Why the Oakland Raiders will win the West
Bret Armstrong – Nov 8, 2011While the Raiders were busy blowing a ten point lead against the Denver Broncos Sunday, the San Diego Chargers were busy trying to outscore the Green Bay Packers just a bit further South. Both teams ended up losing their respective battles.
Meanwhile, the division leading Kansas City Chiefs had already lost their game against the Miami Dolphins earlier in the afternoon.
Following a Raiders loss, the general ebb and flow of things is for Head Coach Hue Jackson to lay the blame at his own feet. At times this is fitting, because it makes him respected by his players. Other times, as exemplified by this past week, it is time for the players to be accountable.
For Jackson to say that he is "Obviously disappointed" is an understatement when you lose by two touchdowns to an opponent that you should beat at your own complex.
So Jackson threw the players under the bus -- to an extent -- for the first time this season. He said the penalties his team committed were stupid. Stupid penalties that they cannot make if they intend to win football games.
Not only did Jackson throw the team out there to lick their own wounds headed into San Diego, but defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan also put an emphasis on players taking responsibility for their actions when he spoke in his media session this week.
It's certainly time for the Raiders as individuals to take this things personally. Following two straight losses at home to divisional opponents, it is time to see if they are mice or men. Being that they are 2-3 at home this season, they must make if up by winning mainly on the road in the second half of their season.
Over the past two games, the Raiders have nine interceptions and 29 penalties to be accountable for. When you lose the penalty battle and you lose the turnover battle, you lose the game period. They have to stop the bleeding now for the sake of not making their fans -- or themselves for that matter -- suffer through yet another long season.
It starts this week in San Diego. I predicted earlier this season that the Raiders would win two games in a row before they lost two games in a row. That prediction came after they lost at home to the New England Patriots and were going out on the road to face the Houston Texans. The prediction held true as they beat the Texans and followed it up with a win against the Cleveland Browns.
Now, alongside the players, I'll throw myself under the bus once again and say that this team is resilient enough to win three games in a row before they lose three games in a row. That prediction starts this week in San Diego against the Chargers.
They will then go to Minnesota and beat the Vikings and come back home and beat the Bears in front of their sixth consecutive sellout crowd.
And while I'm on the fast track to predicting future outcomes, I'm going to say that they will win the AFC West as well. This may be another year that the best team in the West heads into the postseason with an 8-8 record. But, I predict that the Raiders will do better.
They will win 5-6 of their last eight games with the only sure losses coming against the Green Bay Packers on the road and the San Diego Chargers in the rematch in week 17. The up in the air games that will determine whether they get nine or ten wins this year is going to be against the Detroit Lions at the O.co.
The reason why I'm so confident is because Carson Palmer's feet are officially wet now.The team understands what is happening and that last game was the point where they will make their final adjustments in the new process going forward.
"We're not down in the dumps, we have a good focus," said Palmer in the post-game press conference. "We have a good understanding of whatâ€™s going down around us and whatâ€™s ahead of us. This is a big bump in the road, but weâ€™ll get over it and weâ€™ll get focused and get ready to go down to San Diego.â€
The important thing to remember in all of this is that Palmer may not be new to the league, but he is new to the team. Offensive coordinator, Al Saunders, said that Palmer's progression in this offense is moving at the speed of light and each day he comes out for practice he is surprising people with how much better he understands this offense.
But the most impressive statement of the week came from Hue Jackson who said, "Iâ€™m very excited about the potential of where weâ€™re headed. As long as we can execute at a high level, all of the pieces will start to fit. Guys will start back to making plays; guys will get opportunities with the ball.
"But when itâ€™s the first shot out, and all of a sudden that guy doesnâ€™t get it, everybody wants to start saying, â€˜Oh, what happened to this guy.â€™ Nothingâ€™s happened â€“ those guys are still there and as Iâ€™ve always told you, Iâ€™ll continue to build an offense around our best guys. This is a process and weâ€™re in game number one of a new process. I can see very clearly whatâ€™s there to work with, I know how to do it to be successful, to move the football. And then you keep growing from there."
Leave it to Coach Jackson to say the right thing when his team is down and being kicked. Essentially, this was week one of a new...and expidited...process. Believe me, nobody wants Jason Campbell to be out there under center more than Hue Jackson does. But like they say, you can't always get what you want.
With the way Palmer has shown flashes in the pan, you can bet this offense will start clicking shortly.It's not going to sputter and spit forever. Count the second half of the Chiefs game and the game against the Broncos as Palmer's preseason.
As far as the defense goes, it starts with stopping the stupid penalties and ends with a committment to contending against the ground game.
Of course it's going to help when the offense can keep possession of the ball longer than their opponents. I'm looking forward to watching the Raiders right this 0-2 record without Campbell this Thursday in primetime with the world watching. For those of you that aren't fair weather fans, I'm sure this game can't come soon enough for you either.
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