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“Most Experts Predict Doom & Gloom in Buffalo; Looking in Depth at the Better than Advertised Buffalo Bills of 2018-19”

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Buffalo Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott

After the last Super Bowl, I made a decision to write more on a national level.  Even though I knew something on every team, I realized I had to have in depth knowledge on all of them so I’ve spent the last 6 months analyzing each team.

As many of my new followers are finding out, I think for myself. I’m not a homer and I just don’t go by what others say. I actually try to do research and base my decisions on facts and not hope or any biases I may have. It doesn’t matter if I like or dislike the player or the team; I tell it like it is. In today’s sports world that is rare, and at times not very popular but that’s why people follow me. Be entertaining, be right, and be honest I say.

First off I love history and I LOVE the AFL.   It was before my time but I’m fascinated by it and Buffalo was definitely a part of those AFL days.  They’ve also put their stamp on the modern game as well.  From Jack Kemp to Joe Ferguson to Joe DeLamielleure to Jim Kelly, the Bills have an amazing tradition.   John Madden says to this day if an old AFL team gets into the Super Bowl, surviving members of the AFL will often call them before the game to wish them luck. It still matters.

Even though a dreaded ex is from upstate NY, I’ve learned to really appreciate the people there. Resilient and hearty and they love their football. When it comes to the NFL it’s hard to find better fans.   With some of the worst weather in the country, to be a football fan in Buffalo means to be there through wind, rain or snow.   I’ve forgiven Scott Norwood but boy I wish they would have won one of those Super Bowls.

When I began looking into the Buffalo Bills 2018-19 season a few months ago, it was amazing for me to see how so many national publications and writers had them doing so badly in 2018. Sports Illustrated was the harshest. They eventually had the Bills going 2-14 and getting the #1 pick for next years draft after being the worst team in the NFL. I read other national publications and they didn’t have much better of a tale. Even biased Bills fans that were writers were not very happy with their prospects.   I decided to again, look into the Bills of 2018-19 to see if I had missed something because I never thought they were that bad. Let’s take a look at their position players and see if we can figure out if they are as bad as the experts say and if I dropped the ball on this one.

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“Loyal Bill’s Fan’s Enjoying The Game”

 

How to Prognosticate a Teams Season:

The problem with 90% of prognosticators in my opinion is that they only look at how good the team is. I think it’s more complicated than that. I think you evaluate an upcoming season by 3 things; how good is the team, how tough is their schedule, and how tough is their division. Take the Raiders for instance. Two years ago they had the second easiest schedule in the NFL and went 12-4. They won a lot of close games against a lot of bad teams. Last year they had the second hardest schedule and went 6-10.   Let’s face it, if you have a bad game it’s a lot easier to beat the Cleveland Browns than the Eagles or Patriots.   Now lets look at these 3 things in regards to the Bills.

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Quarterback:

The Bills signed free agent AJ McCarron.   Most feel he’s a stopgap for the Bills and I agree. I see him more as a backup than a starter but he will do in a pinch. I never thought Nathan Peterman was much of a prospect to start in the NFL, but wow I still remember his game at Death Valley when Pittsburgh beat Clemson for their only loss of the year. Tyrod Taylor was never the answer in my mind and the Bills agreed, but is Josh Allen?

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The Buffalo Bills #1 draft pick Josh Allen

There are two camps for Josh Allen; those that think he will do well, and those that think he has bust written all over him.   I personally think he was a horrible pick but time will tell. In his last year at Wyoming he was average at best. Three times he threw for under 92 yards in a game and only once did he throw for over 234 yards and that was against Gardner-Webb University. I just don’t get how a QB can be average in a smaller college conference and then all of a sudden be a world beater in the NFL.   Again, time will tell who is right.  He has a powerful arm and that can’t be debated, but accuracy and reading defenses will be his challenge.

ESPN did a great article showing just how bad the NFL experts and teams had become in drafting players and the position they drafted the worst was quarterback. If you are tall and have a big arm, it seems that you are an NFL QB prospect.

http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/23039883/history-tells-us-nfl-terrible-evaluating-quarterbacks-means-2018-draft-prospects

I still remember years ago being kicked off of a large Oakland Raiders website for pointing out how newly drafted Jamarcus Russell was going to be a big bust because he struggled so badly against pro style defenses in the SEC. Three years later that site apologized to me and asked me to come back (always follow people that are right most of the time). That being said I think McCarron handles the QB position for at least part of the year if not most of it.  Injuries do happen though and I’m sure Allen will play some this year.

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LeSean McCoy

Running Back:

In the last 3 years, Buffalo’s running backs have lead the entire NFL with 4.6 yards per carry. New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will have to rely on LeSean McCoy to man this offense like he did last year. McCoy is still one of the best in the league. A very underrated signing that Bills writers need to talk more about is the signing of veteran Chris Ivory. He’s a physical runner who makes plays and is a great backup for McCoy.

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Kelvin Benjamin

Wide Receiver:

If Kelvin Benjamin is your third option you have a nice array of WR’s but when he’s the #1 option, you may have problems. The wildcard is Zay Jones who has been a huge disappointment so far and had a bizarre domestic issue to deal with. Tight Ends Charles Clay and Nick O’Leary will definitely get their targets with a very average group of veteran WR’s in the fold.

Offensive Line:

Here is where most experts say the Bills are in trouble. Some feel versatile Ryan Groy will take over at center if newly signed Russell Bodine doesn’t work out.   Bodine didn’t exactly wow the NFL starting for the Bengals. After guard John Miller struggled and was benched, Vlad Ducasse took over at right guard for the rest of the season and played fairly well, but in the spring he’s been at mostly left guard. If Groy goes to center, Ducasse will be a key player at the guard position.   Rookie Dion Dawkins played well at left tackle last year. There are still questions on who plays where and the pre season will clear that up.

NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
Shaq Lawson with a sack against the Patriots

Defensive Line:

Now let’s look at the bright spots of the Bills and it starts with the DL. The Bills way overpaid for DL Star Lotulelei, but he’s good against the run and that was a weakness last year for the Bills. Harrison Phillips out of Stanford was a sleeper pick in the third round. As with most Cardinals, he is well coached, physical and makes plays. He’s not much of a pass rusher but he’s excellent stopping the run.  I love this pick and with he and Star in the game, running against Buffalo probably just got a lot tougher.  Bill’s fans will love Phillips personality as well. He was a fan favorite at Stanford.

Kyle Williams has lost a step but he’s still an excellent player. Trent Murphy has to get healthy but he can help if and when he gets on the field.   Shaq Lawson is the key. The hopes are for him to have a breakout season to help the pass rush and I like him to improve his numbers.

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Bills LB Tremaine Edmunds

Linebacker:

Buffalo traded up for Tremaine Edmunds and head coach Sean McDermott has handed the keys of the defense over to the 20 year old.   Edmunds was an uber athlete at Virginia Tech with an amazing football IQ. As a kid he actually began breaking down film with his father, ex NFL tight-end Ferrell Edmunds. The Bills hope he will be a mainstay at MLB for years to come. Matt Milano was a pleasant surprise and he will man the left side spot and hope to continue to improve. The right side will be wide open for competition with 34-year-old Lorenzo Alexander hoping to start.

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Tre’Davious White intercepts a pass against Kansas City

Defensive Backs:

The Bills have excellent versatility with safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer leading the way. They are good in coverage and against the run.   Tre’Davious White had a great rookie year and he can only get better. Vontae Davis was signed in the off-season and is recovering from groin surgery which sidelined him for much of last year. With the depth of the Bills DB’s, this will be one of the best groups in the NFL if Davis can regain form.

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Overview:

I like their coaching staff, and if they can stop the run and put consistent pressure on the QB, this could be a really good defense. There are a lot of holes in their offense and that is going to be an issue off and on all year.

Schedule & Division:

Now the bad news. The first 8 games of the Bills schedule are brutal. They will have road games with Baltimore, Green Bay, Minnesota, and Houston, and then have home games with New England, San Diego and Tennessee. If some how and some way the Bills can go 3-5 or 4-4, they could get into the playoffs.   In the final 8 games, they have very winnable contests playing the Jets and Dolphins twice each, and hosting the Bears and the Lions. They will also host Jacksonville and play at New England.

https://www.buffalobills.com/schedule/

The AFC East scares no one outside of New England and even they are not the same team they once were. The Patriots should win the division but the Bills could sneak into the playoffs with some breaks and a huge year by their offense. These are all big ifs. If Tom Brady gets hurt or breaks down at 41 years old, this division is very wide open.

Prediction:

At 9-7 last year, the Bills snapped a 17-year playoff drought but it wasn’t as magical as some are laying it out to be. The AFC last year was not very good and it took a miracle 50-yard TD pass by Bengals QB Andy Dalton on 4th and 12 with 49 seconds to go in Baltimore for the Bills to get in.

That being said I see a 7-9 season.   I think if McCarron plays over his head and they get some momentum in the first half of the season, a miracle playoff journey could happen with a 9-7 record. Worst-case scenario is they tank in the first 6 games and struggle the rest of the way and go 5-11.  With this defense I doubt that happens.  The Bills are also one of those teams that always seem to have their share of injuries and bad luck so it could get ugly fast if they don’t stay healthy.

That first half schedule though is a killer and you will know what kind of season the Bills will have after week 6. Next year the Josh Allen show will start and you will see what the near future will hold. It won’t be pretty but the Bill’s hope to shock all the experts and grind out as many wins as possible in 2018-19 in the hopes for another taste at the post season.  Everyone in the AFC has some sort of issue so there is much hope in Buffalo.  This is the NFL kids and even though it may look like a pipe dream, crazier things have happened.

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“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.

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 the country.  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 largest 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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Tim with his daughter Rhianna

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 and attack me viciously.  Even though I was right most of the time, fans had changed and honesty and truth was out of vogue.  It was now about cheerleading and butterflies and puppy dog tails.  When some fans tried to ban me, Tim defended me to the nines.  I’ll never forget that.

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 all 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 started to copy and paste some links to 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 know we like each other and 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 words 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; mostly men; and we talked about having to have a thick skin and not taking things 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.

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.  This one hurts deep and I’ll miss him; a lot.  He reminds me of a lot of the blue collar Raider fans.  Kind and caring but a little gruff on the outside.

Thank you Tim for all you did for so many and for sharing yourself with all of us.  Tim proved that you didn’t have to be famous to be great.  He was a good man and in today’s world we need more Tim Casto’s.

“GRADES: Raiders Brought Back Down to Earth v.s. Chiefs. Looking Ahead To Jacksonville”

 

Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Final Oakland Raider Grades v.s. Kansas City Chiefs; Week 6:

Kansas City Chiefs  26 (3-2)

Oakland Raiders  10 (4-2)

In a game where the Raiders could have taken sole possession of first place in the AFC West, the Raiders were brought back down to earth by the Kansas City Chiefs. For old school Raider fans the Chiefs are the big rival and this one hurts. The Raiders are now the only AFC West team that has scored less points than they’ve given up. Andy Reid is now 16-2 after a bye and Alex Smith is now 8-1 in his games with the Raiders. The Raiders had 286 total offensive yards. Ugly numbers for sure.

Overview:

There are some in the local media that said the Raiders were beginning to read their own press clippings and they may have been right. After the Denver loss to San Diego, social media was filled with Raider fans saying their time was now. Then the Chiefs happened.

Quarterback:

After the first drive, the Raiders could do nothing on offense. They had all the momentum and Carr tried to throw a deep pass off his back foot for an easy interception which changed the game early. Coach Jack Del Rio said it was an ill-advised throw. Carr got away with two other very poor throws that should have been easy interceptions but were dropped by Kansas City. In the fourth quarter Carr’s fumble sealed the game. He fumbled earlier but recovered it. He was off all game and it was a really bad day.

GRADE: D-

I do look for him next week to bounce back and there should be no worries but wow did Carr stink.  The Chiefs had the 31st ranked pass rush and blitzed to get to Carr but even then only put occasional pressure on him. When he is struggling he has to look to tight ends but he seems to rely very heavily on WR.

Running Backs:

The Chiefs were doing their best to stop the Raiders running game and they did for the most part.   The Raiders ran the ball 14 times all game for 57 yards. DeAndre Washington had some nice runs but overall it was nothing special.

Grade D

The Chiefs LB’s did a nice job in coverage and it’s obvious they did a lot over the bye week to help their run defense. The Raiders RB were not much of a factor but they also didn’t get much of a chance with so few runs.  And please stop with the Latavius Murray would have made a huge difference stuff.

Offensive Line:

The Chiefs were doing their best to stop the run and they blitzed a lot as well. The OL didn’t have a bad game but it wasn’t their normal dominating game. Carr was rushed on occasion and it definitely bothered him. Kansas City filled the box to stop the run and the Raiders never seemed to get going. The Raiders will not go as far as Carr takes them; they will go as far as the OL takes them.  Last year in the 4th quarter, KC blitzed on EVERY play and they blitzed often in this game as well.

Grade D+

They still played fairly well but Carr did get hit more than they’d like and the run game never got going.  The OL has been stellar this year so they should bounce back.

Wide Receivers:

Kansas City had a game plan to stop the run and take away the medium passes to Crabtree. No problem; the Raiders then wen’t to Cooper and he was on fire. His first half was a top 10 performance so far for the NFL year. In the second half, the adjustments included safety help against Cooper and playing more physical press coverage. The Raiders in the second half were awful and the wide receivers struggled. Cooper caught one pass after half time.  In game adjustments continue to be an issue for the Raiders offense at times.

GRADE: D+

Cooper had an epic half and Andre Holmes great catch in the red zone in the pouring rain lit up the crowd early. With the adjustments at half and Carr struggling the Raiders did little after half time.  Lack of in game adjustments are not a new thing to this offense.

Defensive Line:

The Raiders are now ranked 32nd against the pass and 30th against the run (yds/game) and as I said after week one, this is NOT a good defense. The Raiders are 28th in the NFL with only 8 sacks in 6 games. This pass rush and defense scares no one.

Other than a few occasions, the Raiders could not get to Alex Smith. The Raiders also struggled against the run. The DL just isn’t cutting it right now which was a huge fear of mine at the start of the year. Kahlil Mack did get a sack.

Grade: D-

The Raiders DL just isn’t getting it done.

Linebackers:

Another long day for this group. They struggled against the run and were atrocious covering the pass when they had to. Mack was in pass coverage for a few passes and he was beaten twice. The Chiefs ran for 5 yards a carry for 184 yards if you take out Alex Smith’s numbers. Ouch.  Bruce Irvin’s tackling was awful today as he whiffed on two long runs including the 30 yard run by Ware.

Grade D-

The Raiders need a physical middle LB thumper that can play on 1st and 2nd downs and stop the run.   They don’t have one. Ben Heeney isn’t playing so he can’t get any of the blame from fans so I’m sure Norton will get it all.  While he may not be a great DC, this defense stinks.  It’s not like the Raiders are playing the Patriots, Steelers or Cowboys either.

They have a group of finesse speed players and they can’t stop the run. Cory James was a late round draft choice and isn’t the answer right now.

Defensive Backs:

Alex Smith would rather eat dirty glass than throw to a WR so there really wasn’t much long passing.  Amerson did get burned again for a long pass.  Teams seem to realize on outs and medium patterns, Amerson is pretty good.  But on the deep ball he struggles.

Smith was an amazing 19 for 22 in the passing game and the defense couldn’t keep them off the field. Safety Karl Joseph is more a run stopper right now than a coverage guy but I like him a lot and his coverage will hopefully improve with experience.  Reggie Nelson seems to take some awful strange angles when he helps CB’s on long pass plays.

Grade C  

The Chiefs don’t throw much to WR so it wasn’t a busy day for this group.

Coaching:

KNBR Radio host and Warriors announcer Bob Fitzgerald went on a 5 minute rant about how ridiculous it is for fans to blame coaches when their teams lose.  With so many ex jocks now announcing, it’s near impossible for analysts to be critical about players; especially popular stars. The players on the defense aren’t getting the job done and they aren’t good enough.   You can only blame the coaches so much.

The Patriots coaching staff didn’t all of a sudden stink when they were shut out at home by Buffalo.  Playing a 3rd string QB instead of Tom Brady was the cause of that.  Carolina coaches weren’t geniuses last year and now are they the 3 stooges?  No; they’ve had departures and injuries in the secondary and their DL is playing terribly.

I’m sorry but I get bored sometimes with the Raiders offense. They should be putting up 30 and 40 points a game. The TE should get 5-10 throws a game.  The Raiders TE had 4 targets with 3 being caught for 41 yards.

Grade D

The defense isn’t good.   As a coach what can you do. The Raiders blitzed more, and put Joseph up in the box to help with the run; and it didn’t help.  The DL and the LB’s have been awful.  As I’ve said a million times if I’m starting a team I get a QB first, and then a DL, OL and LB’s in that order.

Even with Andy Reid’s ridiculous red zone play calling, Kansas City beat Oakland in every facet of the game.

Special Teams:

Janikowski missed another FG but again, how do you get mad at a long FG miss. Marquette King was ok but didn’t have one of his better games.   He had a bad punt that rolled about 20 yards that helped. Jalen Richard has shored up the return game and looks great and TJ Carrie hasn’t been bad in the punt return game. The coverage team gave up two long returns; one for 50 yards on a punt and one for 30 yards on a kick off.

Grade C

The special teams have been good this year but today wasn’t one of those games.

Conclusion:

The Raiders laid a big fat egg. This was by far the worst game of the year for Oakland. There are few really good teams in the NFL this year so redemption can be a week away.   This was a great disappointment to fans and the team and to do it at home was humbling.

On to Jacksonville:

Jacksonville comes off a 17-16 loss against a bad Chicago team in the windy city. They fall to 2-3. The Jaguars aren’t a bad team on defense but their offense is rough.   They are 14th against the run and 8th against the pass. On offense they are one dimensional and are 15th in passing but have no running game and are ranked 31st. They are 21st in points per game on offense.  QB Blake Bortles already has 7 interceptions on the year and has struggled off and on after playing fairly well against Green Bay in the opener.  With the Raiders probably being able to stop the run and the Jags usually being behind in game, look for a better pass rush in this game.

Outlook:

The Raiders travel is tough but the teams they are playing aren’t the elite by any means. Jacksonville is just what the doctor ordered and it’s hard seeing the Raiders lose to the Jags but this is the NFL; nothing is for sure. The Raiders offense is going to have to carry this team so there will be lots of ups and downs all season. Some fans overreact to every game; bad or good; but seasoned fans and the Raiders know this is a marathon and they can’t get caught up in hype or expectations or the extreme negativity social media brings when they lose.  Even with their limitations, with this schedule I think the Raiders can go 10-6, but as we all know nothing can be taken for granted in the salary cap era of the NFL.

 

“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.