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“What Happens With The San Diego Chargers; a Lesson For All NFL Fans to Learn”

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A man & His Daughter @ San Diego Chargers Lot

I’m writing this for the good San Diego Charger and NFL fans that are interested. It’s truly a sad time for them and my heart hurts for any city that loses their team. No, loyalty and doing right doesn’t mean much anymore.   Let’s look at what is happening and what will happen.

What Happened At the NFL Vote?

It’s hard to listen to the insiders or the experts anymore because they are so wrong so often. I use common sense and business savvy and try to figure things out.  It’s really not as hard as people make it out to be.  Social media makes it that way sometimes.

When Raider fans already had the Raiders moving the last month I didn’t react. Why? Because if I’m an NFL owner and I have to pick between a guy that has built up a multi BILLION dollar sports empire and a 61 year old man that has never formally held a job in his life and only got the team because he inherited it, then it’s a no brainer for me. I pick Stan Kroenke over Mark Davis. In the end the NFL felt the same. Raider great Tim Brown even said he was shocked at how little the owners listened to Mark Davis and how they were so excited when Stan Kroenke spoke.   Welcome to the business world everyone.

Where Will the Chargers Play Next Year:

The NFL’s fiscal year starts April 1st. Most in the know feel that the Chargers will negotiate a deal to play in Los Angeles sooner than later. The key point for the Chargers is not getting screwed by Stan Kroenke.   They want to have equal profit sharing and they still need to pay for the relocation fee of 500 million and find a place to play.

It’s hard to think that the Chargers will stay in San Diego.   In fact it’s near impossible.  Too many bridges have been burned.   While 92 y/o Alex Spanos is still beloved, his son Dean isn’t. When he and Mark Davis thought the Carson deal would go through, Dean continued with negative remarks about the City. The San Diego Supervisors released a statement yesterday saying that if the Chargers want to negotiate in good faith that they are committed to it.   BUT if they just want to turn it into a charade because they want to move to Los Angeles then they are not interested. Not exactly words to cuddle by.

I listened to the San Francisco bay area sports talk shows Tuesday and they had 2 San Diego Sports reporters on and both said that the relationship between San Diego and the Chargers is over. They ripped Dean Spanos to shreds calling him dishonest and his negative remarks about the City of San Diego were death blows to the relationship. The new stadium in Inglewood is not going to be finished until 2019 which is a long way away so this transition; especially with the flakiness and quirkiness of Southern California fans with sports teams (Lakers have another record loss in tv viewer ratings) will make it interesting.  The NFL only wants two teams in Southern California and San Diego doesn’t want to play second fiddle to Stan Kroenke’s Rams so there is much to do.

The Real Reason Spanos is Leaving San Diego:

In 2008 the Chargers were legally able to move if they wanted to. They also could negotiate a new stadium in San Diego too. The reason why the City of San Diego has called the negotiations a charade is that many feel Spanos always wanted to move to LA. Insiders said that he felt if another team came to Southern California; (and especially if 2 teams would come); the Chargers fan base would dwindle due to new competition. Spanos probably was right but he wasn’t honest about it. Many feel he put the City and the fans through a lot of nonsense thinking he wanted to stay, when he really didn’t. He was biding his time.

Spanos also knew financially that he could not move on his own. The Chargers and the Raiders are family owned teams; which means they have no other business but the NFL so they have much less cash than other owners. He then teams up with the Raiders Mark Davis who is another man that inherited his team from his father and is in the same financial situation. They both thought the Carson project was a done deal so Dean Spanos gloated a little bit and stayed out of the limelight. He was so hated in San Diego that he refused to go out in public or on the field for some ceremonies.

Davis; who has never really held a job in his first 57 years of life; was also devastated when the Carson project fell through. Now he’s going back to Oakland with his tail between his legs and his hand out saying gimmee.

 Final Thoughts:

It doesn’t matter if you are a Charger fan, Raider fan, Bronco Fan or a Chiefs fan. The NFL has proven they don’t care about the cheerleaders, the refs, the retired players or the fans.   They are billionaires who want to make even more money and the fans are their puppets to get it. Anyone thinking that their teams are in love with them are as naive as it gets. Ask those in Baltimore, Cleveland, Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis how much their teams loved them. Nada much.   They DO love our money though.

The NFL and the owners do not care if you have a million people at a rally; they don’t care about your loyalty and they don’t care how it hurts you or your family if your team leaves. This is business, especially in the new millennium.

Does that mean we can’t enjoy our teams? Of course not. Love them, cheer for them, wear their gear and have fun. But we are not gang members. Rib each other in fun but stop showing hate and venom to other teams fans.   Do you think your teams owner cares if you are broke or sick or having problems?  Do you think your undying loyalty is cared about unless they get money out of you?  I was born but not yesterday.

Remember that we are all in this game called life and that is much more important than loyalty to a sports team. There are joys and triumphs, successes and failures, sickness and pain, and happiness and love in our lives. The important things.

Love those that love you and be good to each other. And say a little prayer for Chargers fans all over. They lost a part of their childhood today and even adults lost some innocence. In the end, it’s a painful lesson for us all.

 

 

“The Raiders Improve to 7-9; Evaluating Derek Carr & the Offense & Moving Forward”

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Derek Carr Warming Up on the Sidelines

 

You could sum up the Raiders offense this year by saying it was a tale of two season. There were many highs and some lows.  Let’s look at straight forward answers as to the positives of the season and what actually went wrong.

Overall Personnel:

The Raiders spent a lot of money and personnel on the offensive side of the ball. No team in the NFL did more for their offense than the Raiders did.

Some fans seem to want track stars at every wide receiver position, Adrian Peterson at Running back, and every offensive linemen being all pro’s.   This is the salary cap era and you need to be real. Let’s look at the positions and see where the Raiders look good, and where there needs to be improvement.

Running Back:

I like the Raiders running backs. Latavius Murray is solid as a starter but he gets too many carries.   Jamize Olawale has talent but he’s not getting the ball enough, just like Marcel Reece.

It took the Raiders 17 weeks to realize they had Roy Helu Jr. on the team.   I’m shocked he wasn’t used more in the passing game this year.

This can be a solid group but the ball needs to be spread out more. They have the talent but you can’t see it if you don’t use it. The Raiders coaches did a poor job of using the players that they had.

Wide Recievers:

I think Tom Brady was using YMCA players at times this season. The thing is they still are the #2 seed in the playoffs.   If your QB needs a great OL, amazing RB’s and awesome WR’s, then he’s really not that good. NO ONE HAS THAT!

That being said I like the Raiders WR core. Cooper had the dropsies at times but he has a great future and Mike Crabtree is as reliable and as solid a WR as their is. He’s been the best addition in free agency that the Raiders had this year.

I’m not a Seth Roberts fan; he’s made some good catches but Andre Holmes is more talented and needs regular playing time. If they don’t think he can do it, then drop him and get a better #3 in free agency. You can get another player with speed that can stretch the field more.

Tight Ends:

Next year, I think the Raiders can have a top 5 core at tight end. Lee Smith is flat out the best blocking TE in the NFL and he even caught some passes this year. Mychal Rivera needs more touches and Clive Walford is going to be a good one. Unless the Raiders find a way to get the tight ends the ball though, it’s a waste.

 Why did the Offense Struggle In the Second Half?:

You can literally point to one game that changed the direction of the offense. That was the home game against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings have a good team and even with injuries, they have a good defense.   Their coaches had 2 goals; take the long pass away, and rush Carr. They did both. They started playing their safeties back, taking away the long ball and the Raiders struggled. Teams started doing the same thing.

Another thing is teams started to blitz more. In the Kansas City game in Oakland, the Chiefs blitzed almost every play in the fourth quarter and it rattled Derek Carr. He ended up throwing 3 int’s in that quarter and that wasn’t a coincidence.

If you look at the changes teams made against the Raiders, in Derek Carr’s first 8 games of the season he had 19 TD’s and 4 interceptions. In the last 8 games he had 13 TD’s and 9 interceptions.

How do You Fix The Offense:

The Raiders stats in the mid range passing game is one of the worst in the NFL. They have to get the tight ends more involved. There needs to be near 10 passes a game to them. Not to get too technical but when the Raiders played a two tight end set, the seam pass was very successful and was there all day. With Amari Cooper going deep it occupies the safety. Have one tight end go straight up the field and there is a lot of space. The Raiders tight ends had several good pass catches using that play. The Raiders tight ends are solid and they have to be a weapon next year. If the Raiders continue to throw either deep or very short, nothing is going to change.   It will also make the run game predictable and hurt that.

Evaluating Derek Carr:

I didn’t think Derek Carr would be as polarizing as he has been. When fans ask me about him I always tell them that if people say he sucks, don’t listen to them, and if people are checking to see who will introduce him at his hall of fame speech, then don’t listen to them either.

The Good:

First off for those that either want him benched or dumped, you’ve got to be kidding. Have you seen the quality; or lack of; in the quarterback position in the NFL? Who is going to replace him? (And if you say Matt McGloin, it’s good to hear from the McGloin Family). Half of the teams in the NFL are begging to find a QB and there are teams like Buffalo that is one QB away from being a playoff team. In the 1970’s and most of the 80’s, even bad teams had good to fair quarterbacks.   Now most teams don’t have a good QB.

Derek Carr has a lot of good qualities that will make him a solid quarterback for a long time. He has a strong arm, can be accurate on the run, and is a solid leader. When he has great time he’s very accurate and productive.  His teammates appreciate and believe in him and that is a big thing to look at as well. He’s even keeled and doesn’t lose his mind if things don’t go well.

The Bad:

I like Derek Carr but he has weaknesses for sure. His biggest one is his poor play when he’s under a pass rush.   In the first part of the year he was barely touched and he flourished; the second half the pass rush rattled him some.

Tom Brady, Ben Roethlesberger, Ken Stabler, Joe Montana, etc….. These are just some of the guys that can get sacked 6 times in a game but they will still do well and their teams usually win. That’s not Derek Carr.

He’s now 1-12 as a starter when he’s sacked 3 times or more in a game.   He tends to rush his throws and throws high when he’s he’s under a pass rush.  His timing is way off and he struggles.

Some tried to say, “look at his stats against the blitz”. Well they dropped in the second half of the season plus they are very misleading. WHAT IF THE BLITZ IS PICKED UP! Then the QB gets credit for it when in reality it was the OL and RB’s that protected him that should get the credit. (see why stats can be misleading).

His 4th quarter quarterback rating is 31st in the NFL (only the Rams Nick Foles is worse) and he has more 4th quarter int’s than any qb in the NFL this year.  He needs to make better decisions late in games.

His Numbers:

Fans of his LOVE to bring up his numbers but let’s face it, these new rules have made passing the ball much easier than in the past.

Kirk Cousins threw for more passing yards than any other Washington QB in history. Does anyone in their right mind think Kirk Cousins is a good QB. Is he better than Joe Theisman, Sammy Baugh, Doug Williams, and Sonny Jurgensen? Cousins also has more passing yards than Carr. Do you want Cousins over Carr? Of course not.  And remember than in their second year, Dan Marino lead the Dolphins to a Super Bowl, and Tom Brady won a Super Bowl leading the Patriots.

Below are the NFL records for passing yards in a season. This is the 14 greatest seasons in NFL history.   Notice anything? Twelve of these seasons have happened in the last 4 years when the rules changed protecting Wide Receivers. What is a penalty now was normal play 5 years ago. They’ve also been setting records the last 4 years for the # of defensive back penalties called. Anyone think Matthew Stafford is one of the greatest QB’s of all time?

NFL Passing Yards in a Season:

1. Peyton Manning (37) 5,477 2013 DEN
2. Drew Brees (32) 5,476 2011 NOR
3. Tom Brady (34) 5,235 2011 NWE
4. Drew Brees (33) 5,177 2012 NOR
5. Drew Brees (34) 5,162 2013 NOR
6. Dan Marino+ (22) 5,084 1984 MIA
7. Drew Brees (29) 5,069 2008 NOR
8. Matthew Stafford (23) 5,038 2011 DET
9. Matthew Stafford (24) 4,967 2012 DET
10. Drew Brees (35) 4,952 2014 NOR
Ben Roethlisberger (32) 4,952 2014 PIT
12. Eli Manning (30) 4,933 2011 NYG
13. Tony Romo (32) 4,903 2012 DAL
14. Drew Brees (36) 4,870 2015 NOR

In conclusion Derek Carr is going to be a solid NFL qb for a long time but he does have issues. The Raiders protecting him is vital. They are going to have to have a great OL to keep him protected.

Bill Musgrave:

The Raiders were never thinking of having any coaching changes; that was just social media hype; but next year is a key year for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. The Raiders lack of adjustments to teams taking away the long ball was glaring.   They have to use the tight ends in the offense and use the other RB’s much more often. What good is it to draft a talented tight end in Clive Walford and sign the best third down running back in Roy Helu Jr. if you aren’t going to use them?  Next year is the year the Raiders offense needs to get to the next level.

 

“FROM KEN STABLER TO CHARLIE SUMNER; A YEAR OF LOSS FOR THE OAKLAND RAIDERS & REMEMBERING THEM DURING THE HOLIDAYS”

 

ken stabler gene upshaw
Gene Upshaw showing some love to Ken Stabler

Pastor: I promise James, in time the pain will lessen and it will get easier.

Me: With all due respect Pastor, that is crap. The pain never gets better. Time just makes it a little easier to deal with.

If you want to know how important history is, just look at the half time ceremony when the Packers put Brett Favre’s name in their ring of honor at Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night. An 81 year old 5 time Champion Bart Starr worked hard for 3 months during extremely poor health just to make the trip to welcome Brett Favre on his special night. There wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium; including Brett Favre’s; when Bart Starr walked up and hugged him. The emotions linked generations of fans who stood up proudly as one.  Brett Favre said, “No offense to anyone, but I was so happy to see Bart Starr and in a way the night was also for him. I was more excited seeing him smiling and happy than what I was there for”.

The Christmas holidays are my favorite time of year. People are nicer and there is much more of a kind spirit of good will floating around. Unfortunately all of us have lost people that we love and it can also be a time of great internal pain and longing. I get that because our family has known a lot of tragedy. This year has been grinding and hard. It’s also been that way for the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have lost many that were linked to their greatness.

I could see it in his eyes. Upon the passing of the great Ken Stabler, George Atkinson seemed inconsolable.   “It seems that every month we lose someone close to the Raiders. There are fewer of us and it’s very difficult to hear of the passing of Kenny.”

My dad once said that getting older isn’t the hard part. He said the hard part is watching family members that were once strong and vital getting old and passing away. It’s also hard to see athletes who you grew up watching, doing the same.

I think one of the nicest things ever said to me was after I wrote an article for a paid Philadelphia Eagles site. I wrote about a couple of the Eagles who had passed. One Philly fan thanked me for the article and said, “You are the keeper of their memory. You made me remember how great of players these were and how they touched the community. I’ll now never forget them and I was touched like they were my own. Thank you.”

History is a huge deal in our family. It’s always been instilled in us by my parents and relatives, to keep people’s memories alive. We should never forget people and appreciate their talents and their input in people’s lives. Our society has become much more shallow than in the past, with us being obsessed with youthful looks, being cool and in, and keeping in the know with the latest. We forget so easily. The word great is handed out like Halloween candy and our memory is short.   For me, I will never be that way and for those that read me, they will always see a sense of appreciation of those from the past along with their families.

The Raiders have lost some key people from their past this year. Let us remember them.

art powellOakland Raider great WR Art Powell

Art Powell:

Wide Receiver Art Powell was one of the first and great stars of the AFL.   He was big and fast and was known for some amazing catches. He was a 4 time AFL all star and was voted onto the all time AFL team. He amazingly had 81 touchdown passes during a time when defensive backs could do whatever they wanted to WR.

People forget that it was his character that shined the most. Powell, along with teammates Bo Roberson, Clem Daniels and Fred Williamson, refused to play in an exhibition game against his old team the New York Jets because of segregated seating in Mobile Alabama’s Ladd Stadium.

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Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis and Executive Assistant Al LoCasale

Al LoCasale:

“I first started working for the Raiders in 1985. I complained about a bad call in the press box and one of the NFL officials heard me. He angrily went up to Al LoCasale to complain about me. Mr. LoCasale got angry and ripped the stadium credentials from his shirt. It was then that I knew I was a Raider and what loyalty meant. He backed me just because I was a Raider.”

Former Raider Executive Amy Trask.

He was called a pitbull, a hitman, a thug, and many other things that I can’t write. For 3 decades Al LoCasale was the Executive Assistant and loyal heavy for Mr. Al Davis.   If Mr. Davis felt someone wronged the Raiders, LoCasale was the one you had to answer to. He was gruff and had a Napoleonic mentality about him. He demanded respect, loyalty and excellence.   He loved the Raiders and Al Davis.   He was the main figure that helped NFL films capture the Raiders great moments and he insisted on as many Raider players being mentioned as possible. He respected everyone; from the star players to the practice players.   You can’t say Oakland Raiders without saying Al LoCaSale.

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Oakland Raider equipment manager Dick Romanski

Dick Romanski, Equipment Manager:

The Raiders have only had 2 equipment managers in their history.   Dick Romanski and his son Bob.

Dick was an army buddy of Al Davis and a good athlete. He actually coached on Davis military teams. He had been with the Raiders for over 50 years until his son took over. There are stories that Dick was the one that came up with the shield logo of the Raiders.

Dick also was important because he was the one that introduced stickum to the Raiders. He said he got the idea from hitters in major league baseball.

Beloved by players and executives alike, even after retiring he would show up to help on Raider home games. One of the staples of the Raiders lore.

 

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Oakland Raiders Defensive Coordinator Charlie Sumner having a fun moment with Ken Stabler

Charlie Sumner:

“Charlie took me out of the game and I was pissed. I came off the field screaming at him. He put in backup Jack Squirek and told him to “not drop” the pass. I was out of my mind. Then I saw Squirek intercept Joe Theisman’s pass and score. I picked Charlie up and was going crazy. I had immense joy and almost killed him in the process. What a great coach.”

Raiders MLB Matt Millen

Some Raider players thanked him at their Hall of Fame speeches. Charlie Sumner was the greatest defensive coach in the history of the Oakland Raiders and it’s not close. He was the defensive coordinator for 2 Super Bowl wins. He was also a coach that helped create the famous Steel Curtain in Pittsburgh and he was the one that created the great defenses of the Patriots in the mid to late 70’s that almost lead them to a Super Bowl. The Raider offenses got all the credit but if you look at the Super Bowl wins, it was the defenses that dominated.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/the-passing-of-an-oakland-raiders-legend-defensive-icon-charlie-sumner-dies-tom-flores-comments/

 

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Oakland Raider great Fullback Marv Hubbard

Marv Hubbard:

“Some players like to be physical but no one was as tough as Marv.   I’ve never seen a player that would go out of their way to hit people. He also demanded to play special teams because he liked the collisions.”

John Madden

Take it to the cupboard Hubbard was one of the catch phrases of the 1970’s for the Oakland Raiders. In both end zones posters with that saying was the norm. He was all pro 3 times and helped lead the Raiders to 4 consecutive Western Division Championships. He ranks 4th all time in yards per carry as a fullback (4.8 yards) and is 13th overall in NFL history.

Hubbard was a fan favorite and lived in Northern California. He got into music and released 2 albums. He was a scratch golfer and was an entrepreneur and CEO of his own company and he was often seen around town driving his beloved muscle cars which he would restore. Like most Raiders, he lived life to the fullest.

Ken Stabler:

The death of Ken Stabler sent a shockwave around the country and to be honest the world. I remember writing about Ken’s passing and the article was read by people in over 26 countries. I received many messages from people who said they don’t really like the Raiders but that they loved Ken Stabler. I’ve written a lot about Ken and you can check it out here along with Ken’s family website where you can donate to his XOXO Foundation.

http://kenstabler.com/

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/the-passing-of-legendary-raider-ken-stabler-shocks-a-nation/#comments

How to Deal With Loss:

First off there is no formula. The key is to talk to people you respect and love and let the pain out.   Cry, scream or get mad. Pain like that is like poison and if you don’t get rid of it, it can eat you alive.

The holidays can be really hard so keep busy. Kid’s and young people always help when they are around due to their great personalities and wonder around the holidays. Remember that there will be times that the pain will come over you in waves and you just need to let yourself get rid of it. If you are a person of faith, rely on it often.   Personally, without my faith I would have not come through things very well.

The most important thing is to remember that the people that are gone would be heartbroken to see you in pain. This poem is a great one to remember that:

“Remember me with smiles and laughter because that’s how I will remember you. If you can only remember me with tears and sorrow, then don’t remember me at all.”

May all of the friends and families of these great people; as well as the fans of the Raiders; find a healing peace and joy this Christmas season.   I pray that they will never be lost in history and that their memories will be passed on to the children of NFL and Raider fans everywhere. And as long as I have breath, I will never let people forget them either.

“Evaluating the Season in Oakland & What do You Consider a Successful Year for the Raiders?”

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Derek Carr vs the Kansas City Chiefs

The Oakland Raiders are now 5-7 and entering the most difficult part of their schedule.  The big question is what is an acceptable win total for this season to be considered a good one.  The Raiders are 1-5 against teams with winning records, and 3 of the last 4 are against teams with winning records.

 

The Positives of 2015:

Derek Carr: 

I liked the Derek Carr pick when he was drafted when few even knew who he was.  It’s a huge issue in today’s quarterback light NFL to find a franchise quarterback and the Raiders have done that.  His strong arm has helped the long passing game and he’s played well this year.  He has limitations which will be discussed later.

He’s grown as a leader and is a quality person that also makes a team comfortable.  He’s going to be a good pro for 5-10 years at least and the Raiders have a franchise quarterback which many teams can’t say.  The future is bright for the Raiders and for Carr.

Offensive Line:

When healthy, the Raiders offensive line has been as good as any in the NFL.  With Carr not being a great QB when rushed, this is imperative for the Raiders success.  For part of the season Carr was the best protected QB in the NFL and some games he had all day to throw.

The Raiders running game has also been solid and other than Donald Penn, this is a young group that should be good for years to come.  Gabe Jackson to me is one of the most underrated OL in the NFL.  It’s not a coincidence that Carr has not been the same QB when center Rodney Hudson has been hurt.  Carr needs time and the Raiders will need to get depth at OL in the off season.  I really like this group though.

Offense:

Michael Crabtree’s contract extension is a good move by the Raiders.  If you look at his numbers when healthy, they are excellent.  Even with Amari Cooper’s drops, he’s still a solid WR and the sky is the limit with him.  Teams have adjusted to the long ball and the Raiders have yet to learn how to best use Cooper, and he has also not adjusted.

I like the Raiders RB’s a lot.  Latavius Murray, Jamize Olawale, and Roy Helu Jr. are solid.  I’m disappointed that Helu Jr. isn’t used more though.  Talented fan favorite Marcel Reece is probably going to be the odd man out next year leaving for another team.  I think the Raiders have failed to use him right.  He will help any team.

I like the Raiders tight ends.  The problem is the Raiders just rarely throw to them.  The announcers two weeks ago brought up the stats that the Raiders are one of the worst medium passing teams in the NFL and that has to change.  Lee Smith is so underrated and is the best blocking TE in the NFL.  Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford are solid and next year I hope they get more opportunities than they are now.

Defense:

The next month will be important for Kahlil Mack who’s had a few very quiet weeks in between great games.  He has to do it on an every week basis to be elite.  He was completely shut out against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  A switch to LB may help him.

Charles Woodsen has been beaten up but he’s recovered from a tough start of the season to have a great year.  The first month of the season he could not guard tight ends but the Raiders have changed up their defense to give him more freedom and it’s worked.  The LB’s have had their ups and downs big time.

David Amerson has improved of late and the hopes are that he can take over at one of the CB positions.  TJ Carrie has been hurt most of the year but I liked his play at Safety and I think playing him and Woodsen at S would help this team.

Special Teams:

The Raiders still can’t find a healthy and consistent returner.  Marquette King has quietly become as solid a punter as there is and Janikowski has been hot and cold this year.

Coaching:

The Raiders seem much more professional and organized this year and it shows on the field.  You don’t see as many mental errors as in the past.

 

The Negatives of 2015:

People like to throw up stats of young quarterbacks of today to show how great they are.  Let’s be real though; the rules of today are a joke.  DB’s are getting penalties for touching people and QB’s and WR’s can pretty much do as they please.  Just in the Raiders games some of the calls are just beyond bizarre and phantom at best.

Throwing for 300 yards is almost the norm and in the last 3 ½ years passing and receiving yard records are falling like leaves.  Most passing records have occurred in the last 3 ½ years and it’s not a coincidence.

Derek Carr has been much improved but right now he’s the 31st rated QB in the 4th quarter with a quarterback rating of only 60%.  He also leads the NFL with 7 fourth quarter interceptions.  He has and probably always will struggle against a pass rush.  Some try to site how good he does against a blitz but of course he can do well if the blitz is picked up.  In the 4th quarter of the KC Chiefs game, the Chiefs blitzed almost every play.  The play calling never changed and against 5 and 7 step drop passes, Carr was toast and made some really bad throws.

Derek also is not a good manager of the game.  He seems to kind of go with the plays that are called with few real audibles and that has to change.  The injury to center Rodney Hudson really hurt the Raiders.

Offense:

Amari Cooper had a great first half of the season but teams soon adjusted.  He has lost some confidence with drops being an issue the last month.

The Raiders lack of OL depth has been seen after Rodney Hudson got hurt.  It’s something they need to fix this off season.  Latavius Murray has to be more consistent.  He’s had a couple of horrible games and in Chicago it got to the point that he was afraid to catch the ball, even looking to get hit.  He has to show up every week.

Defense:

It’s been an up and down year for sure.  The Raiders finally started playing DJ Hayden less and his days in Oakland are numbered.  Seeing Star Lotulelei be a starting fixture on the best DL in the NFL and on the best team the Carolina Panthers hurts.  He fell in the Raiders lap and the Raiders took Hayden instead.

Curtis Lofton is good against the run but really bad against the pass and Malcolm Smith is really good against the past but has struggles against the run.  Ben Heeney is not good against the pass and is more of a backup.  Moving Mack back to LB and bringing in or drafting a 3 down LB would greatly help this team.  The DL seems to have lots of talent but they either struggle against the run or they can’t get to the QB at times.  It’s very inconsistent.

Nate Allen has struggled with tackling and that’s when he plays.  David Amerson shows potential at CB.  Beating up on DJ Hayden anymore does no good for anyone.  He’ll be gone next year.  TJ Carrie’s health issues have hurt this year.

Special Teams:

The Raiders still need someone that can return kings on a week to week basis.

Coaching:

The Raiders are 21st in second half points with only 10 a game.  They are 29th in 4th quarter points with only 4.8.  That’s not a good second half team.  The Raiders defense is dead last in the NFL in the 4th quarter giving up 10.8 points per game.  The Raiders coaches need to do more at half time to combat opponents adjustments.

People that read me know I am not a Bill Musgrave fan.  He has never had much success in 15 years and was even demoted and eventually fired by Jack Del Rio when they were at Jacksonville.  For me his hire made no sense.

In the Chiefs game you saw this in an epic way.  The Chiefs were struggling at times on defense so in the 4th quarter they just literally said lets blitz every play.  They sent 5-7 players at Carr and there were no adjustments.  Carr still tried to look deep and instead of running screens and short passes, the Raiders just kept doing 5 and 7 step drops.

On defense the Raiders started blitzing DB’s, especially CB’s.  I didn’t understand that because the Chiefs started doing bubble screens and actually scored two touchdowns that way.  Alex Smith is the Ichabod Crane of the NFL and no way is he going to throw downfield so they should have played press coverage and blitzed their LB’s if you want to blitz.

Special Teams:

Janikowski has had his bad moments this year.  He’s had some rough games this year but I think he’s not going anywhere.  The Raiders return game has to improve and they need someone that can consistently return kicks.

Overview of 2015 & Looking Forward:

As I said at the start of the year this is NOT a playoff team.  I think next year is the Raiders year.  Some will consider this year an epic fail and some fans could find the good in an 0-16 year and there really isn’t a bottom.  The more realistic fan will realize the Raiders still have holes to fill but they are improved.

The first thing the Raiders need to do is stop talking about how confident they are and realize they have second half issues both on and off the field.  The coaches are not adjusting and neither are the players.  Eventually when you keep losing confidence starts becoming denial.

The Raiders have to start adjusting to what teams are doing.  Carr needs to be much more active at changing plays.

Denver stops the run; you are not going to run wild on them.  What do you do?  Short passing game like Kansas City did.  The minor weakness that the Broncos have is that their LB’s love to make big plays.  They have on occasions struggled covering RB’s in the passing game.  I throw to Roy Helu Jr. or Murray often.  I also use the tight ends much more.  The Chiefs nickeled and dimed the Broncos all game and wore them down.  When you do that, now you can run some.

With their new QB the Broncos are a conservative passing team that wants to establish the run.  Now you put a safety up to stop the run and blitz him to make him pass quickly.  These are adjustments that need to occur.

What is your bottom line in regards to a successful season?  I said 7-9 is average and 8-8 would be a nice season to be successful in the upcoming year.  If the Raiders lose 3 of 4 though, a 6-10 season is a fail.  The Raiders have a rough month ahead but there will be lots of opportunities for players to show they are a part of the equation for next year.

“We Fixed the Oakland Raiders Offense Yesterday; Now Let’s Fix the Defense”

Aldon Smith, Tyler Eifert
Oakland Raiders linebacker Aldon Smith (99) is blocked by Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Today we will look at the Raiders defense and see what needs to be done to make this a winning unit.

Last night when the New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills, you saw the power of a stud defensive line.  The Patriots were playing with third string players in some offensive positions but they still won.  The Patriots didn’t get a lot of sacks but the relentless pressure they put on Bills QB Tyrod Taylor was a key to that win.  Their cornerback’s are just alright but with a pass rush they become much better.

You don’t win on defense with a stud defensive backfield.  Seattle still has the best DB’s in the business but they are struggling in close games.  Why?  Teams now double team DL Michael Bennett and the other players on the line are not getting to the quarterback.

Lets look at recent NFL history.  Harbaugh’s 49ers; Seattle; Arizona; Carolina; New England; New York Giants Super Bowl years; what do these successful teams have in common?  STUD defensive lines that can control games.  The Giants beat the great Tom Brady because their DL dominated.  If you can rush the QB with only 4 players and stop the run, your defense alone can win games.  The Broncos offense is awful but their defensive line is really good.  Carolina’s DL literally controls the game while Cam Newton gets most of the publicity.  People forget the early games when he struggled.  If you have a really good defensive front, then you are going to straight up win in the NFL.  A good DL covers up a lot of issues.

Defense: 

I like Ken Norton Jr. and think he will do a good job.  He’s aggressive and has adapted more on a week to week basis than others have in the past.  He’s blitzed a lot more as the year went on and that is a good thing.  He is even blitzing DJ Hayden more which in the end somewhat hides him against the pass.  Not a dumb thing.

The defense has struggled for the most part and is near the bottom in some defensive categories against the pass.

Defensive Line:

If you want to turn your team around quickly, have a great DL that can rush the passer and stop the run.  The Raiders haven’t had that in years.  When you look at the Super Bowl wins for the Raiders, EVERY win was marked by dominating defensive front play literally beating up the opponents quarterback.

Khalil Mack is a really good NFL player but he’s not the superstar that the media tried to hype him to be.  He disappears in some games.  He was completely shut out in the Pittsburgh game, and against the Ravens and the Chargers, he had 3 tackles and no sacks combined.  Aldon Smith has been a solid player for the Raiders but it’s obvious he’s not the super talent that he was at San Francisco.  He played in the awesome 49er’s defense beside the great Justin Smith who got double teamed getting coffee.  Aldon is a good player and a keeper though and he is young.  The Raiders look like they will keep him which is a very smart thing.

Justin Ellis has had his moments but none of the other DL have shown they are starting NFL material.  Some are trying to hype Mario Edwards but I’m not buying it yet.  He may end up being good but he has a long way to go.  Getting NFL rookie of the week when you are on a DL that gave up 269 yards rushing against Minnesota isn’t exactly epic material.  The Raiders DL need to make plays at the line of scrimmage and not down the field.

Dan Williams has really been good against the run but he’s often seeing double teams now so the others need to step up.  Williams also is a bad pass rusher so he’s limited.

The Jets have a mess on their DL for next year.  DE Muhammad Wilkerson is a really a good player and he said he’s tired of getting underpaid and nose tackle/tackle Damon Harrison is another good player that may be available if the Jet’s don’t resign him.  They need to spend a lot of money and they can’t keep them all.  Add a DE to play until Smith gets back, and then when Smith gets back move Mack to LB.  Michael Bennett is still wanting out of Seattle after his walkout and he could be had with a trade.  There are not many players in the NFL as disruptive as Bennett.  He has a mean streak that is missing in Oakland.

In the end the Raiders need a tackle that can stop the run and rush the passer.  They may not be able to get any of the top players but there are those that can help immediately.

Linebacker:

This group also struggles at times because most of them have weaknesses.  Curtis Lofton is good against the run but bad against the pass.  He has improved some, but Malcolm Smith is good against the pass but bad against the run.  Ben Heeney has had to play and to be honest I loved watching him in college.  Unfortunately he’s not a good tackler and he struggles in the passing game.  In fact in his final year at Kansas he lead the nation in missed tackles.  He’s not a starter but great off the bench or in special teams.  Moving Mack back to LB immediately helps this group.

They need Mack back there to help them out but with Aldon Smith out, the Raiders are kind of stuck right now.  Lofton needs to be moved but the Raiders can’t afford the cap hit to let him go.  He’s probably here for 1 more year.

I’m not a Ray Ray Armstrong fan; I think he’s not a really good starter.  There are solid CB’s and LB’s in next years draft but to rely on a rookie is risky.  The Raiders linebackers have been somewhat disappointing and they are handcuffed by contracts somewhat but they still can upgrade in free agency.

Defensive Backs:

The Raiders defensive backs have struggled.  Woodsen struggled early guarding tight ends but he has rebounded.  He’s taken a beating this year though and his days are numbered.  Nate Allen hasn’t played much this year and he had issue’s tackling Sunday.  The DJ Hayden experiment will be over at the end of the year.  He’s just not a starting NFL CB.  David Amerson has had his good moments but he’s a nickel back at best.  TJ Carrie looked better at safety than he did at cornerback and I would move him there.  I like Carrie and think he can excel there.

The Raiders first round pick will probably be a cornerback or a safety.  They also will need to find a CB in free agency.  When the defensive line can’t get a pass rush, it’s hard to watch this defensive backfield struggle.

Kickers:

The Raiders are fine at kicker and punter.  Marquette King is solid and a positive influence and Sebastian Janikowski is fine.  He will have his bad moments but for the most part he’s very good.

Conclusion:

People got carried away when the Raiders won a few games.  I saw people predicting 10-6 to 12-4 and post season glory.  It’s hard to beat down on people that want to be so positive, but it was pie in the sky.  There are still issues in Oakland.  The Raiders have a franchise quarterback in Derek Carr and that is half of the battle.

At the start of the year I said that the Raiders would be 8-8 and they are going to have to go 4-2 the rest of the year to get to that.  They also have some tough games ahead.  I don’t think people should lose their minds if the Raiders lose but you have to be real at some point.  If you are a good team you win.  It’s really not that hard.

Moral victories are for elementary school plays, rehabbing from an injury, and pee wee soccer games.  They have had time to rebuild this team and they need to start winning.  The Raiders have improved and that is encouraging but being 4-6 when the AFC and the AFC West is so bad is a head scratcher.  Some are still talking playoffs and to be honest it’s kind of embarrassing to think they may go to the post season only because the rest of the league is so bad.

The Raiders have made it an art form on talking about what might happen in the future but they need to deal with the reality of the situation.  They are 4-6, with a defense that has struggled this year; especially against the pass; and an offense that has scored in only 2 of the last 8 quarters.  Tough decisions are ahead.

For many it’s time to be honest and go old school and bring back the days when losing was unacceptable.  With the salary cap, the Raiders will never be the juggernaut they were in the 1970’s and 80’s but there is no excuse for not being a competitive team year in and year out.  Support and nurture those players that are a part of the solution, and move on from the players that aren’t.  Time will tell if the Raiders can turn this thing around and Mark Davis, GM Reggie McKenzie & the Raiders players are on the hot seat.  No matter what happens this year, if the Raiders do not go to the playoffs next year, they need to get people in the front office and players on the field that can make it happen.

After losing to Detroit, Real Answers on How to Make the Raiders Elite Again”

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After losing 18-13 to the Detroit Lions yesterday , the Oakland Raiders need to do some soul searching. It’s time to get down and dirty and see what needs to happen for the Raiders to be an elite team in the NFL.  Today lets look at the front office and the offense.

A Different Era:

Many experts are kind of shaking their heads at how bad the NFL has become.   The salary cap has created parity alright; now most teams aren’t good.

The days of the super teams are over and to get good in the NFL doesn’t take as much as people think.

Let’s look at the Raiders from the top on down to see what is happening and what should happen.

Owner:

It’s not his fault but Mark Davis is not his dad. He got an NFL team because he inherited it. Unfortunately just like 49er head Jed York, I think at times he is way in over his head. Many media outlets say he is the main reason the NFL isn’t too thrilled about the Raiders going to Carson.

I’m also sick of the Raiders stadium issue. I go by a man’s actions and not by what they say and his actions say I want out of Oakland while his words say I want to stay. I’m not a fan of his but you can’t change the owner.   He has though for the most part stayed out of the way of the football operations which is smart on his part.

If I’m Mark Davis I have a big meeting with GM Reggie McKenzie and the coaching staff. I say these things. “If we don’t make the playoffs by next year, I’m paying you off and letting you go.   If we don’t win a playoff game within 2 years I’m letting you all go. Anything less is unacceptable. In that time I will listen to you and do what I can to support you in any way but mediocrity and losing doesn’t live here anymore. Just win baby is what my dad lived by and it’s what we are going to live by. It’s not a corny phrase it’s a way of life.  Nothing less is acceptable.”

General Manager:

For most Oakland Raider fans, there is no middle ground and they either hate or love Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie. Some are just allergic to saying anything bad about the players and they blame it all on the GM, and some sing his praises saying he’s been an amazing GM fixing the Raiders salary cap hell and bringing them to respectability again.

I’m in the middle. He’s done some nice things with Carr, Mack, Jackson, Crabtree, Williams and others.   Donald Penn was considered somewhat washed up and he picked him up and he’s resurrected his career. His drafts have been brutal at times but he’s also had some great picks that are creating a good foundation for the future. For every Dan Williams though there are the Lamarr Woodley’s.

For example one mistake for sure was drafting DJ Hayden. DL Star Lotulelei dropped into their lap and they went with Hayden. Star now is a key player on the best DL in the NFL in Carolina.  I had to drink two extra Bass and 4 extra Guinness beers due to this draft pick.  (Ok well that’s what I told my girlfriend at the time).

Coaching:

People that follow me know I’m very lukewarm on Jack Del Rio as head coach.   I think he’s had limited success as a coach in his career.   He is a good motivator and a good football man but I think to get to the next level, I’m not sure he can do it.

I was TOTALLY against offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave who has had very little true success in his almost 2 decade career. He is just way too conservative for my taste, especially in the second half of games. Teams are now protecting against the deep ball against the Raiders and they still haven’t had many adjustments. You also have to put some blame on QB Derek Carr. In the end he’s the captain of the ship and he can change the play at any time but he doesn’t.

I love what Mike Tice has done to the offensive line and Ken Norton Jr. will be good in time. I like him and his aggressive style but the Raiders defense isn’t that talented.

Quarterback:

I like Derek Carr and when he was drafted I was singing his praises. Derek Carr is going to be a solid NFL quarterback for years to come.  He has limitations though.

Lately the Raiders have struggled.  The Raiders have only scored in 2 of the last 8 quarters.  He still struggles with a rush and as long as the OL gives him a lot of time, he can dissect any defense. If you get in his face though, he’s a totally different quarterback. He also does not audible much.

People will say,”but his stats against a blitz are among the top 10 in the NFL”.  So what.   If the blitz is picked up; which usually is by the Raiders stud OL with the help of Lee Smith and their running backs; then of course the QB will do well. Many of these stats that people like to use don’t tell the whole story but they are used to try and prove points that they agree with.

The Lions did what the Vikings did and played a lot more cover 2, or 2 high or Tampa 2 or whatever you want to call it. That’s when your safeties play back to guard against the deep ball. As announcers Steve Beurlin and Steve Tasker brought up a couple of times, the stats for the Raiders medium passing game are near the bottom of the NFL. So far the Raiders aren’t adjusting to what defenses are doing.

Carr doesn’t audible much which is puzzling. If the safeties are back for the long ball, audible and change the play to a running play because the defense now has only 9 players to stop the run. If they play up; which at times Detroit did on first down protecting against the run; then do a play action pass and throw deep.

On twitter at half time I said that. Detroit was guarding against the run on 1st down.  “On the first play, do a play action pass and throw deep and then go no huddle.” The Raiders did do a play action pass and low and behold they completed a 43 yard pass play. You throw deep to do two things; try to complete a deep ball AND to stretch the defense and keep them honest knowing you have the threat of the long ball. When you don’t throw the long ball, the DB’s creep up and it makes running the ball harder, and it takes away a key cog in your arsenal.

Like most college spread QB’s they are wide receiver happy. Carr has to look for his tight ends more. He threw to tight ends only 4 times against Detroit, completing 2 of those passes.

Again, I like Carr but he still is in his second year and is learning.

Offensive Line:

The Raiders offensive line is really good and one of the top ones in the NFL. What they need though is depth.   If center Rodney Hudson, Donald Penn or Gabe Jackson goes down, the level of play drops. The Raiders have been lucky that for the most part they have been healthy. Menelik Watson will be back next year and that should help. Look at the Vikings; they’ve lost 3 starting OL. Mike Tice has also been a good influence. I like this group a lot.

Running Back:

No changes needed.  The Raiders should stick with this group.  They are good and don’t cost a lot.  I don’t think Latavius Murray is a work horse that can carry it 25-30 times a game but he’s good as a starter. Bring in the very underrated Jamize Olawale who I think could start on some teams. Add Marcel Reece with an occasional carry and this is a very solid group. The Raiders running backs are good blockers when they are called to help with blitzes.

I am still disappointed though that Roy Helu Jr. doesn’t get more touches. I think the Raiders are not using him properly. He’s as solid as it gets and he’s having a rough time getting on the field in passing downs where he excels. I would love to see him in no huddle situations.

Wide Receivers:

The Raiders are going to have to break the bank a bit to keep Michael Crabtree.   Crabtree on purpose signed a one year deal for less money in the hopes he’d rebound and then he’d sign a big long term deal in the off season. It’s not for sure that the Raiders can keep him. Crabtree is a loner type and money and appreciation is something he will want.   He is probably their best receiver.   Amari Cooper will be a very good pro despite having a bad game.

I’m not a big fan of Seth Roberts and would rather play Andre Holmes who to me has a lot more talent. The Raiders will need to keep Crabtree or this could get ugly.  Please no more Calvin Johnson talk.  He doesn’t have that epic burst anymore and the Raiders need young speed.  I LOVE Johnson and actually wanted him or my favorite college player since Billy Simms; Adrian Peterson; to be drafted by the Raiders but we know where that went.  Jamarcus Russell. sigh.

Tight Ends:

Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford have done a nice job for the Raiders.   Problem is the Raiders offense is just not a tight end offense. Lee Smith never gets credit but he’s the best blocking tight end in the business and was a great pick up. I say stick with these guys but start throwing to them more. Without a medium passing game, you are not going to do well consistently on offense.

Against the Vikings, Rivera caught 6 passes for 46 yards. Against the Lions, he was only thrown to twice and caught one for 21 yards. Walford only had 2 passes thrown to him all game and he caught one. For the entire game you only throw to your tight ends 4 times and you are a passing team? That’s not going to win you games.

 

Tomorrow we will look at the defense.

“Can the Run Defense Bounce Back and Who Will Win; The Minnesota Vikings v.s. Oakland Raiders”

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Week 10 Preview Minnesota Vikings (6-2) v.s. Oakland Raiders (4-4):

11/15/15, 1:15 PM (PST) @ O.Co Coliseum, Oakland, California

Fox TV

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Thoughts and prayers to Fred McNeill and his family and friends.  A former UCLA and Minnesota Viking great at linebacker, who later became an attorney.  He had suffered several severe concussions as a player which were documented on television and video interviews.  The book, “League of Denial” was greatly inspired by his story.

He got ALS; Lou Gehrig’s disease; which destroys the body and he also had dementia which destroys the mind. He eventually died yesterday from complications of it.  He was the first to ever block a Ray Guy punt.  It was in the Super Bowl loss to the Raiders. A big loss to the NFL community and the people of Minnesota. 

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/14052644/minnesota-vikings-long-linebacker-fred-mcneill-dies-63

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The name Minnesota Vikings is like sweet music to most Raider fans ears.  Thoughts of Ken Stabler floating passes through the Purple People eaters. Bill King in classic form using words the rest of the country had never heard of.   Jack Tatum’s demolishing hit on Vikings WR Sammy White while bringing home a Super Bowl trophy are sweet memories indeed.

Now its 2015 and the Vikings come into Oakland for a key game for both teams.  In an interesting match-up, the Minnesota Vikings come in with an impressive 6-2 record.  But let’s look at it closer and see who the upcoming opponent of the Raiders really is.

As Good as Their Record?: 

Friends and followers in Minnesota have beaten on me pretty good on twitter for not getting on the Viking band wagon and believing they are a really good team.  Let’s look at the reasons why I haven’t.

Schedule:

As time marches on, the number of quality teams in the NFL gets smaller.  For 2015, you see it especially in the AFC.  The NFL is getting what they want with the salary cap; parity; or mediocrity if you want to be honest.  The Raiders have had a fairly easy schedule so far, but the Vikings have had an easier one.  Minnesota has two wins over a terrible Detroit Lions team, and have also played Chicago, San Diego, Kansas City, and the 49ers.

In reality they have faced only 2 teams this year with a winning record; Denver and St. Louis; and they are 1-1 with a victory at home in OT over the Rams last week.  The Raiders have played 4 teams with a winning record and are 1-3.

Offense:

To be fair, no team in the NFL has been beaten up by injuries like the Vikings.  They have a lot of young talent but they are hurting.  They have lost 3 of their starting offensive linemen for the year including stud tackle Phil Loadholt, and fellow tackle Carter Bykowski.  Quality center John Sullivan was supposed to return this week after spinal surgery to begin the year but he has undergone another procedure and he probably is out for the season.  Few teams could overcome this.

To their credit a patchwork offensive line has held their own but they have struggled in the passing game at times.  Teddy Bridgewater had a nice rookie campaign but I’m not impressed by him like others are.  His delivery is painfully slow and he needs a lot of time in the pocket to be successful.  If you rush him and decrease his time, he struggles.

At times he looks like he’s playing chess when going through his progressions.  He just takes too long, a lot like 49er QB Colin Kaepernick.  In the Denver game he struggled a lot by not getting rid of the ball faster.  He is just too slow in the pocket for my taste.  Adrian Peterson off the field may not be man of the year but on the field he remains one of the great running backs of this era.

The surprise of the year in the NFL may be fifth round draft choice Stefon Diggs.  He’s been a breakout player at wide receiver who has shown game breaking speed and the ability to make big plays.

Defense:

Again, it’s hard to measure how good this defense is because they have played such an easy schedule.  The Vikings are known as a good group of tacklers though with athletic linebackers.  Noseguard/Tackle Linval Joseph is playing great football this year and is coming off an amazing 10 tackle 1/2 sack effort against the Rams earning him defensive player of the week honors.

Linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr are expected to play but both are coming off injuries.  They are athletic, physical and good tacklers when healthy.  DT Sharrif Floyd comes back from missing 3 games and he said he’s ready to go.  Their defensive front seven is good when healthy.

The Vikings CB’s are healthy and they have good depth there but no one that wows you.  They have their own Charles Woodsen in highly decorated 37 y/o Terence Newman who has had another solid season.

Run Defense Struggles Against the Steelers; Will They Continue Against Minnesota?:

The Raiders run defense was shredded for 195 yards last week against the Pittsburgh Steeler’s and there was a partial reason to it that is easily seen.

First, give them credit; the Pittsburgh Steeler offensive line is a top OL in the NFL.  Other things are important to note though.

Nate Allen coming back at safety is huge.  Some didn’t like the signing but I thought he played pretty well.  Now the Raiders can move TJ Carrie to cornerback.  The Raiders cornerbacks have been shredded for big chunks of yardage for most of the year and struggled even with TJ Carrie playing; but he was an upgrade.

People no longer use Pro Football Focus stats to prove why DJ Hayden is really not that bad because EVEN THEY now get that he isn’t good.  Oakland is now last in passing yards given up per game, and 23rd in sacks, and 30th in total yards per game.

With the CB’s struggles, the Raiders safeties are having to be supermen and stay back to help the corners against the deep ball.  Hopefully with better play from TJ Carrie at corner, the Raiders safeties wont have to help out as much and can make some tackles in the run game.  Against Pittsburgh, if they’d run up to stop the run and it was a play action pass, the corners would now be in a one on one situation and they could not guard the Steelers quality pass catchers.

Ben Roethlesberger missed Pittsburgh WR Antonio Bryant on a long ball by 5 yards where he beat DJ Hayden, and Martavis Bryant just flat out dropped a long ball against David Amerson.  If you add those 2 plays the Steelers would have had over 700 yards total offense; IN ONE GAME; and would have won going away!

Minnesota’s line is relying on backups and rookie TJ Cummings at tackle and I see the Raiders playing well against them.  Cummings will have to block Khalil Mack who has had his struggles.  He was completely shut out against the Steelers and he’s had games against Baltimore and San Diego where he had 1 and 2 tackles with no sacks respectively.  A total of 3 tackles in 12 quarters of football isn’t getting it done.  If he struggles against this rookie, then something isn’t right.  I see him having a big day though.

The Raiders will win if:

DEFENSE:  PASS RUSH PASS RUSH PASS RUSH.  The Raiders cornerbacks are not going to all of a sudden be good.  They are who they are.   TJ Carrie helps this struggling unit but he’s not a world beater.  They still need a pass rush.

I watch every Raiders game twice (thank you DVR) and metric sites kept saying the Raiders had several pressures against Ben Roethlesberger and I’m kind of wondering what game they watched.  I mean was it peer pressure or atmospheric pressure, because it sure wasn’t quarterback pressure.  Roethlesberger was off at times and still threw for over 300 yards in 3 quarters and the Raiders gave up almost 400 yards passing.  If they had so many pressures, I’d hate to see when the pass rush struggles.  Roethlesberger had good time to throw all game and so did Landry Jones.  Aldon Smith had the only sack and knocked Ben out of the game.

Nate Allen coming back is a great help.  The Raiders are going to need at least the free safety to stay back at times though to protect against Stefon Diggs and the long ball.

I personally think they will do much better against the run with Peterson struggling at times during the game.  Even if he does get 100 yards, I think it’s going to take a whole lot of carries.

OFFENSE:  Derek Carr is having a great year and it’s fun to watch such a quality person do so well.  Let’s also look at other things though.  Put an average NFL QB behind a good offensive line and he will be good.  Put a good NFL QB behind a good offensive line and he will be really good.  Derek Carr is having a great year but the Raiders offensive line in my mind is the second best in the NFL behind the Patriots OL and possibly the Steelers. They are a nice part of that success.

Derek Carr has gone through games WHERE HE WAS NOT TOUCHED and the Raiders have given up only 10 sacks in 8 games which is 2nd in the NFL.  The Steelers threw some complex blitzes at the Raiders and they did a great job against them.  Lee Smith is the best blocking TE in the NFL and he’s also helped out at times in the passing game as well as the running game.  Add an occasional pass catch and he’s been very underrated.  When you watch the game, sometimes just watch the offensive line and see how they do.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

Add the fact that even with his ups and downs, Latavius Murray is the 2nd leading rusher in the AFC.  Derek Carr isn’t blocking for Murray, so you see what kind of year the Raiders offensive line is having.  Friends laughed at me at our annual draft party a while back when I was so happy that guard Gabe Jackson was drafted by the Raiders in the 3rd round.  They don’t laugh anymore.  This Raiders OL is young (except for Donald Penn) and physical and I love watching them play.  (I need to get over it but I still can’t believe how far Jackson dropped in the draft.)

The Vikings are banged up and I see the Raiders playing well against them.  I don’t like their DB’s as much as other people do but I do like their front 7 when healthy; they aren’t healthy though.  Unfortunately the Raiders may be without center Rodney Hudson who hasn’t practiced this week and that could be a big factor.  People are now leaning on him missing this game.  Tony Bergstrom would get the call and Joseph; a key former Giants Super Bowl winning defensive lineman; is a bear to block.

Running the ball wont be easy against the Vikings interior line but they will be vulnerable to the pass with their LB’s hobbling and I see another good day for Carr and the Raiders.  Look for the Raider running backs and tight ends to do well.

Conclusion:

You have to give it up for the Vikings.  Raider backers are biting their nails about center Rodney Hudson missing time due to injury, but the Vikings have lost 3 OL starters for the year and have still done well.  They also have struggled with injuries on the other side of the ball but have managed to get a 6-2 record.  With them playing a weak schedule and their division being a mess, I think they are a little overrated but the Vikings could make the playoffs.

My take on them is that they are an up and coming team with good talent but a lot of injuries.  They are also playing mostly against bad teams.  I think they are a little overrated and their year will be next year.  I don’t like Bridgewater that much and his painfully slow release either.  He has to have a lot of time in the pocket to succeed and in today’s NFL, that is a lot of pressure to put on your offensive line.  Healthy, their OL could pull it off possibly but not with 3 starters out.

Some on the east coast are asking why the Vikings are the underdog but I’m not.  I see the Raiders winning this one pulling away.   P.S. For amusement only, yes I like the over (44 points).

Final Score:  Raiders 31

                      Vikings 20

“Raiders on the Right Track Even with Setback Loss To Chicago”

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Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Chicago Bears; Week 4:

Chicago Bears 22 (1-3)

Oakland Raiders 20 (2-2)

Two steps forward, one step back. The Raiders took a step backwards with a bad loss to the Chicago Bears on the road. The Bears last win was on November 23, 2014 against Tampa Bay.   Last years team was atrocious under coach Marc Trestman and this was a nice win for the Bears and a tough loss for the Raiders. Many people including myself had the Raiders winning this one going into the Denver game.

Anyone that reads me know’s I’m not rah rah.  I tell it like it is even if it’s not that fun for homer fans to read.  I try to be honest; so when I’m saying things aren’t as bad as people are making it out to be, you should listen.

We found out 3 things with this game;

-Oakland is an improved team on the way up

-the Raiders aren’t as good as some say they are

-they play more conservative in the second half

If you are one of those people that live and die every week with your team, I hope that you have your counselor on speed dial. Not every loss is tragic, and not every win is epic. The NFL season is a marathon and you have to have a short memory whether you win or lose.  The sky isn’t falling after the loss to the hapless Bears but it is raining.

The Raiders are definitely a better team which is really a good thing for their fans and the NFL. If you expect them in the playoffs going 11-5 or 10-6 though, you are going to have some rough times. I think this is a .500 team. Considering where they came from, this would be very positive.   Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.  If you expect them to win every game then you are going to have some bad moments.  This isn’t your fathers and grandfathers Raiders.

It’s encouraging to see the great effort the players are putting in and it’s obvious this team has improved greatly over the past 12 years. I’m also realistic though, and good teams don’t lose to the likes of Chicago. I think they are on the right track though even with this setback.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr didn’t have a great day but it wasn’t bad either. He made a very nice throw to Amari Cooper for a touchdown but wasn’t as accurate as he was in the past 2 weeks. The Bears came after him more with a better pass rush and I’m sure that had some effect on him. He only threw for 196 yards.

People put all the blame for the conservative play calls on Raiders OC Bill Musgrave but I guarantee you if Brady or Rodgers doesn’t like the play, they change it. Bears DC Vic Fangio had a pretty clear mindset; take away the first down run and make the Raiders throw. It worked like it had so many times last year. The conservative nature of the game in the second half has to fall partly on Carr who can audible at any time.

The mindset of Carr, Musgrave, and the Raiders offense on the last drive seemed to be lets get a field goal.   The Bears were aggressive on defense and Cooper had man to man coverage on the entire final drive. A play action deep pass had to be tried. When your defense is really good you can get the field goal; when it isn’t, you go for the touchdown.

GRADE: B

Again, it wasn’t like the last 2 weeks but it wasn’t a bad game. The improved pass rush made him hurry a few throws and his accuracy wasn’t what it was. Crabtree made some really nice catches on a couple of them. I like Carr’s development but he has to audible when so many defenders are on the line of scrimmage on first down.

Running Backs:

I’ve said it before; the Raiders are taking a huge risk putting all their eggs in the Latavius Murray basket.   I think Marcel Reece needs to get some snaps at running back. He’s just too talented to only touch the ball a couple of times a game.

Murray imploded. He constantly was looking over his shoulder anticipating hits and hearing footsteps. He dropped 2 passes; one which went for an interception; fumbled a simple pitch play and was off all day. It got so bad he was benched for the rest of the 4th quarter and replaced by backup Roy Helu Jr. who played well in his absence. Helu Jr. made some nice runs and caught the ball well.

Grade C

Helu Jr. was a nice change of pace and Marcel Reece; on one of his few touches; made a great grab for a nice pass reception. Murray was brutal and he played like he did not want to be there. A good NFL player shows up every week. Murray didn’t show up.

Offensive Line:

Most of the networks picked up on what the strategy of the day for the Bears was; take away the first down run. Trent Green (who other than his worship of NFL QB’s is a really good analyst) pointed out a few times on first down that the Bears safeties were about 8 yards off the line of scrimmage.   The Bears dared the Raiders to throw, but in the second half they continued to run on first down. An audible with a play action pass and throwing a long one to Cooper was there all day long, including the last drive.

People are quick to blame the offensive line for the run struggles in this game but you can’t run the ball against 8 defenders near the line of scrimmage while trying to run on first down all the time.

The Raiders are not going to be able to run the ball if they don’t keep teams honest and throw on first down. Against the Ravens especially, they did play action on first down often and it opened up the field and the run.

Carr had a moderate rush at times and was sacked twice. Not a great day but not as bad as people say. Again if the stars don’t shine on an NFL team, Fan speak 101 says blame the coaches and the offensive line. If the stars shine, give the stars all the credit. Momma don’t let your babies grow up to be offensive linemen.

Grade C+

This group can play better.   Carr still had time to throw but the Raiders have to throw on first down more and keep teams honest or they can’t run the ball. The OL has had better games and will continue to improve and gel.

Wide Receivers:

Crabtree twisted his ankle but he came back and made two great grabs and lead the team with 5 catches for 80 yards. Cooper had a nice route and catch on a touchdown but other than a drop in the first quarter, he wasn’t much of a factor either way.

Seth Roberts almost made a great catch for another TD but his foot was out of bounds.

GRADE: B

A gutsy performance by Crabtree. The Raiders didn’t have the ball all that much and when they did; especially in the 2nd half; they were fairly conservative.

Defensive Line:

Dan Williams and Justin Tuck continue to play well. Aldon Smith and Kahlil Mack played well, especially Smith who had 6 solo tackles, a pass batted down, a tackle for loss and a sack. The Raiders again blitzed often in the first half but didn’t as much in the second half. On the final drive they mostly rushed 4 men and had a mild blitz on only one play.

Matt Forte is a great running back and even though he did get 91 yards rushing, it took 25 carries to do so.   Not a great game but not bad either.

In the second half though the lack of pass rush has to be addressed. The Raiders have to continue to send blitzes. Right now this group isn’t good enough to just rush 4 players yet.

Grade: C+

At times they played really well and at other times they could not get the pressure on the quarterback that they needed to. The Raiders need to mix in blitzes throughout the game to keep teams honest.   They continue to be too conservative to want to blitz near the end of the game.

Linebackers:

Like I’ve said before, the LB’s have their strengths but all of them have weaknesses too. Curtis Lofton had a bad game though. He’s usually really good against the run but he was inconsistent. He is not a cover guy and he struggled mightily in pass coverage.

I’m still not sold that Ray Ray Armstrong is a starter. Malcolm Smith is a good blitzer and pass defender but not much of a run stopper and it showed at times. This group is going to have good and bad days and this was not one of their better days.

Grade C-

The Raiders LB’s struggled at times and seemed lost against the pass.

Defensive Backs:

Jay Cutler couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn at times but he still carved up the Raiders defense for 281 yards and 2 TD’s and an interception. The Raiders pass defense is just awful at times. Part of it is that they are so depleted with injuries, but in reality they really don’t have a quality starting cornerback. Carrie again had to be moved over to safety due to injuries. DJ Hayden again struggled and to be honest I’m tired of picking on him. He’s just not a starting NFL CB and with 4.9 million due him next year, he’s all but gone. David Amerson was a surprise at CB with 2 nice plays knocking down passes in coverage.   He also was second on the team with tackles at 7.

The Raiders safeties can’t guard tight ends. The Raiders have tried everything; even covering tight ends with linebackers; but it’s just not happening. If the Raiders pass rush struggles, so will the DB’s.

Grade D  

The Raiders are 31st in passing yards against and 31st in total yards. They are now 26th in scoring defense.

Even with the Bears having so few weapons, this was another rough day for this group. Without Alshon Jeffery, the Bears do not have a #1 WR.   This group took it to the Raiders at times. In fact, Cutler threw only to 4 players all day.

Coaching:

The Raiders on offense were much more conservative than in the past, and it was really seen in the second half. The Raiders were afraid to pass on 1st down and they struggled mightily running the ball with the Bears putting many people in the block to stop it. In almost every first down play in the second half, the Raiders ran the ball. Carr also has to audible more on first down. Cooper often had clear man to man coverage on first down which should have meant play action pass, and then throw to him deep.

Musgrave did well by benching Murray because he just was somewhere else.

On defense, the Raiders again rarely blitzed in the second half. No matter what the publicity says, the Raiders 4 man rush can’t rush the passer on every down and harass the QB enough to disrupt him right now. The Raiders needed to blitz more. I watched the Denver game and the Broncos blitzed often in the final drive against the Vikings and it worked with a fumble recovery after hitting Teddy Bridgewater which secured the win. The Raiders have nothing to lose and you have to look at the risk v.s. reward.

I also think with the Raiders having so little talent and depth at cornerback that having TJ Carrie return punts was a huge mistake. It came back to bite them when Carrie had to leave the game after returning a kick.

Grade C-

Too conservative again in the second half. Some though are trying to blame the coaches in regards to the opponents tight ends dominating the Raiders, but they’ve tried everything. Woodsen is getting his interceptions but he struggles a lot in coverage. With all of the injuries at safety and the struggles of the linebackers in coverage, the Raiders are going to be vulnerable to tight ends all year. If Carrie can get back on the field, maybe have him stay at safety and take over the role.

Special Teams:

TJ Carrie getting injured on a punt return was discouraging.

Sebastian Janikowski and Marquette King were as solid as always. One of the most consistent groups in the NFL.   The return game wasn’t much of a factor and it was hard to lose a starting DB during a punt return.

Grade A-

King and Jano are solid as always. Return game not much of a factor.

Next Opponent:   Denver Broncos (4-0); last game, win @ home against the Minnesota Vikings 23-20)

Outlook:

The Raiders are an improved team and this loss should not discourage that. What it should do though is give them a reality check.   They are an average team; which is good from where they came from; looking to become a good one.

No matter how you spin it though, this was a bad loss against a team that hadn’t won a game since last November. The AFC west is not what it once was so that helps the Raiders some, but Denver’s aggressive defense is for real.

Peyton Manning is on his last legs, but he still has weapons in the likes of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. The Broncos offense isn’t what it once was and has struggled this year. Their defense though might be the best in the NFL. They have 4 solid pass rushers and an aggressive style that is constantly finding ways to get to the quarterback. I like them a lot and love their aggressive nature.

The Raiders are just 7-17 against the Broncos since 2003 and 0-7 in their last 7 meetings. Denver’s margin of victory in those 7 wins is 22 points. They have controlled the Raiders by stopping the run and rushing the passer on passing downs. On offense, they’ve been able to do pretty much what they wanted against the Raiders so this will be a good test for the defense.

The Raiders will have their hands full against Denver next week. They hope to continue their improved offensive performance while enhancing their ability to get to the passer which will be imperative against Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

“Final Grades: Raiders Go 2-1 against Cleveland; Unsung Heroes In Oakland”

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Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Cleveland Browns; Week 3:

Cleveland Browns 16 (1-2)

Oakland Raiders 23 (2-1)

The first thought I had at the start of the game was did Katy Perry or Taylor Swift design the Browns new uniforms.  They are awful.  Now to the important thing, the game.

I had the Raiders winning 23-16, and they held on for a 27-20 win @ the Dawg Pound in Cleveland. The Raiders OL controlled the game and the Raiders dominated the first half.   Cleveland came on late keeping RB’s in the backfield to combat the Raiders blitzing rushers and made it close, but an interception on the final drive by Charles Woodsen sealed the victory.   Before this, the Raiders had only 2 wins on the road in 3 years and hadn’t won on the east coast in 6 years.

Right now, the Raiders and the Arizona Cardinals offensive lines are the best in the NFL. The Cardinals are the best team in the NFL right now and the Raiders are much improved.  Dan Williams is playing as good as anyone in the NFL against the run and Justin Tuck has also stepped up his game against the run.  These are the unsung heroes of the NFL right now.

Quarterback:

Derek Carr had all day to throw and he carved up a porous Cleveland defense. Cleveland had no answer for the Raiders passing game. As many non Raider fans said, this is a win against the Browns but a win on the road is a big win for a team that has struggled so much on the road. Carr used roll outs and quick throws to take control of the game.   No one in the NFL runs better routes than Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Cooper has personally disbanded the “we should draft Kevin White” fan club with his great play. Cooper dominated in college and he’s doing the same in Oakland. Carr has great chemistry with his WR which is very important.  He’s really looked good in the last 2 weeks.

GRADE: A

Week one he struggled big time but the OL is playing out of their minds and he’s taking full advantage of it and has shined the last two weeks. I love his confidence and his comments saying he has a lot of work ahead of him and a long way to go to be where he wants to be. That is a winning attitude. He’s humble and a hard worker. Leadership matters. I like everything about Carr and look for continued growth.

Running Backs:

Isn’t it crazy how the run game improves when teams actually realize you can pass the ball?   Last year there were times where some teams had NINE players in the box to guard against the Raiders running game, literally daring the Raiders to throw the ball. With the success of the passing game, you are seeing much less of it.   All of the RB’s looked good and Latavius Murray had 139 yards on 26 carries. I still want Marcel Reece to get at least 5 touches a game but he had 1 run and one 55 yard pass reception and run. He’s too talented to see the ball so little.

Grade A-

Everyone contributed in some way and they looked solid. As long as Murray is healthy, these guys look good.

Offensive Line:

Carr has all day to throw and they ran for 97 yards against a tough run defense with Baltimore, and 155 against a bad one in Cleveland. Carr needs to buy steak dinners for these guys because they are not getting the credit they deserve. If they stay healthy, this is a really solid group.

Grade A+

Can’t get any better than what they did today. The most thankless job in football but one of the most important.

Wide Receivers:

Even at Texas Tech, I loved watching Michael Crabtree run routes. He’s precise and takes his craft seriously. If you look at his career he rarely has been truly healthy and when he is, he is good. How the Raiders took DHB over him is beyond me but Al Davis and his love for 40 times was too much to overcome. Amari Cooper is a future star and he has made the draft Kevin White fan club membership plummet. I still don’t get Seth Roberts playing over Andre Holmes. Roberts caught 2 nice catches but he also had two bad drops; again.

GRADE: A-

Another great game by these players. Cooper and Crabtree are old school WR ala Paul Warfield and Fred Biletnikoff. They work hard, keep their mouths shut and just play. I love these guys.

Defensive Line:

The Raiders DL had 2 sacks, and the LB’s had 3. The blitz played a big part of the Raiders defense this week so a lot of the Raiders pressure was not with their DL.  The Raiders rushed 5 players 80% of the time on passing downs in the first half.

Aldon Smith finally made an impact and it really showed. He was a little laid back at times against the run but in general he’s coming along fine. Khalil Mack had a solid game getting his first 2 sacks of the year. In the second half the Raiders didn’t blitz as much; especially in the 4th; and Josh McCown got more time and threw for 341 yards during a furious come back.

Dan Williams is playing as good as anyone against the run in the NFL and Justin Tuck is also playing well. In time this could be a really good group. The blitz played a big part of the Raiders defense this week.

Grade: B+

Part of the pressure on the QB was due to the high amount of blitzes the Raiders did in the first half.   When the Raiders stopped blitzing, McCown had more time. McCown was so late on so many throws that it was painful to watch, but it must have been fun to rush against. A good game but not a great one.

Linebackers:

The linebackers played their best game of the year. They blitzed on most of the plays in the first half, and the Raiders rushed 5 players on almost every pass play. The LB’s ended up with 3 sacks. Curtis Lofton is the leader of this group and again played well. Malcolm Smith improved his run defense which is an issue with him.

Grade B+

The Raiders LB’s were solid and they controlled the Browns RB’s all day.

Defensive Backs:

A good pass rush sure helps these guys out. In the first half the Raiders pass rush, and the inability for Josh McCown to throw the ball on time was glaring. In the second half when the Raiders limited their blitzing, the DB’s struggled giving up 237 yards in the second half alone.

Carrie made 2 really good plays while moving to safety, stopping long passes where the CB’s were beaten.   On 4 separate occasions McCown was way late on long passes that the CB’s were obviously beaten on. Charles Woodsen made a great interception; on another late pass; but he struggled guarding the tight ends and that is still a huge issue. A better game but still lots to worry about.

Grade C  

Giving up 341 yards and 237 yards in one half against the Browns isn’t good passing defense. As I’ve said before the Raiders have to protect these guys by using a pass rush and they did that in the first half, but in the second half they became a little more conservative with a lead.  The results were the Browns big comeback. The Raiders are now 29th in passing defense in regards to yards per game. The Browns are not the Patriots.

Coaching:

Game 1 is a memory as the play calling is now exactly what Derek Carr needs; 3 and 5 step drops and quick passes. The Raiders came out aggressive in the first half and blitzed often with the LB’s ending up with 3 sacks. The first half was the best defensive half they’ve played this year.   In the second half; especially the 4th quarter; the Raiders stopped blitzing and the Browns went wild passing for 237. I would have liked to see continued aggressive blitzed throughout the game.

Grade B+

Solid game by the coaching staff. Great play calling and the blitzes in the first half set a tone for the game. I would like that to continue throughout the game but it’s a start.

Special Teams:

Sebastian Janikowski and Marquette King were as solid as always. One of the key plays of the game was when the Browns roughed the kicker on a punt which lead to a first down and an eventual score. Taiwan Jones continues to be good on kickoff returns and the Raiders picked up a key fumble on a muffed punt in the fourth quarter that killed the Browns.

Grade A-

A solid group who had a predictable solid game.

Next Opponent:   @ Chicago Bears (0-3); last game, loss @ Seattle Seahawks 26-0)

Outlook:

This was a big road win for the Raiders to get rid of some bad trends over the years. The Browns are a bad team but a win on the road is always a big deal in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears are the worst team in football right now and the Raiders should handle them fairly easily. Jay Cutler is unofficially out for the game, and with Jimmy Clausen at QB, the Bears have little to no chance to win. They have had a brutal schedule to start the season but they are a rebuilding team with few weapons on offense and a terrible pass defense.

The Raiders can’t look ahead to Denver and must continue to use the blitz against Chicago. Look for the DB’s to have a much better game against a bad opponent.

They say you really don’t know how good a team is until you play a good team on the Road but the Raiders don’t play a good team on the road until week 9 when they travel to Pittsburgh and a possible return by Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger was possibly on to an MVP season so missing his return would be a great thing. With the Ravens not being that good, the Raiders out of division schedule isn’t as daunting as first thought.   Look for the Raiders to go 3-1 into their home game with the Broncos which will be the most anticipated game in a long time.

“I’m Going Against the “EXPERTS”. The Raiders Will Go 2-1 Sunday In Cleveland in a MUST WIN Road Game”.

OAK-vs.-CLV

Week 3 Preview: Oakland Raiders (1-1) @ Cleveland Browns (1-1)

Sunday, September 27, 10:00 AM PST on CBS

FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

It’s not a big stretch but I feel the Raiders will win their next matchup against the Cleveland Browns.  Let’s look at the game in depth to see why.

Recap of Last week:

Raiders: Oakland had their best game in years on offense with a 37-33 home victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Derek Carr had a career day. Without much fan fare the Offensive Line had their best day in years with Carr barely getting touched all game.  The OL and Carr were awful against the Bengal’s so this is a nice come back for them.

Carr is not a pure pocket passer so protecting him is a must for his success.   In the first game against the Bengal’s he was rushed. Against the Ravens he was barely touched. Since college, Carr has struggled against a pass rush.

Another must is rolling him out and throwing deep which was done to perfection by proper play calling. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree had great games and there was plenty to smile about on offense.

The Defense is another story. They have been a sieve against the pass and are last or near last in many defensive categories including yards and scoring. They are also tied for last in sacks with 0. Khalil Mack had another forgettable game with only 1 tackle and no sacks all day. The only bright spots for the defense have been the run stopping abilities of Dan Williams and Justin Tuck who are thriving playing together. Curtis Lofton was hurt early in the first game but was a tackling machine in the win against the Ravens.

Cleveland:   Cleveland also got a big win with a 28-14 romp of the Tennessee Titans in Cleveland. Johnny Manziel got lots of publicity due to his 2 touchdown passes, but he was only 8 for 15 for 172 yards and a 75% QBR. Manziel is now benched and Josh McCown will start. Neither QB is scary.

With WR Josh Gordon out for the year due to his 3rd suspension, the only real weapon the Browns offense has is WR Travis Benjamin who is also a great punt returner. He doesn’t catch a lot of passes but due to his speed, the ones that he does usually end up going a long play. The Browns running game right now is average only getting a little over 3 yards per attempt.

On defense they are better but still not world beaters. They have a good pass rush which was seen by an amazing 7 sacks last week, but the Browns run defense is ranked last in the NFL.

The Raiders will win if:

DEFENSE: The Raiders defense has been awful and only Chicago has been worse. What they need is for Khalil Mack to have a big game and Aldon Smith needs to step up and make a difference.  The run game of Cleveland isn’t scary and I think this will be a game that the Raiders defense can play well in. I don’t see the Browns offense doing much this game.

T.J. Carrie will probably be on Benjamin and in reality the rest of the WR are not that good. Due to the Raiders safety situation, watch the tight ends for Cleveland. Tight ends have had huge numbers against the Raiders in the first 2 weeks.

OFFENSE: Carr had a great game and got all the credit but in reality the OL protected him like a fortress.  If they continue to roll Carr out and throw deep; his 2 strengths; look for another good game from the young QB.

Latavius Murray will have his chance to shine. He should get 20-25 touches at RB and look for a 100 yard game and a touchdown. If the Raiders fall in love with the pass and don’t run, look for a much harder game.  With this OL, the Raiders should be able to run well.

The Browns will win if:

DEFENSE: Cleveland needs to keep Carr in the pocket. Carr has really good accuracy on the run, so they need to put pressure on him when he rolls out. They also need to get to him to stop the 5 and 7 step long passes. He’s much better in the pocket when he has great protection than fighting pass rushers which he struggles with.

Players like Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers have amazing pocket awareness and footwork and can handle the rush without problems; ever since college it’s just not Carr’s talent.  Carson Palmer is having a great year but his career shows he will make bad throws if he’s pressured.  Arizona has allowed ZERO sacks and it’s not a coincidence that Palmer is having an amazing year so far.

The king of not handling a rush is Peyton Manning and he’s struggling.  Denver’s OL is playing badly and Manning’s been sacked 7 times this season already and in some years at Indy he wasn’t sacked 10 times all year.  Some QB’s can handle a pass rush and some can’t.

The Browns also need to take away the run game and make the Raiders more predictable so that they can unleash their pass rush. Cincinnati’s DL and corners played great in the first game and the Raiders had no answers.

OFFENSE: They will win if they can run the ball successfully. If they can’t run the ball then their passing game becomes predictable and their passing game isn’t very good.

McCown also needs to not be conservative and try to get the ball downfield to Benjamin. The Raiders are vulnerable against the pass and the Browns have not shown much of a passing game.

Conclusion:

It’s amazing how bad west coast teams play when traveling east and playing the early game so that is a concern. The Raiders have lost their last 11 road games and their last 19 out of 20 being the visiting team. These are mind blowing statistics of futility.

I trust gamblers. It’s uncanny how right sports books are when making point spreads and they have the Browns as a 2.5 to 3.5 point favorite. Some sports books have 70% of the gamblers taking Cleveland.

As my followers know, I’m very unbiased though and I go by what I see, and I just don’t why everyone is picking Cleveland. The Browns are awful on offense and are terrible against the run on defense.

I see the Raiders having a good game on defense, and for Latavius Murray to have a solid if not spectacular 100 yard rushing game. Look for Khalil Mack and/or Aldon Smith to get their first sacks and for Curtis Lofton to lead the linebackers to improve their game. I don’t see a 300 yard epic passing game for Carr, but I do see a solid hard fought win. The Carrie v.s. Benjamin battle will be something to watch as well. Johnny Manziel coming off the bench is a probability.

Final Score:

Raiders 23

Browns 16

This is a MUST win for the Raiders; the Browns are just not very good and road wins are at a premium. Good teams don’t lose games like these.

They have 6 tough AFC West games, along with games against the Steelers, Packers, and 3 more brutal early east coast travel games against the Bears, Lions, and Titans.   I see the Raiders going to 2-1 with a hard fought win in the Dawg Pound and then look forward to playing the Chicago Bears.