Oakland Raiders Head into 2012 Season with Best Opportunity to Win Super Bowl Since 2002
Elias Trejo – Jul 27, 2012
Ryan Kalil recently made a bold statement about the Carolina Panthers making theSuper Bowl. It made a lot of headlines and got a lot of national attention. There is nothing wrong with players and their teams believing they can make a Super Bowl run and win a title. This also applies to the Oakland Raiders. There may be fans and "experts" out there that think the Raiders don't have a chance at even making the playoffs this year, but the reality is, the Raiders have their best opportunity to make a Super Bowl run since 2002.
When you look at the Raiders 2002 roster they had several key pieces that helped them make their Super Bowl run. On offense they had a veteran quarterback that was capable of leading the team with his arm, a strong offensive line, a deep receiving group, and a running back that had just as much impact on the ground as he did through the air. If you look at the current Raiders offense there are a lot of similarities.
Carson Palmer is easily the most talented quarterback to be under center for the Raiders since Rich Gannon in 2002. The offensive line was one of the best in the league last season as they allowed the 4th fewest sacks in the league and blocked for the 7th best rushing attack in the league. Oakland's receivers are led by Darrius Heyward-Bey, who ranked 20th in the NFL in total yards, Denarius Moore who was ranked 4th in yards per catch, and a healthy Jacoby Ford who is an explosive playmaker.
Perhaps the biggest key to the Raiders offensive success will be Darren McFadden. Greg Knapp's offense loves to give the ball to his running backs. Whether its on the ground or through the air, McFadden will have plenty of opportunities to make plays. In 2002 Charlie Garner had 1,903 yards of total offense, 941 yards through the air and 961 yards on the ground. McFadden is capable of achieving those numbers in 2012 and he has Taiwan Jones behind him who is also an explosive player with speed and quickness.
In the last decade Oakland hasn't been in this good of shape on offense heading into the new season. Of course to make a Super Bowl run the defense has to be able to make plays and stop teams from scoring. Looking at the 2002 Oakland Raiders, the 2011 New York Giants and New England Patriots, the key to their success was their turnover ratio.
While the Giants and Patriots gave up plenty of yards in 2011, they created more turnovers than they committed. Combined they had a +24 turnover ratio meanwhile the Raiders had a -4 turnover ratio in 2011. Aside from 2002, the Raiders have only had one season in the last ten years where they had a positive turnover ratio; which was in 2006 when they had a +1 ratio. Only one team in the last decade has won the Super Bowl with a negative turnover ratio and that was the New York Giants in 2008 when they won Super Bowl XLII.
Oakland's defense in the last decade has been one of the worst in the NFL, but in 2012 they will feature a completely new scheme that should allow them to create more turnovers and stop the run. They have a great mix of veterans and young players who make a solid line up.
The defensive line is stacked and could be one of the best in the league. Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy give Oakland a strong front four. Seymour and Kelly combined for 13.5 sacks last season, which is the highest total for two starting defensive tackles in the league. Kelly along with Justin Smith of the 49ers led all defensive tackles in sacks with 7.5. Houston and Shaughnessy are two young defensive ends that have pass rushing and run stopping ability.
If Oakland's linebackers and secondary can adjust well to the new defensive scheme you should see a major improvement in the run defense as well as the turnover category. The secondary is led by Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff, both of these players should benefit a lot more from the new coverage schemes as well as the blitz schemes. Right now their starting cornerbacks appear to be Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell, who were brought in because of their experience playing with Dennis Allen and John Tarver's defense. The Raiders have quality depth in the secondary which will help them as the season progesses.
The biggest question mark for the Raiders will be their linebacking core. Former top ten draft picks Rolando McClain and Aaron Curry are set to start for the Raiders. Oakland will need another linebacker to step up and replace Kamerion Wimbley. There are plenty of candidates and training camp should give us all a clear picture of who that player will be.
For the first time in a long time the Raiders roster is looking strong and deep. Besides tight end, there aren't many positions that should concern the Raider Nation. Having the right players is only part of making a Super Bowl run. Execution will be the next step for the Raiders and if head coach Dennis Allen gets what he demands, Oakland could find themselves contending for more than just a playoff spot come December.
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