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“Raiders Off Season; Derek Carr & Kahlil Mack Contracts; Salary Cap; Who Stays, Who Goes”

NFL: Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders

It was a fun season for Oakland Raider fans but now the off season lull begins. I am extremely optimistic about the Raiders next season but there is work to do.  Let’s see if we can’t fill that void with early off season talk.

Salary Cap:

First off, if you are new to my writing my regulars would tell you I only write one way; honestly.  I’m not a homer and I don’t say what people want to hear.  I’m also not a hater.  I have the following I do because I respect the game and the readers.  I want to inform readers of all levels; whether you are new to the game and the Raiders or whether you know about schemes and techniques.  This is supposed to be fun and informative.

The salary cap was created by the NFL to create parity. The NFL felt that if they leveled the playing field and prevented dynasty’s, there would be more fan interest because different teams would be in the playoffs. Both Super Bowl teams from last year didn’t even make the playoffs this year.

Remember when Seattle won the Super Bowl? QB Russell Wilson was making under 1 million. His average annual salary is now 21.9 million. With that salary cap hit, they are struggling with their OL & depth at many positions. Well the Raiders are now in that same boat.

Last month the Raiders and Derek Carr both said that they wanted to finalize a deal in the off season. Carr is set to make 1.7 million in 2017. They were looking at a 4-5 year deal for 20 million a year. If the Raiders wait another year, they may get into a bidding war with teams and most feel the price would go up to 23-25 million per year.  Resigning players in their contract year is the smart thing to do.

In 2018 they now have to resign Kahlil Mack. He also is going to get a huge raise from his 4.6 million dollar average. The good thing is they can franchise him so they won’t lose him. Those are huge chunks taken out of the salary cap. Most that are looking ahead also think it’s near impossible for the Raiders to keep OL Gabe Jackson when his contract is up. He’s going to get a big raise from his 4 year average salary of 770k. Some think he’ll get around 7-8 million/year.

Derek Carr’s contract will dictate what the Raiders do in the off season.   The days of having a ton of money under the salary cap are gone. Seattle has done it right by emphasizing good drafts and player development through good coaching.  Raiders need to do the same.

The Reality:

The Raiders have to limit their busts. The Nate Allen’s and Sean Smith’s of the world can’t happen anymore.   The Jihad Ward and DJ Hayden draft picks can’t happen anymore (both picks that I took heat for from fans for hating them). If your 1st, 2nd, or 3rd round draft choices aren’t starting within 2 years and at least playing fairly well, then they were not good picks.   Before the salary cap you could bench picks and let them learn over time. Those days are gone. The standards need to be high if you want to keep winning.  Let’s now look at each position.

Quarterbacks:

Derek Carr will be back and healthy after healing up from his injury. Matt McGloin’s meltdown in Denver pretty much sealed his fate.   He’s an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and he said he’d like a chance to start somewhere. Look for McGloin to sign elsewhere and Cook to be the backup.   I said it at the draft last year, I think Cook is a back up at best in the NFL and I’m not a huge fan of his but he’s ok.

Running Backs:

DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard at times really stole the show.   Both are explosive and can catch the ball. I don’t think either is a franchise back but they are very valuable in a RB by committee way which has been the trend in the NFL.

Latavius Murray is a nice back but he doesn’t thrill me at all. Some have said he’ll ask for 6-7 million a year.   If he wants a lot of money I let him go and pick up a free agent or a later round rookie power back. There are some steals that can be had in later rounds. I still like Jamize Olawale and I wish he’d get more carries. The Stanford RB “Christian McCaffrey to Oakland” in the second round rumors have already begun.

Wide Receivers:

The Raiders are set with Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. They both dropped a lot of balls this season though, including one each in the playoff game so hopefully that improves. I said it last year; Seth Roberts is not a good #3 and he also had the dropsies. The Raiders have the rights to Roberts but you wonder if they move on. Lower down the Raider needs list, adding a good #3 WR would be a plus. Andre Holmes has his moments and is solid at #4, but where he shines is special teams where he has become a big contributor. He’s an UFA but I think he’ll come back.

Offensive Line:

The engine of the Raiders.

I still remember Donald Penn being raked over the coals on social media by many Raider fans when he asked for a lot of money in his last contract.   Well he is worth it. He had his best year and didn’t allow a sack until Carr was hurt late in the season; and on that play he slipped.

The OL will stay intact but there will be some changes. Menelik Watson is an UFA and may not be resigned. He is hurt a lot and his play is sporatic.   Mike Tice loved Jon Feliciano; I didn’t. I still didn’t get drafting him and he hasn’t been great either. Look for some new faces backing up the starters next year.

Tight End:

It’s hard to evaluate the TE’s because the Raiders throw so little to them (Part of the reason I didn’t like Bill Musgrave’s offense). During the year they were always top 8 in catches v.s. targets.   When they were thrown too they usually caught the ball.

Clive Walford is a good blocker and pass catcher. Mychal Rivera is a good pass catcher but can’t block and may not be resigned. Lee Smith; a loss that no one brings up that was a big one; will be back after breaking his ankle in week 4. He is the best run blocking tight end in the NFL and can catch a ball or two when needed.

Defensive Line:

The great Woody Hayes once said when asked about the potential of his freshman QB Rod Gerald, “Potential? Potential means you ain’t no damn good yet!”. The Raiders can’t be enamored with potential anymore. They need results.

The Raiders were LAST; DEAD LAST in sacks. They also were last in yards per play (6.1). I said it last year and I’m saying it this year; clean house in the DL.   Stacy McGee and Denico Autry have shown glimpses of good play, but injuries and inconsistencies have limited their success. McGee is UFA and Autry is restricted. Raiders need to move on unless the price is right.

I ripped on the Jihad Ward draft pick and still don’t get it. He started 13 games this year and played in all 16; did anyone notice?   They drafted him too high but I would not have drafted him at all. You can’t miss on early picks in the salary cap era.

Dan Williams and Justin Ellis were bad this year and their days are numbered.

The best way to help your DB’s is to have a great pass rush. The Raiders have to sign or draft a DT that can put pressure on the QB.   Mario Edwards so far isn’t the answer either. He’s hurt too much and has had some good play but it’s still not a given he’ll be good. Aldon Smith? In my personal life I avoid high maintenance people or drama so this whole thing gives me a headache.

Linebackers:

The Raiders LB’s this year at times were awful. They could not cover tight ends and they struggled in the running game. Malcolm Smith gets lots of tackles but many are much more downfield than they would like. He usually is good in coverage but he struggled at times there too.   He’s never been great against the run; that’s why in Seattle he was not a 3 down LB; and he’s not now to be honest.   Do you resign him for big money? No.   Lesser money? OK. He along with Perry Riley Jr. are UFA. Riley Jr. played great when he was first picked up but his play tapered off the longer he was on the field. He’s an ok player but as a starter, he may not be the answer.

The Raiders need to sign a physical LB that can shore up the position and they still haven’t found that.

Defensive Backs:

Clean House. For years the Raiders have wasted a ton of money, draft picks and signings on DB’s to fix their defense and it hasn’t worked. I’d rather spend less money on them and more money on the DL. The Matt McGloin fan club has almost been as annoying as the DJ Hayden fan club. No he’s not a shut down corner.   No he’s not a great slot cover guy.   Let him go. It didn’t work and I said it when he was drafted; it was a bad pick and it’s time to move on.

When Raider fans last year had David Amerson as the king of the world while holding up Pro Football Focus stats, I said hold your horses and give it time. I was right. Amerson is good on outs and short to mid range passes but he struggles a lot against the long ball. He was burned often this year with the deep ball and it’s the reason he struggled at Washington. The poor play of the safeties didn’t help him either.

Nate Allen has been a bust. He and Reggie Nelson take so many bad angles it’s hard to watch. Allen is an UFA and I let him go. Bad signing. TJ Carrie is more of a backup and Keith McGill was very bad at times and his days may be numbered.

Karl Joseph struggled in pass coverage but did well against the run for the most part.   Hopefully a healthy year and experience will fix that but the Raiders are hoping he’s not injury prone.

Sean Smith was a huge bust. Many of the people ripping on Smith now were applauding his signing back then (see, being a GM isn’t so easy). Smith is tentative and I’ve never seen a guy give so much cushion near the end zone. A couple of writers said he needs better technique; huh? So he’s great for 3 years but he forgot everything the next? Come on.   The truth is Smith played on a team known for their pass rush and great safety play at Kansas City. He seems to need it and he gets neither in Oakland.   The Raiders are stuck with him for one more year at least; possibly two.

Coaches:

Jack Del Rio has done a good job but these dumb penalties still need to be fixed.  Also, the Raiders lifeless performance against Denver can’t happen.  Even if you lose your QB you still die hard.  Del Rio has said the standards need to be higher now and that’s a good sign.

I don’t know what else Ken Norton Jr. was supposed to do. He did a great job at Seattle but Seattle had players. The Raiders LB’s are not good and their DB’s are worse.   Then add the poor DT play. Their Safeties and LB’s flat out can’t guard TE’s.   They have the worst pass rush in the NFL. Love to see what genius can make that work. The Raiders agree with me and are bringing back Ken Norton Jr. for 2017.

Some Raider fans are clamoring for Wade Phillips to take over as DC. Only thing is, Denver was 28th in the NFL against the run this year and it was one of the main reasons they struggled. What was different? Stud run stopper Malik Jackson signed with Jacksonville and LB Danny Trevathan signed with Chicago. The year before? Denver was #3 in the NFL against the run. Did Phillips forget how to stop the run? No. He didn’t have the same players.   Coaches help but some fans need to stop giving all the credit to the players when they win and then blame the coaches when their favorites don’t play well.

I wrote this article below when Bill Musgrave was signed and I flat out didn’t get it. The Raiders letting him go is a good thing. (Conservative; poor adjustments in game). The Raiders have the 2nd best OL in the NFL and great talent on offense.  They were #6 in the NFL in offense because of their great talent; not because of Bill Musgrave.

The only thing is they sure like to hire their friends.   Todd Downing goes from QB coach to OC.   Downing is a good friend of Mike Tice who hired Downing in the early 2000’s when he was coaching the Vikings.   He has very limited success up until now. Time will tell. Rookie OC’s don’t tear up the NFL either for the most part.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/who-is-bill-musgrave-the-raiders-hire-a-new-offensive-coordinator/

How to Keep the Success:

With Mack and Carr making so little money compared to others, the Raiders have had it easy.   Now the hard work comes in. The Raiders can still keep their success but they have to stop taking reaches on some draft choices and their signings have to be right on. They also can’t keep dead wood around if they aren’t getting the job done or staying healthy.

Like everyone else, the Raiders have holes to fill; mainly on defense. For me, DT, LB and DB should be addressed in that order.   Personally, the Allen’s, Murray’s and Malcolm Smith’s of the Raider world may have to go. Even if they are doing a fairly good to good job, it’s all about the salary cap and staying under it. Look for the chips to fall after they sign Derek Carr. This will be the most important off season for the Raiders in 15 years, and one of the most interesting.  It will be stressful but exciting to see what they do.

“GRADES: A Nightmare in Denver; How Do The Raiders Win Their 1st Round Playoff Game in Houston”

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Denver Broncos; Week 17:

Denver Broncos  24 (9-7)

Oakland Raiders  6 (12-4)

In a game where the Raiders needed to show heart, grit and determination, they instead were lifeless and seemed happy just to be in the playoffs.

Quarterback:

This is the first time I’ve ever seen Matt McGloin overwhelmed. He’s always had heart but he didn’t Sunday. His accuracy was terrible and he looked like he wanted to be somewhere else. Connor Cook played fairly well considering the situation. He missed badly on two throws; one which was picked off; and his fumble was due to him not securing the ball. In the one scoring drive he had 3 nice throws.

GRADE: D+

McGloin isn’t a rookie and has started before so they should have opened it up more. To all of the fans that wrote me over the years telling me how good Matt McGloin is, please stop; enough. I don’t want to be mean but you, Jed York, and Trent Baalke have the same ability in judging talent. Come on.  The hate mail needs to stop.

Running Backs:

Denver stopped the run and the Raiders had no imagination on offense and were very predictable when McGloin was in. DeAndre Washington looked good again though with 7 carries for 43 yards.

Grade D

As the announcers said several times; the Broncos were daring the Raiders to throw the ball.   They stopped the run and the Raiders had no answers.

Offensive Line:

Denver put 8-9 in the box and if the Raiders weren’t doing a running play, they were now rushing 5-6 players to get to the QB. Not their best game but they are getting more blame than they deserved. They normalized things in the second half but the Raiders offense was fighting an up hill battle all the way.

Grade C

Just bad vibes in this game and the OL was a part of those vibes. Look for a bounce back game next week.

Wide Receivers:

Walford dropped a key pass and other than a great catch and run by Amari Cooper, it was a quiet day for this group. Obviously the issues at QB were a problem.

GRADE: C-

A forgettable game

Defensive Line:

The Raiders ended the NFL season last in sacks. The DL; like the rest of the defense; took the first half off. Denver seemed to do what they wanted and it was hard to watch an offense that struggled for a month, dominating them.

Grade: D

They played better in the 2nd half with some tackles for loss but the Broncos were just running out the clock for the most part. Denver had 143 yards on the ground. A forgettable performance.

Linebackers:

Another rough game.   In several big plays, they looked lost.   They struggled against the play action pass and their tackling was really awful at times.

Grade D

Ugly day. They improved in the second half but the damage was done.

Defensive Backs:

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/the-greatest-defensive-backfield-of-all-time-the-oakland-raiders-soul-patrol/

The soul patrol this isn’t. Wow what a bad performance. This is not counting the 3 times WR were open deep with Siemian missing them by a mile.   I still don’t get what Nate Allen and Reggie Nelson are seeing. Their angles are so off that it’s not funny. Keith McGill was so bad the Raiders used 3rd stringer Bryndon Trawick who ended up having 10 tackles, an interception and a pass deflection. ESPN didn’t even know who he was and didn’t have him on their end of game tackle list. The NFL was abuzz when the Raiders signed Chiefs CB Sean Smith.   Now they need to be buzzed to watch him play; another rough performance and his tackling was hard to watch.

Grade D-  

If Siemian had a better night this would have really been ugly. The Raiders struggle against the deep ball, and if the pass rush isn’t there, they are sitting ducks.

Coaching:

Lifeless. The Raiders played like a team that was happy to be in the playoffs and had given up on the season because their starting QB was hurt. Unacceptable. Some fans may have blown off the season but the coaches and players do not have that luxury. It’s about heart and being professionals who make a lot of money.   Fail.

The Broncos were determined to stop the run and the Raiders offensive game plan helped them do that.   They played so conservative, twice running on 3rd down and 4. They were predictable and had way too many third and longs. The coaching staff obviously felt they could run on Denver like in the first game, but Denver made great adjustments.

The local media has said at times the Raiders read their own press clippings a little too much and I think they arrogantly thought they could run all over Denver. Del Rio even said in a local media interview he was shocked they couldn’t run more.

On defense there was no heart in the first half. Denver steam rolled them and did what they wanted. In a game where the defense could have made a statement, they instead reminded people they have significant holes.

Grade F

The coaches were like the players; lifeless. Players play but this was a game where the Raiders could have made a huge statement to the league and their fans saying they haven’t given up. They did the opposite. Players and coaches need to step up next week.

Special Teams:

Janikowski wasn’t a factor and Marquette King had a ball punting in the high elevation of Mile High.   He was upset though on his punting inside the 20’s.

Grade B

King was good and the other parts of special teams were no factor.

How To Rebound Against Houston:

On Offense:

Raiders Offense: #13 passing: #6 rushing; #7 scoring

Houston Defense: #12 v.s. run; #2 v.s. pass; 24th in sacks

The Raiders coaching staff and players need to be embarrassed with that performance, and I think they will be. I see them playing their hearts out against the Texans.

If I’m running the Raiders, Matt McGloin lost his job. I don’t play him even if he is healthy; I go with Cook.

I also script some plays like the Bill Walsh 49ers used to. What a surprise to script 5-6 quick passing plays going no huddle. The Raiders will have to open up their offense a little because Houston is going to do what Denver did; put 8 or 9 in the box to stop the run and make them throw.   Oakland has nothing to lose.

JJ Watt is out for the season but they are getting healthier in Texas.   Cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Johnathan Joseph are nursing injuries but both have said they are ready to go for the playoffs.

Houston’s way of winning is old school; play good defense and run the ball and control the time of possession. The Texans tend to get pressure on the QB but they don’t get a lot of sacks.

A couple of quick and easy passes to start the game would be a good idea.   The Raiders are going to have to use a balanced attack and not be afraid to air the ball out. A long pass to Amari Cooper on the first play isn’t the worst idea in the world either. They have to stretch the field and not be so conservative as to allow the safeties not to respect their passing game. You can’t run if the safeties don’t respect your passing game.

Raiders On Defense:

Houston offense: #29 passing; #8 rushing, #28 scoring

Raiders defense: #23 vs run; #24 vs pass; Last in the NFL in sacks.

This might be the worst season in regards to quality of play in the NFL in the modern era. Houston won their division and were outscored this season by 49 points and the quality of QB’s in the playoffs is brutal. Some are saying the Raiders/Texans game is the worst QB match-up in playoff history. At 9-7, Houston was 4-6 outside their conference and 2-6 on the road.

The Raiders need to go all out. Houston’s Tom Savage and Brock Osweiler are as bad a tandem at QB as there is in the NFL. I blitz both often. The Raiders need turnovers to take pressure off the offense.

The Raiders need to do what teams are going to do to them. Load up the box and force Houston to pass the ball.   RB Lamar Miller will be back and stopping him is a must. If the Texans can run, this sets up the play action pass and takes the pressure off of their QB’s.

Osweiler isn’t an accurate QB but he can hit an occasional long ball. The key to everything though is stopping their run game.

They do have weapons. Deandre Hopkins is a stud at WR and Will Fuller has had some nice moments as well.   Big tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz has had a good year.

Jims Jamz:

This is going to be an old school ugly football game. Both teams are going to struggle scoring and each team will concentrate on stopping the run. Special teams may rule this game so Marquette King will be a big factor.

This game may come down to field goals with Janikowski (#12 in FG’s) and Nick Novak (#2 in FG’s). Novak has fought off injuries this year and he’s had great success. He has made 16 in a row and seems to be mostly recovered from a back injury.

I think the Raiders are going to come out with a lot of energy to erase the nightmare in Denver, and Houston will be excited with their crowd roaring it’s approval. To me this is a sloppy joe game.  It’s going to be ugly and messy, but in the end it will be exciting but nerve racking for the loser, and a great taste for the winner.  This one should go down to the wire.

 

  

 

 

“GRADES: For The 1st Time in Social Media History, Raiders Playoff Posts; Next Up The Colts”

crabtree-chargers
Michael Crabtree keeps his feet in bounds for a Raiders touchdown.

Final Oakland Raider Grades @ San Diego Chargers; Week 15:

San Diego Chargers  16 (5-9)

Oakland Raiders  19 (11-3)

A black hole in San Diego?  For one Sunday, yes there was.

For the first time in social media history, people could post that the Oakland Raiders were in the playoffs and be right. In what some in the San Diego media called, “The darkest hour in Chargers football history”, Oakland fans took over Qualcomm Stadium pretty much sealing the fate of the Chargers future playing in San Diego.   Even with a handful of delusional young Charger fans; and a even a few young Raider fans who just like to argue; trying to convince me there wasn’t that many Raiders fans in attendance, it was obvious this was a black out. It is now impossible to think San Diego will have a football team in the near future which is sad unto itself. I think with all of the politics, losing and moving talk, San Diego is done with the Chargers.  Below is a video that shows how the Raider turnout demoralized the Charger players and even the media!

http://www.mighty1090.com/2016/12/18/chargers-recap-humiliating-day-at-the-q-a-low-for-san-diego-sports/

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sports/chargers/sd-sp-chargers-raiders-game-20161218-story.html

Philip Rivers and the Chargers have had a history of 4th quarter and second half fails and this was another one. Rivers is a good quarterback but when they say he’s great I shake my head. No he is not great.

Rivers also was disgusted and discouraged after the game. “This was like a road game. We had to use a silent count”. The Chargers went 21 minutes to end the game without scoring.

Quarterback:

Carr came alive in the 2nd half again with 2 great throws zipping them across the field in tight coverage. He also had a nice pass to Crabtree for his only TD. Carr struggled at times though with the occasional pass rush again. He never really seemed to feel comfortable all game. He stared down his receiver in a terrible red zone interception and again had an off day.

GRADE: C+

Carr should have an easier time of it next week with a weak Colts defense, but to be honest the Chargers DB’s aren’t that good either. Carr was 19 for 30 for 213 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception. The Chargers sacked him twice and did a fairly good job at making him uncomfortable in the pocket.  Saying that I think Derek will come back strong against the Colts.

raiders-chargers

Running Backs:

The Raiders OL dominated at times and the run game was churning again. Murray, Richard and Washington combined for 145 yards on the ground with Murray leading the way with 81 yards. For the second straight week though, the RB’s were not a big part of the passing game. Murray’s fumble deep in Chargers territory can’t happen. Part of the lack of pass production was picking up blitzes from the Chargers but some wasn’t.

Grade B

Another solid game from this unit. I would like to see them more in the passing game though.

Offensive Line:

The Raiders did well in the run game and did good in the passing game. The Chargers did get 2 sacks though and even though they didn’t get to Carr often, they made him feel somewhat uncomfortable at times.

Grade B

A solid game from these guys but not the dominating performance in pass protection that has been the trademark of the Raiders OL. Carr goes as well as these guys go so their level of play needs to get better next week. They have spoiled Carr and Raider fans and have had a great year.  Look for a good game against Indy.

Wide Receivers:

The WR’s had a quiet day with only Michael Crabtree standing out. He made an amazing catch to keep his feet in bounds for a touchdown and was solid most of the day. Not much from anyone else though. Amari Cooper caught one electrifying long pass and run but that was it.

GRADE: C+

Carr was struggling but it was still a disappointing day against a bad and beat up defensive backfield.

Defensive Line:

Overall a good game.   The Raiders struggled a little early with San Diego using a quicker passing game, but in the 4th when the Chargers seemed to abandon it, the Raiders put good pressure on Rivers and stopped the run. The final drive with Rivers looking deep downfield, the Raiders pass rush gobbled him up.

Grade: B+

A solid game from this unit. Denico Autry had a sack and 2 tackles for loss and had an overall good game. Mack was quiet until the last quarter and Bruce Irvin had one of his better games as a Raiders.

Linebackers:

What has been a weakness for the Raiders all year, the LB’s came out and played well against the Chargers.   Perry Riley Jr. had a key strip late and caused a fumble and they were fairly good in coverage.

Grade B+

One of this unit’s better games.

Defensive Backs:

Sean Smith was beaten by 5 yards deep for the long touchdown to Travis Benjamin. He also played too deep at the goal line allowing another TD on a slant to Hunter Henry. Dontrelle Inman also caught 5 passes for 68 yards. The Raiders DB’s have struggled against the long ball all year. Fast WR that can go long have been their weakness. Overall they did not play a bad game, especially in the second half.   David Amerson had two jarring tackles on crossing patterns.

Grade B-  

Another long pass for a touchdown but overall not a bad game from this unit; not a great one either.

Coaching:

First the Chargers.   I think head coach Mike McCoy must think they get 6 time outs a half; he uses them up like candy. Also he abandoned the quick passing game and they fell into the hands of the Raiders pass rush, especially on the last drive.   Just not getting what is going on in San Diego with their play calling especially in the 2nd half of games.

The Raiders I felt should have run the ball a lot more. The Chargers could not stop the run and their soft DB’s literally seemed to be avoiding blocks in the first half. Del Rio won a challenge on a spot play which helped get a first down.

Grade B

Give the Chargers credit; they did have a nice goal line stand and stopped Murray on a 3rd and short but the Raiders got 145 yards on the ground and should have run more.

Special Teams:

Janikowski was perfect and King was ok, struggling at times to punt inside the 20. The coverage team was good and the return game didn’t do much.

Grade B+

A solid day from this unit.

Conclusion:

Raiders should celebrate for a day and then get back to work which I think they will. This defense doesn’t scare anyone though and still rank 27th in passing, 29th in yards per catch, 27th in sacks, and 25th in run defense. And they aren’t playing offenses like Pittsburgh, New England and Dallas. Still lots of work to do.  A good gutsy win in front of a lot of Raider fans was a site to behold.

Next Week the Indianapolis Colts:

With the Patriots final 2 games being against the Jets and a Dolphins team that will probably be without their starting QB, they look to be the first seed team in the AFC. If that happens it’s important for the Raiders to keep winning and that won’t be easy.

Next week the Raiders host the Colts. Andrew Luck has been on fire and they’ve actually begun protecting him some. Their OL has struggled all year at times being a sieve, and their defense has struggled more.

Indy’s defense has been bad. They are 28th against the pass and 21st against the run. They have an average pass rush (17th in the league).

On offense their OL is ranked 29th in sacks and Andrew Luck has been running for his life most of the year.   Look for Mack and Irvin to have a big day. Indy does a lot of 5 and 7 step drop passes and that should give the Raiders enough time to get to Luck.   Luck is a gun slinger and will take chances so 1-2 picks is my best bet. Don’t underestimate him though. Even with a bad offensive line he can carve up any defense in the NFL.   The Colts on paper don’t look to be a great team but they are dangerous and are still in the playoff hunt in a fairly weak division.

The Raiders match up well against Indy and I see a high scoring affair with Indy not being able to stop the Raiders and the Raiders occasionally shutting down Indy’s offense. It should be a good day for Oakland in the friendly confines of the Coliseum.  Raiders are in for a dog fight and can’t take anyone lightly.  Then on to the cold in Denver.

Jims Jamz:

The Raiders ended a drought that was the worst stretch of win/loss football in the history of the NFL. Those that stood by the Oakland Raiders deserve to savor this.   The lows were very, very low.   The terrible drafts that some fans tried to defend; the crazy coaching hires that some fans said would bring them back; and the bad free agent signings are all a thing of the past.   Those that have endured the pain for years can finally smile.  Those that used to pretend, can now be real and look at the truth again. Oakland is in the playoffs.

It’s imperative that the Raiders win out the rest of the way. Winning on the road twice in the playoffs in possible cold weather would be quite a chore.

And the Raider luck or magic; depending on what you believe; continued in 6F weather in Kansas City. In a game that the Chiefs seemed to be looking ahead to Denver, they were stunned by the Tennessee Titans. Alex Smith disappeared in the second half just like in the Raiders game, and this helped Tennessee get back into it.

Titans kicker Ryan Succup; a former Chief; missed a last second 53 yard kick so the Chiefs win, right? Wrong; Head Coach Andy Reid called a time out right before the kick allowing Succup to readjust and kick the winning field goal as time ran out. A 53 yarder in 6F weather.   Wow! This allows the Raiders to have first place in the AFC West all to themselves.

Some fans always complain about front running fans when a team starts winning and yes, people come out of the woodwork to get on the band wagon; especially younger fans. Just look at the Warriors. So bandwagon fans if you jump on board make sure to get drinks and food for the regulars first.  It’s about seniority.

It was a nice come from behind win in San Diego that shores up a spot in the post season. Raider fans invaded a stadium like no other fan base I’ve ever seen. And for the first time in social media history, Oakland fans aren’t being laughed at for crazy predictions or hope of the post season. They don’t have to talk of the past; it’s the present.

You may see some Raider fans pinching themselves today, but don’t judge them.  They just wan’t to make sure it’s not a dream. They’ve been through a lot to get here.

“GRADES: Raiders Lose In Kansas City: Why Things Are Not as Bad as You Think In Oakland”

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Final Oakland Raider Grades @ Kansas City Chiefs; Week 14:

Kansas City Chiefs  21 (10-3)

Oakland Raiders  13 (10-3)

In a cold winter night that resembled days of old, the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Raiders 21-13. Maybe traveling Raiders fans knew something when a flight from Oakland to Kansas City actually ran out of alcohol serving thirsty fans; this would be a tough one.  The Raiders lost to the Chiefs and went from the #1 seed to the #5 seed in a NY minute.

http://www.sfgate.com/raiders/article/Airplane-Raiders-fans-Kansas-City-no-alcohol-10784175.php

Maybe though it was having 3 turnovers in KC territory and ending up with only 6 points from it. Maybe it was a bad day for the offense and Derek Carr.  The Raiders found out living on the edge against bad to average teams is a lot easier than magical comebacks against a good team like the Chiefs.

Quarterback:

I thought annoying Cris Collinsworth was going to start a Gofundme account for Derek Carr’s pinkie.  His over dramatics make Jack Buck seem pleasant.  Carr was interviewed after the game by ESPN and others and he said he was fine.  Funny how he was fine against Buffalo and now some fans have him near death.  Carr said he wasn’t cold and his hand felt so good he didn’t even wear a glove.  “I just had a bad game”.

Carr is now 1-5 against the Chiefs and in the last 2 games at Arrowhead he has been off target amazingly on 29 passes.  This wasn’t a one time thing.  Why do they have his number?  In the first game the Chiefs blitzed constantly.  In this game with Justin Houston back they didn’t have to.  Since high school Carr’s weakness is throwing under pressure.  For most of the year he hasn’t had any pressure.  Kansas City’s pass rush had him off balance all night.  Carr floated 2 long passes that were wide open; too much loft.

Since last year against Minnesota, some teams try to take away the deep ball by playing 2 deep zone; the safeties playing back to protect the CB’s.  Kansas City has done that a lot against Carr.  When you don’t have to blitz to get a pass rush it makes it even more successful.

GRADE: D-

Carr was 17 for 41 for 117 yards with no TD’s or interceptions.  In 2 games against KC he has 1 TD pass.  NOT a coincidence.  There were several times when KC was a sucker for a screen and I thought Carr didn’t audible as well as he has in past games.  Just a bad day all around.

Running Backs:

The second the Chiefs leader LB Derrick Johnson blew out his Achilles heel, the Raiders run game excelled.  The Chiefs really don’t have a solid LB backup to replace Johnson and it showed.  Latavius Murray ran for over 100 yards and the Raiders avg. 4.3 yards a carry for RB’s.  Not a bad night with 135 yards.

Grade B-

The Raiders RB’s never got too involved in the passing game which hurt the Raiders.  Part of that was Carr but it was an issue.

Offensive Line:

When I wrote last week that the Raiders offensive line was the co MVP of the NFL some laughed.  No one’s laughing now.  When they don’t protect Carr well, he struggles.

With Cris Collinsworth’s dramatics about Keleche Osemele not playing, you would have thought the Raiders should just forfeit and give up.  The Raiders run game rushed for 135 yards without him.  In the passing game at times they struggled protecting Carr which is job 1 for this unit and that’s where he was really missed.  Carr was flushed out of the pocket for much of the night and was uncomfortable for most of the game.

Grade C

Just like in the first game, Carr was forced out of the pocket and had to throw quicker than he wanted to.  Not a bad game on the ground but the pass protection didn’t cut it.

Wide Receivers:

The television media sure isn’t saying much, but on the long pass to Amari Cooper, many KC Chiefs fans online have said that it was obvious that the ball hit a wire coming from the tv camera that floats around the stadium for better views.  They didn’t say a word during the game about it.  Cooper said he was ready to catch it and then suddenly it just dropped straight down.

Overall a tough game.  With Carr being off and catches being dropped, this was the worst passing game for the Raiders.  Seth Roberts dropped 2 passes in the red zone and Crabtree and Cooper had their issues too.  Bad game all around.

GRADE: D-

The worst game of the year for this unit.

Defensive Line:

Overall a good game.  The Raiders obviously made it a point to stop the run and they did.  Dan Williams clogged the middle and Justin Ellis even pitched in.  Bruce Irvin did have his issues at times against the run but the Raiders pass rush was pretty good with Kahlil Mack causing another turnover.

Grade: B+

One of their better games.  Even with the Chiefs quick passing game and getting only 1 sack on the night, the Raiders put pressure on Alex Smith often.

Linebackers:

Another rough game.  The Raiders plan for TE Travis Kelce was to put a LB on him and then if needed have a Safety give help.  The help was often not there or late and Kelce over matched the LB’s.  They played better in the run game this week but part of that was the excellent play of the DL.

Grade C

The Raiders had to stop Kelce and they didnt.

Defensive Backs:

All year David Amerson has struggled against fast WR who can go deep.  He was burned again this week.  In the medium to short passes he’s good; the deep ball though; not so much.

TJ Carrie seems to have gotten his confidence back; he had 2 solid plays and a key interception that helped the Raiders get back into the game.  The safeties again struggled with help on deep balls.  Nate Allen’s angles were as bad as Nelson’s have been.  Alex Smith was 3-3 on passes 30 yards or longer.  Again, Alex Smith.

Grade C  

The Raiders defense was torched in the 1st half but played better in the second including the DB’s.

Coaching:

The Raiders need to come out no huddle right from the beginning.  Against Buffalo and in other comebacks, the no huddle has been highly successful.  Why not use it early? You can’t expect to start slow every game and come back and win. Punting to Tyreek Hill at all was another head scratcher.

The worst blunder though was with 2:06 to go in the game with 3rd and 1 at the KC 14. Instead of running the ball the Raiders threw to Andre Holmes in the corner which was well defended.  On the next play Austin Howard commits a penalty and now it’s 4th and 6.  Pass defended to the left side; game over.  The Chiefs without Johnson could not stop the run anymore and to not run the ball was a huge mistake.  There was plenty of time and the Raiders had 2 time outs.  The Raiders on their last drive ran the ball 6 times for 30 yards. You can’t run the ball twice for 1 yard?

Grade D+

All Jack Del Rio’s jokes about the Raiders penalties didn’t seem so funny anymore.  Austin Howard’s penalty on the last drive really hurt them.  They have to start better on offense; go no huddle immediately.

Special Teams:

Janikowski was perfect on the night but then it got ugly.  Jack Del Rio admitted that the Raiders were trying to punt to the left but then Marquette King kicked the ball in the middle of the field and Tyreek Hill ran the punt back for a TD against only 4 defenders.  Travis Kelce’s riding the horse dance in front of King was loved by the media and Chiefs fans alike.  The Raiders gave up 172 yards in the return game and their own return game was invisible.  Worst game of the year for this group.

Raiders long snapper Jon Condo had a poor snap that was muffed by Marquette King which cost the Raiders 3 points.  King didn’t do a good job of securing it either.

Grade D

Janikowski good; everything else a train wreck.

Conclusion:

Alex Smith is 9-1 in games against the Raiders and Derek Carr is 1-5 against KC.  Until the Raiders can solve the Chiefs quick passing game and keep defenders off of Carr, this trend will continue.

Why This Loss Isn’t as Bad As First Thought:

Dry your eyes Raider fans.  Let’s look at why this loss isn’t as bad as you think.

First, to the fans that said it was too cold for the Raiders to play well, I’m sorry but that is ridiculous.  Al Davis didn’t say “Just Win Baby Unless It’s Cold”.  The weather was a steady 20F and if you can’t play in cold then you are not going to do much in the post season.  KC torched the Raiders in the first half.  Funny how the cold didn’t hurt them.

No, Derek Carr’s finger wasn’t falling off.  He just had a bad game.  Against Buffalo he was just fine.  In Kansas City he was harassed all night; it happens.  Even Carr said he was fine and they will bounce back.

DENVER:  Denver has the hardest schedule in the NFL the last 4 weeks.  They go to Tennessee Sunday and then host New England.  They also have to go to Arrowhead on Christmas day and then host the Raiders on New Years day.  Hard to think with their struggles with run defense and QB that they will sweep.

KANSAS CITY:  KC has an easier road but they are not the same team without LB Derrick Johnson.  If people think they are going to stop the run with backup LB’s and hybrid safeties playing in the middle, they are crazy.

The Chiefs have Tennessee and DeMarco Murray at home next week; they host Denver and then they are on the road to SD who were destroying them in week 1 until the Philip Rivers express swallowed the olive late in the game.  If Denver concentrates on their run game, I see the Chiefs losing to Denver.

RAIDERS:  The Raiders lick their wounds and travel to SD.  They’ve won 3 in a row there and tend to score at will against the Chargers who have given up over 30 points in the last 3 meetings in San Diego.  It won’t be easy but its very winnable.  They then host the Colts who have little to no defense and a poor OL but they also have Andrew Luck who can carry them to a win against anyone. Then the game in Denver on New Years Day.  Yes it will be cold.

Jims Jamz:

Obviously you go week by week (save the emails) but for the sake of looking ahead, Denver probably loses at least another game and the Raiders should win at least 2 of those games. Again SHOULD. I see the worst case scenario is that the Raiders finish 1 game behind or tied with KC.  If that happens the Raiders will be in the playoffs.  I don’t see KC sweeping but there is a possibility because they always play Denver tough and have already beaten them once on the road.  I just think the Broncos will gut out a win with no Johnson at LB. They can’t look past the running game of Tennessee.

Outside of New England; just like most of the NFL; the rest of the AFC just isn’t very good.  Houston is tied for first place in the AFC South at 6-6 with a -50 point differential!

Look for a big game from the Raiders in San Diego.  They weren’t ready for prime time yet and that was a bad loss in KC, but a Chargers game is just what they need.

During times like these, fans either throw players under the bus or blindly make excuses. The Raiders will do neither.  They will own up that they lost, and will come back with a great effort next week.  If my scenario rings true and Denver beats KC, then the Raiders can win the west in Denver on the last game of the year.  Wow won’t that be fun. Get ready for a wild ride.  The fun is just beginning and with every week, comes a new story and scenario.  Even after a bad loss, I’m sure for Raider fans this sure beats NFL draft talk this time of year.

“A Horrific Tragedy Ends The Life of Another Iconic Raider Fan; Social Media Icon Tim Casto”

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I told several people last December that I had a horrible feeling about 2016.  Personally it’s been a terrible year for me and I know I’m not alone.  Several Raider fans; prominent ones; are now gone.  Add celebrities and many people’s family members and 2016 is a nightmare that can’t end soon enough.

Over the holiday weekend, in one of the saddest stories I’ve heard in a while, we lost another person that touched many lives.

(Please Donate Below)

https://www.gofundme.com/karen-casto

Tim Casto, owner of Oakland Raiders Homeport and founder of Oakland Raiders Rumors, Rants & Reports, lost his battle for life after a horrific fire burned down his home.  He was the only one in the house.  Neighbors said they heard small explosions.  Tim had to be rescued by two firemen who were at a firehouse near by.  His family lost everything they had.  He was taken to a local hospital and was in a coma for days before passing away yesterday after life support was turned off.  Loved ones talked about how grateful they were to the two brave firemen who entered the burning home to try to save him.

http://www.wsaz.com/content/news/Man-rescued-from-burning-home-in-Putnam-County-402462286.html

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Tim’s family; including his wife Karen and daughter Rhianna; were at his bedside praying for a miracle while Tim lay in a West Virginia hospital on life support.  Here was a family who lost every possession they owned now having to deal with even more tragedy.  There were prayer vigils and support coming from all over.  What made it even worse was that during this time, Tim’s wife and daughter had birthdays.  Karen spoke about her husbands deep love and kindness towards her and his daughter.  His daughter posted on Facebook a few days ago asking for people to pray for her dad to wake up.  Sadly he never did.

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Tim (A.K.A. the Captain) was the owner and/or administrator of several of the larger Raider pages on Facebook.  It’s hard to find someone who didn’t have an interaction or a debate with him on one of the sites.  Tim was smart, knew football; especially the history; and was well respected.  I liked him immediately.

He was also very caring often forwarding gofundme pages for people that were going through something.  His sense of humor was seen so often, especially in his crazy avatar’s on Facebook depicting himself as different Captains.  My favorite is still Captain Crunch and he even caused a stir with a Fidel Castro avatar.

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A few years ago when I first got back into writing, I thought I would put an emphasis on the Raiders.  They hadn’t been good for years but I took a chance that things would get better.  I started out young and had written about the Raiders for years on another site and wow, was it painful.  With record setting losing streaks, fans were over the top nasty and as the years went on, less and less fans would be involved with the team.  When I started again, I would sometimes write an article that wasn’t positive towards the Raiders, and some Raider fans would go crazy.  Even though it was based on facts, they didn’t want to hear it. Times had changed and some people wanted to hear only good things about their teams and they didn’t want much truth.  Tim did.

Even though he didn’t know me, he contacted me out of the blue when fans on one of his sites started trashing me.  One mean spirited fan with too much time on their hands even started a Twitter page that was saying all sorts of nasty things about me; and eventually Twitter banned the page and any page associated with it.

Instead of scolding me about the negativity on his page, he told me he loved my writing and asked if I would send him all my articles so he could put them on his sites.  I was reluctant and told him no.  He was really trying to grow his groups and most of the popular people on their were the cheerleader types; some minor social media bullies; and I was a bit turned off by it.  He said he understood.  He still would take some of my articles and forwarded them onto his site anyway.  Tim was persistent.

Tim and I would converse a lot online and it was fun.  I got on him a few times for being a bit too controlling on his sites.  He realized what I was saying and even if someone was way out there, he would let them talk.  It helped make his pages more fun.

If Tim had something on his mind he would try to do anything to prove he was right.  I loved battling with him.  He was the type that had to have the last word so I would mess with him by adding little words to our conversations.  He would laugh knowing what I was doing.  He said, “I love debating with you; you never take it personally and I’m the same way”.  He GOT social media and all the petty and immature grudges were not what he was about.  I liked that.

When Ken Stabler died and I wrote my semi-famous article on Ken, the two people I spoke with that night before writing it were Tim and Mike Yokum.  Mike had petitioned to get Ken in the Hall of Fame for years.  I knew how much they loved Ken and I needed to talk with people who understood what a big loss he was.  I used Mike and Tim’s quotes and takes in the article.  I soon was on various ESPN radio shows and other stations talking about Ken.  Tim and Mike’s insights helped me a lot.

There were some though that liked to take pot shots at Tim but he let it roll off his back.  Social media can show how nasty and mean some people are; especially men; and we talked about having to have a thick skin and not take it personally.  When Tim would bring up his much beloved predictions on who would get traded or cut in the near future, many would attack him.  He was right a lot though and it was fun to see his post reactions to his detractors.

He was also a huge voice during the election sparking controversy with some of his more zealous comments.  I appreciated his passion.

Tim was a great family man from West Virginia who loved his daughter and his wife immensely.  He talked about them at times in a self deprecating manner and you knew he enjoyed his family a lot.  Even his young daughter got in the act starting her own Facebook page showing her love for the Raiders as well.

I looked in my Facebook emails and saw the last time we sent emails to each other.  It was a couple of months ago where Tim had said his family needed prayer.  I sent him a prayer and he told me how much it meant to him and that he really appreciated it.

With the loss of Tim, social media/Facebook for the Oakland Raiders has a huge hole in it.  He was a prominent voice on Facebook for the Raiders and there were few groups that he didn’t have a hand in it’s success.  Personally, he was one of the reasons I didn’t take a writing job with a major company.  He encouraged me to be honest and to keep telling the truth and that I had freedom where others didn’t.  He was also the first person on the fan sites that supported me.  I’ll never forget that.

It’s going to be hard to get up in the morning now and not see Tim’s meme’s or his posts talking about the Raiders.  He was a positive and supportive person online and would help anyone that was going through a hard time.  I’ll miss him; a lot.

I don’t ask much of anyone but his family is dealing with unbearable pain and tragedy. Think of losing a spouse or a dad, and then losing your home and everything you owned. It’s just too much to handle alone.  I know that the best tribute to him would be for Tim to know that the very fans and team that he loved and supported and put so much into, are the very ones that support his wife and daughter during such a painful time.

I’m again leaving a page of support for Tim’s family and even if its just $5 or $10, let’s show Tim that even with his tragic death, he is not forgotten.  For the price of a Starbucks coffee or a pizza, you can show the same passion that Tim showed to Raider and NFL fans all over.  Thank you so much.

https://www.gofundme.com/karen-casto

This loss hurt’s deep and he is already missed.  Thank you Tim for all you did for so many and for sharing yourself with all of us.  Tim proved that you don’t have to be famous to be great.  He was a good man and in today’s world we need more Tim Casto’s.

“Will The Raiders Win the AFC West? A 2nd Half Breakdown of All 4 Teams”

 

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Who will win the AFC West?  Let’s look ahead to the rest of the season and see what may be in store for all of the teams.

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Oakland Raiders:

In the history of social media, there has NEVER been a tweet or Facebook post about the Raiders being in a playoff game. Let that sink in. In their glory days, for 25 years the Raiders were the winningest team of any Pro Sports team in the U.S. For the last couple of decades, they’ve been the worst. In their glory years, the Cowboys and the Raiders for almost 3 decades were the two most popular teams on tv ratings. Love them or hate them, it’s good that they are back.

The Cowboys Dak Prescott and Oakland’s Derek Carr are having great years.   They also are behind the 2 best offensive lines in the NFL. NOT a coincidence. Carr is the best protected QB in the NFL this year and that is important to his success.

The Raiders are now #4 in the NFL in rushing yards and #3 in passing yards.   Even though their skilled position players get most of the credit, their OL has been as dominating as any in the game this year and it’s the heart and soul of this team.

On defense it’s another matter. They struggle against good teams and occasionally look good against bad ones. The Raiders are 28th in sacks, 30th against the pass and 27th against the run.   And that is after a good performance against a bad Denver offense.

The Raiders have only played 3 teams with winning records; all at home; and are 1-2. They have not played a team who presently has a winning record on the road.

The Raiders schedule is interesting. They struggle against teams that can score points and they really don’t play a lot of good offenses the rest of the way. They still have a game in Denver, in KC and @ San Diego.   Outside of that they have Houston, Carolina and Buffalo. These are all good match-ups for them because those teams don’t have great offenses.   Even with their bad OL, the Colts will be a tough game because they can score.

Right now the Raiders have the upper hand in the AFC West and barring injuries to their OL; and even with a limited defense; they still should be considered favorites to win the division. This is not a Super Bowl defense in any way and offense may make headlines and put butts in the seats but defense wins championships.  Remember this is the salary cap era so every team has some sort of issue or weakness, but for now, the West comes through Oakland.

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Denver Broncos:

The Broncos are fading fast due to injuries and a poor offensive scheme.

On offense I really like their 2 young running backs. Rookie Devontae Booker hasn’t had much of a chance to run the ball but he has a lot of potential. Kapri Bibbs showed his playmaking ability on a 68 yard pass and catch late against the Raiders. On defense they still have an excellent pass rush but now they can’t stop the run. The  other problem on offense is head coach and play caller Gary Kubiak.

The Denver media; which is fairly soft; has been griping about him for 2 weeks.   They have brought up great points.  In the first 15 plays against the Raiders, Denver threw 13 times. In the last 5 games Denver has thrown almost 70% of the time in their first 15 plays.   Denver is 2-3 in those games.   With Siemian as a starter, Denver throws 72% of the time. That’s not Denver football.

Siemian is limited; he throws a nice deep ball but he needs protection; and lot’s of it. The offensive line at Denver has been inconsistent protecting the QB. He does not feel a rush at all and struggles under pressure as was seen with a loss at San Diego and again in Oakland.

Denver needs to go back to the ground and pound with young RB’s that are hungry. Both have mildly complained about their lack of touches in the running game. Kubiak is a borderline arrogant guy though when it comes to coaching and he can be stubborn. Analyst Cris Collinsworth brought up what I said last year. Why don’t they double team Kahlil Mack more? Last year in Mack’s epic game in Denver, they would not help out their tackles and Mack went off. Their tackles are not that great and it took until late in the game last Sunday for them to finally start helping out on him.

When asked about Siemian after the Raiders game, Kubiak said he was still making plays so there is no problem with the QB position. Now Paxton Lynch might not be the answer but if Denver throws 70% of the time for the rest of the year, they are toast.   Kubiak acted this way in Houston when Matt Schaub started to tank. Instead of using Arian Foster & Ben Tate with his run game to help him, he threw even more.

The Denver defense is now 30th against the run and can’t stop anybody.  The offensive line has also struggled. There may be changes there soon. Even so the Broncos have to go back to being a running team and take their chances. Their LB’s are no longer a strength of the team with changes there this year. Injuries have just killed the Broncos. Aqib Talib and Kayvon Webster are still hurting and Brandon Marshall is hobbling badly.   DL Derek Wolfe’s injury is not as bad as first thought but he is another one on the mend. And those are just the bigger names on the list.

The rest of their schedule is rough. Their last 3 games are at home against New England, on the road to KC and back home to play the Raiders.  Before that they also have to play the Chiefs in Denver. Denver has a great home field advantage so they will need to use that to keep in the playoff hunt. Get healthy and run the ball should be their mantra.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs:

The Chiefs are a classic Andy Reid team. They are tough, disciplined and they find ways to win. If you watch their games and look at the stat sheet, you wonder how they can be 6-2. They are 22nd in rushing and 25th in passing offense. Their offense doesn’t scare anyone. On defense they are ranked 13th against the pass and 25th against the run. Their once feared pass rush with Justin Houston and Tamba Hali is now 21st in sacks. Houston is set to return this week or next and 33 year old Hali’s days are numbered as he has no cartilage in one knee and tries to play in a specialist pass rushing position. Pass rushing project Dee Ford has shown glimpses of great play and has come on of late, as has DB Steven Nelson who made the game winning defensive play against Jacksonville last week.

KC has had so many injuries; Charles, Maclin, Ware, Houston, Hali; a who’s who if you are a Chiefs fan.

The AFC West has pretty easy schedules this year and KC has played only 2 teams with winning records and are 1-1, and that obviously has helped them.

ESPN seemed to fall in love with the Chiefs last week but slow your roll.   The Chiefs have a brutal second half schedule that includes 2 games with Denver, a rematch with Oakland, and road games with San Diego, Carolina and Atlanta. They STILL might make the playoffs though because most of the AFC outside of the West is awful. Their second half schedule will greatly test them and may expose them.

I’ve never been an Alex Smith guy. He’s the Ichabod Crane of the NFL. He and Andy Reid play not to lose with their extremely conservative passing game and you can’t win big with 1-3 yard check down passes. They may make the playoffs but they are not going far.   What they will be though is hard playing and competitive. They have owned the Raiders this decade, and play Denver well so you can’t sleep on KC.   Their home field on a cold winter day is not the place to be if you are an opposing team.

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San Diego Chargers:

You have to give it up for the Chargers. With all of the turmoil surrounding their possible move, the terrible season ending injury to star WR Keenan Allen, and the drama with first round draft choice Joey Bosa, the worst was expected in San Diego. A funny thing happened. Bosa has been a breath of fresh air and has greatly helped the defensive line and pass rush and RB Melvin Gordon has had a great year behind an improved offensive line. If they don’t implode late against KC and go into a coma in the 4th in Oakland, their season could be much different. Their win in Atlanta was impressive and was not a fluke. They earned it.

Their schedule has been the hardest in the AFC West by far. They are 2-3 against teams with winning records. They split with Denver so they just have the Raiders and KC at home along with Houston on the road as their toughest remaining games. The AFC only has 5 teams with winning records and 3 are in the AFC West.   Watch out for the Chargers.   Stranger things have happened and a playoff push may not seem eminent but they could make some noise.  Their slow start really hurt them.

Philip Rivers is a good QB but just like Alex Smith I just don’t think either will win anything significant in their NFL careers. In Rivers San Diego career, the Chargers so often fall short in the second half of games, especially in the fourth quarter. They always seem to do just enough to lose.   Sometimes it’s not all Rivers fault but he’s the captain of the ship. A very good QB with great stats who never will win anything who I personally think gets a little too much love. Gordon and Bosa though could be great building blocks for the near future.  Add a healthy Keenan Allen and next year looks much brighter in San Diego.

If you sleep on these guys, they can beat you. I don’t think they make the playoffs but they could hurt someone else’s chances if they are taken lightly. They are intriguing.

Jims Jamz:

The NFL has what they want.  No more great teams; lots of average to good teams who all have a weakness.  Odds now show Seattle to be the #2 choice to win the Super Bowl and they have a bad offensive line that struggles in protection and at times running the ball.  Parity and average teams to keep all fans interested is what they want and they got it.  Everyone has issues, and what that means is that it is a toss up on who will get to the post season and who will win it all.  Most everyone has a shot if they get hot.

Can the Raiders offensive line stay healthy and will their defense hold up?   Can the Broncos stop supplying bodies for their medical staff? Will Head Coach Gary Kubiak forget about Siemian’s stats in the Cincinnati game and actually start running the ball again? Can the Chargers play 4 quarters of good football and come through in the second half of games? Can the KC Chiefs get healthy and their pass rush be restored with the return of Justin Houston? And will Alex Smith ever get over his deepballaphobia and throw the ball downfield in big games?

These are all questions that will be answered in the second half of the season. Right now the Raiders look like the odds on favorite but this is the NFL and things could change quickly.  Its’ not the good ol’ days when the AFC West dominated in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, but for now it will definitely do.

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

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

 

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

Denver Broncos  20 (6-3)

Oakland Raiders  30 (7-2)

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

Overview:

The offensive line flat out dominated this game.

Quarterback:

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

GRADE: B

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

Running Backs:

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

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

Grade A

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

Offensive Line:

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

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

Grade A+

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

andre-holmes-broncos-raiders

Wide Receivers:

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

GRADE: B

A solid game.

Defensive Line:

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

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

Grade: A

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

Linebackers:

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

Grade B+

Overall solid game.

Defensive Backs:

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

Grade B+  

This was one of their better games.

Coaching:

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

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

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

Grade B+

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

Special Teams:

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

Grade B+

A solid game other than the blip from Janikowski.

Conclusion:

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

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

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

Outlook:

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