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Are the Raiders Super Bowl contenders?

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If the collective jumping up and down of the boisterous Silver and Black fan base caused the Bay Area to register seismic activity on Tuesday, than Wednesday had a few aftershocks of it's own. Carson Palmer donning Raiders attire was seen participating in practices in Alameda and the talk heard around Raider Nation was off the charts. Offensive Coordinator Al Saunders was asked what it would take for Carson to start on Sunday and his response was that he would as long as he was breathing and continued that several in attendance on Wednesday remarked 'Now that is a quarterback'. No disrespect to Jason Campbell or Kyle Boller for that matter but the Raiders just got better at the most important position. Whether that will be readily apparent by his performance on Sunday is another question. What we are asking today is: Are the Raiders a Super Bowl contender?

The time line for the Super Bowl 46 is February 5th, 2012. To answer this question we don't have predict the Raiders would mow through the AFC en route to a match-up with the NFC champ this week, just ask ourselves is it plausible that the Raiders could, with what they currently have on their roster, contend for a Super Bowl some three months from now. Alot of factors play into the distinction of being called a contender. After all, there weren't hoards of media members lining up to annoint Green Bay in October of 2010. That was the month Green Bay made 11 roster transactions at the linebacker postion alone. On this date one year ago, The Pack was 3-3 after losing consecutive contests to the Washington Redskins and the Miami Dolphins. Dominating or contenders were not adjectives commonly used by NFL fans much less by those who reside in the land of the cheese to describe the Packers a year ago. It was up and down for much of the season. They scored a grand total of three (3) points in a loss to Detroit in December and then lost again the following week to New England. But there were enough highs to balance out the lows that the Packers advanced into the playoffs at 10-6 and beat the Eagles 21-16 in the Wild Card round thanks in large part to a game saving interception of Michael Vick in the end zone with only 33 seconds to play. Each of us will probably define contender in our own way, but the Packers proved that if you're good enough to advance to the post-season and you come together at the right time than you give yourself a shot to win the whole thing. That is why we tune in because unlike prescripted television or a date with a bucket of popcorn in front of the silver screen, in the game of football you never really know what is going to happen. And if you think last year was a fluke, check out NFL films next time you get a chance and take a look at Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals run to the big game in 08, they were 9-7. There are countless examples of teams that have gone to the super bowl that were not necesarily world beaters in the regular season but they had the pieces and came together for a common purpose and got hot at the right time. This season's Raiders are currently listed in some nationally published power rankings in the top 10 of the league's elite and that was prior to the acquisition of a 2-time pro bowl quarterback. NFL.com had them ranked at 9 on Monday just a few slots behind the Chargers. The praise that the Silver and Black had been given by many was on the backs of a capable defense and one of the best running games in the NFL featuring the league's leading rusher in Darren McFadden. Now add a guy that routinely was at or near 4000 yards for the season. A guy that took the Bungles, uh I mean Bengals, to the mountain top in the AFC North twice. Does that acquisition after several games improve a top ten team into a top 5 team? Possibly one of the AFC's elite? Only time will tell but don't underestimate them San Diego. I have a feeling the Thursday night NFL Network game with the Raiders and Bolts is going to get some ratings.

Hue Jackson has said all along that he was building a bully. When I see him on the podium and in the locker room I can almost feel him channeling John Facenda with a silver hat about his head and a bristling black mustache. Sure, the pundits giggle. This is the Raiders that haven't been to the playoffs since 2002. And while it's true, what does that have to do with the here and now? If comparisons should be brought up about this team and another, could it be reminiscent of the trade for Rich Gannon? The castaway that couldn't win with the 49ers that had all the tools. A former #1 pick that called California home, Gannon and the Raiders of course went on to a superbowl appearance in 2002. One of the staunch proponents of the acquisition of Palmer has been the aforementioned Kurt Warner. Warner said that Carson "not only can make the deep throw but he can also throw the 25 yard crossing routes that have become such a staple in today's NFL". And added that "he also is very accurate with the underneath stuff". Warner isn't alone, former Jets head coach Herm Edwards was also complimentary not only about Palmer but also about the Raiders playoff outlook this season. So, when you turn on the tv and see the likes of Tory Holt and Sterling Sharpe laughing about the idea that the Raiders could be contenders this season, be reminded that many of their colleagues don't share the same opinions. Let's check back in with them after the Raiders face off with Kansas City and Denver and see what they would have to say about the Raiders making their way down to San Diego at 6-2. I know Oakland and those in the black hole are going to be shaking the ground on Sunday and I wouldn't be suprised one bit to see Angelenos dressed in black make their way down to Qualcomm on November 10th; with a silver hat about their head and a bristling black mustache.

Thanks for checking out another installment of GMtalk on SB Nation.     

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