2012 Oakland Raiders: Over-Looked and Under-Estimated
John Doublin – Jul 16, 2012
As the 2012 NFL Regular Season approaches, the "hater-train" is running at full speed as the Oakland Raiders are once again being marginalized, demonized, ostracized and victimized by both the mainstream media and fans of other teams.
While San Francisco 49ers' fans are sending death threats to one of their own players, (wide receiver, Kyle Williams) Denver Broncos' players are tampering with drug tests, (D.J. Williams) and being arrested for aggravated assault, (Elvis Dumerville) and six Detroit Lions' are spending more time in front of Michigan judges than they do in the weight room, Raiders' players are quiet and focused on the upcoming season.
While it's true that Rolando McClain and Darrius Heyward-Bey have had run-ins with the law, in general, a new feeling of team chemistry and a "buying-in" of the new coaching staff's philosophies has permeated the team—but only Raider fans have seemed to notice.
You don't see videos on ESPN or NFL Network about the Raiders, except when they're obligated to cover them in their 32 team preview or when something major happens, like the recent signing of Tyvon Branch. In fact, when discussing the Raiders in their, 32 in 32 segment of NFL Total Access, NFL Network spent less time on the Raiders than any other team. To make matters worse, they chose just one person to discuss them—long-time, well-documented Raider hater, Jamie Dukes.
Where were the impartial guys like Marshall Faulk or Mike Mayock? What about the Raider supporters like Matt Millen and Solomon Wilcotts? The network brought these men in to discuss the other teams—EVERY other team, why not Oakland?
Even the "Blogosphere" has been unusually harsh on the Raiders. Predictions of the team's upcoming season range from 2-14 to no better than 6-10. Only on the sites devoted to the Raiders do you find predictions of a winning record for the Raiders. Some of them are more realistic than others, but the fact remains that only the Raider Nation feels the team from the East Bay will be any good at all.
The only constant you hear from mainstream media is how bad the Raiders will be, how untalented they are and how hard it's going to be to implement a new system.
With Peyton Manning now in the division, nearly every "expert" has jumped aboard the Broncos' band wagon and are picking them to win the division, in some cases, even the Super Bowl. They cite the fact that if the Broncos can win the division and a playoff game with Tim Tebow at the helm, Manning will make them world beaters. Those same experts insist that Phillip Rivers' horrible season in 2011 was just a fluke and that he and the Chargers will bounce back.
Really? Based on what, exactly? How about putting the conjecture and personal feelings aside and just sticking to some facts and statistical trends.
FACT: Part of what made the Broncos so successful with Tebow was their ability to run the ball with the quarterback. The Broncos gave up 42 sacks in 2011, but how many more did Tebow escape with his athleticism? Are fans supposed to believe that the immobile and recently-repaired Manning is going to have the same success in this area?
FACT: The Raiders offensive line surrendered just 25 sacks in 2011. The front five of Oakland was ranked 4th overall in the league by ProFootballFocus.com, which uses passing and rushing stats to formulate a statistic-based ranking for each team's offensive line production.
FACT: The Broncos were the top ranked rushing team in 2011 with 2,632 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, 660 of those yards and six of those touchdowns are in New York with Tebow now. Take the yards and touchdowns provided by Tebow away and the Broncos find themselves at 1,972 yards with only 5 rushing touchdowns. This would rank them 12th in rushing yards and 30th in rushing touchdowns.
An old NFL cliché suggests that, "winning starts up front." Considering the Broncos have added ONE offensive lineman in the draft and free agency, (4th round center, Phillip Blake) does anyone really think the Broncos are improved enough up front to protect the now ultra-fragile Manning adequately?
FACT: Phillip Rivers had one of his worst seasons as a professional. He threw 27 touchdowns and a career high 20 interceptions. Carson Palmer threw only 13 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. On face value, one would make the conclusion that Rivers was the better player, but there's more to the story.
FACT: Philip Rivers had five years under the same head coach and in the same system. He also had the same No. 1 wide receiver in Vincent Jackson and the same No. 1 tight end in Antonio Gates. The Chargers supported Rivers with the 13th ranked defense. Another thing Rivers had that Palmer did not was an entire offseason and training camp to work himself into playing shape.
FACT: Until Jason Campbell went down with his broken collar bone, Carson Palmer was sitting on his couch eating Doritos and playing catch with his old friend T.J. Houshmandzadeh. He was thrown into the Week-7 game against the Chiefs knowing only 15 plays, having less than one week of practice with his new teammates and coaches and being "supported" by the 29th ranked defense in the league. Palmer went on to improve each week the rest of the season, including out-dueling Rivers in the Week-10 win over the Chargers.
If the "experts" can assume, (based solely on their gut feelings) that Rivers will bounce back from his bad season, why can't they make the same assumption about Palmer? 2012 will mark the first full off-season Palmer has had with his teammates, and the first time he'll step on the field with the Raiders in actual game-shape. It seems logical to conclude that Palmer can "bounce back" just as well, or better than Rivers can.
In Closing: This article has not even scratched the surface of why the Raiders will be better than most "experts" are suggesting. The fact that the Broncos have done nothing to improve their run defense, the Chargers have lost a lot of weapons and the Raiders have improved at every position of the team—including the coaching staff—are topics that didn't get discussed.
The Kansas City Chiefs weren't discussed at all. While this writer believes the Chiefs will be the Raiders' toughest competition in the division, they will not be nearly as good as the "experts" are making them out to be. They have holes in the secondary with the departure of Brandon Carr and the addition of Stanford-"The Penalty Machine"-Routt and they still don't have a legitimate outside receiver to play opposite Dwayne Bowe.
Raider Nation is going to be fired up for the 2012 season, rightfully so, but they will take some heat for it. This is nothing new, and should be embraced by the Silver & Black faithful.
A few things to ask the haters and naysayers are:
1. If Rivers can bounce back and be better than last year, why can't Palmer?
2. Do you honestly believe that Robert Meachem can make up for the loss of Vincent Jackson?
3. Who will play in place of Antonio Gates when he suffers the inevitable injury—again?
4. Where are the Broncos going to get the rushing production they lost when Tebow left?
5. How is Manning going to escape the pressure that is bound to come right up the middle over those inadequate guards?
6. What has Denver done to improve their defensive line and stop the run?
7. When teams cover Bowe and Tony Moeaki, who will step up to help the worst quarterback in the division in Matt Cassel?
8. No running back coming off a torn ACL has ever been the same the following year, why will Jamaal Charles be any different?
9. Once teams double team Tama Hali, who is going to rush the quarterback?
10. When a player like Richard Seymour, (who has played for Bill Belechick) says that "Dennis Allen has that 'IT' factor." why can't you believe him?
In the end, Raider fans should take solace in the fact that teams who find themselves "under-the-radar" usually do extremely well. Anyone remember the 1980 Wild Card Raiders?
The 2007 Giants weren't supposed to have a shot, but went on to beat the "unbeatable" Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Saints came from nowhere in 2009 to win it all. The 2010 Packers were nine point underdogs against the Steelers, but won anyway. And, how about the 2011 Giants? 9-7, counted out, under-estimated, CHAMPIONS!
Is it realistic to predict a Super Bowl appearance by the Raiders? Probably not. Is it out of the realm of possibility? Not at all, regardless of what the mainstream sports media tries to say, (or refuses to say) about them.
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