shane Ray have to stay healthy for Denver’s defense to be good.  Shane Ray is on IR and will play in week 8.  Denver was ranked 28th against the run last year and that doesn’t bode well against the likes of the Raiders and the Chiefs.

PREDICTION:  10-6

The Broncos defense is not the same one that won the Super Bowl.  They can still make plays and get after the QB but the dominant run defense is gone.  Offensively they are limited.  They could get away with it in the past with a great defense but those days are gone.  The Broncos should have a good year though. They have talent but they have key holes that will keep them from being an elite team and expose them at times offensively, and when they try to stop the run.

derek carr
Derek Carr looking for receivers

Oakland Raiders:

WEAKNESSES:

Defense, defense, defense: 

First off can the media finally be called out on crazy predictions?  Some were again very high on the Titans.  Not getting that.  Some have the Chargers in the Super Bowl and several have the Raiders going 10-6 or 9-7.

The Raiders defense played pretty well on opening day against a Titans team that isn’t going to wow anyone on offense.  In 2016 the Raiders were last in sacks and 26th in overall defense. The Raiders still have key holes at LB and DB and Karl Joseph still is struggling covering TE’s.  The Titans are so vanilla on offense that the announcers at times were telling the audience what the plays were going to be before the Titans hiked the ball.

Mario Edwards Jr. and Ed Vanderdoes had some good moments in week 1 but for the most part the Raiders pass rush wasn’t a big factor in the game.  Jihad Ward had a terrible first year and he must prove he belongs. The key to the season will be how well this group plays, especially the DL.

Bad Drafts & Signings Adding Up:

In the salary cap era all teams have weaknesses.  That’s why it’s so important to hit it big in the draft and in free agency.

NO ONE defended Reggie McKenzie more than I did when Raider fans were asking for his resignation.  After the 2014 draft all was forgiven and Raider fans said “In Reggie We trust”.  The Raiders failed picks and signings though are piling up.  There is DJ Hayden, Jihad Ward, Shalique Calhoun, Clive Walford, Connor Cook, Sio Moore and Tyler Wilson as fails. And if Edwards can’t stay healthy or excel, you have another swing and a miss.  In fact, take out the 2014 draft and the Raiders have had many more misses than hits.

Sean Smith and David Amerson signed big contracts and could not be cut because they would have combined for a $17.5 million cap hit if they were let go.  Remember Curtis Lofton, Nate Allen, Matt Schaub and LaMarr Woodley?  Reggie has done some good things but he’s had some big misses too.  The Raiders need to clean up these bad draft picks and signings and improve the defense and add depth.

STRENGTHS:

Offense, offense, offense.   The Raiders could beat teams like the Titans in their sleep.  It’s the teams that can score that they worry about.  They have a top 3 OL, the best depth at RB in the NFL, and one of the best group of WR’s in the NFL.  Add an excellent QB who usually get’s all day to throw and that spells success in the regular season.  In the post season though your defense is a huge reason for success.  Right now the Raiders do NOT have a championship defense but this offense will always keep the Raiders in every game.

PREDICTION: 12-4

Save the homer/hater stuff.  If I say good things about the Raiders, then non Raider fans lose their minds saying I’m a homer.  If I tell the truth about a Raider weakness then some Raider fans attack me.  When you use facts and tell the truth, it’s not as popular as being a homer or a hater.  My record speaks for itself.  If I was wrong all the time I would be embarrassed for 43,000 people to follow me on twitter.

The Raiders should go 7-2 or 8-1 in their first 9 games (obviously nothing is for sure).  The final 7 games though is a brutal stretch.  With their ability to score, that alone will win games.

If the Patriots don’t completely shut down Atlanta for most of the second half of the Super Bowl, then Brady doesn’t lead a comeback. Offense puts butts in the seats but defense wins championships.  Again, the Raiders don’t have a championship defense.

The Raiders will go as far as their DL and defense takes them.  I think they lose in the Championship game to either Pittsburgh or New England, but the hopes are that their defense will rise above and take them to the Super Bowl; but that is a big hope.

In a game where injuries, ego’s and even sheer luck can change outcomes, teams fortunes can change in an instant.  It’s nice though that the AFC West is back on top.  Now if only the teams would stop moving.

“Will the Raiders Let Sebastian Janikowski Go?  Updating the Situation Between The Raiders and Their Kicker”

sebastian janikowski

ESPN broke the story last night that the Oakland Raiders and kicker Sebastian Janikowski are at an impasse in regards to his contract and that there is a chance the Raiders will let him go.  He is the second longest tenured player on one team behind Tom Brady.

Janikowski turned 39 in March, and he presently is struggling with a bad back and has missed 2 pre-season games.  The Raiders do not know if he will be ready for opening day.

He is in the final year of his contract which will pay him 4 million this year.  The Raiders have asked him to rework his contract and take a price decrease and Janikowski has said he will not do it.  The next time fans complain about a player not “honoring” their contract, needs to be reminded that approximately 90% of the contracts in the NFL are NOT honored by the teams. Many outlets are reporting that the Raiders have held tryouts with Mike Nugent, Josh Lambo, and Marshall Koehn.

Mike Nugent was cut from the New York Giants.  The 35 year old kicker was 23 for 29 last year for Big Blue but his longest FG was 47 yards and he was 0-3 from 50 plus yards.  He also was only 23 for 29 on extra points.

Josh Lambo was 26 for 32 last year for the Chargers and was 0-3 from 50 yards or more.  He was 42 for 46 for extra points.

Marshall Koehn is a rookie from Iowa.  He was 16 for 20 in field goals and 47 for 53 in extra points for the Hawkeyes.  He was also a backup punter kicking 8 times for a 40.9 yard average.

Several reporters are stating online that Janikowski really looks awful and isn’t close to being ready to play.  Take that for what it is worth.  I’ve seen him in reports this pre-season and he didn’t look that hurt but you never know.

The reason the Raiders want this resolved so quickly is that if they don’t rework his contract by 1 pm today, Oakland will owe Janikowski 1/17th of his contract, or $238,000.00.  Even if they keep Janikowski, they will need to sign a kicker if he’s out for any games.