All you ever hear nowadays is people yelling on ESPN about how wonderful the AFC West is going to be this year, compared to last year where 8-8 behind Tebow won the title. But is this really true? To me, the Raiders have as good a shot as any team to contend. Here's why. (P.S- If you know me, you know I don't like the be extremely optimistic)
1) The Donkeys
-All that's ever talked about here in the state is reside in (unfortunately Colorado [RIP All the Aurora Shooting Victims]) is Peyton Manning and the automatic playoffs he guarantees. But Manning has a fragile neck. That's not all. The starting running back (McGahee) has had problems staying healthy and is getting up there in age. The recievers are all hit and miss. Who knows if Decker and Thomas weren't one hit Tebow wonders? Dreessen seems like a system fit to me and could struggle. The defense was shoddy at the end of the year and significant upgrades were not made. Tracy Porter helps, but Dumervil was arrested and will likely be suspended. The burden of favorites should hurt some as well.
Projected Record: 10-6. The Broncos are better than last year if Manning is even 50%. They should choke more as the season wears on. Manning has before. 10-6 is generous I think. Disappointment will reign in Denver, as the underdog always wins Raider-Bronco games, and if this is the case, the Raiders sweep the season of Denver.
2) The Queefs
-People say the best additions made by KC were health. Jamal Charles will be back and dominated in 2010. Matt Cassel might be pushed by Brady Quinn, but I'll get to this later. This defense lost a couple pieces, most notably the very underrated CB Brandon Carr. They added Hillis, but I think Battle is a better backup anyway. Dwayne Bowe might hold out because of a contract. The offensive line is a question mark.
Projected Record: 7-9. The Raiders and their fans know better than anyone else: QB play is the deciding factor in an NFL season. Just the slight improvement from Russell to Gradkowski added 4 wins to the Raiders total. Cassel will struggle basically because everyone wants him too. KC wants a new QB, as seen by the Manning, Flynn, and Tannehill rumors. Quinn is not a decent stopgap.
3) The Dolts
-San Diego is depleted. Far and away, this is the worst team in the AFC West this year. They lose Vincent Jackson, and replace him with a couple of oft-injured slot guys in Meachem and Royal. They lost Castillo, Kris Dielman, Mike Tolbert, and others. This team is much worse than the 8-8 team that came in last year. It could get ugly if Mathews and Gates get hurt.
Projected Record: 6-10. Rivers is still an All-Pro, and that counts, but the overall lack of talent will be a lot to overcome. Their stars are injury prone. This has nightmare written all over it.
4) Our Glorious Raiders
-The Raiders have improved in areas and gotten worse in some. Overall, talent wise, they stayed the same. The offense (sans tight end) is now stacked with talent and the offensive line is finally good again, only 9 years post Kennedy and Robbins. The defensive line is better because of Houston and Shaughnessy's growth as players. The secondary really couldn't be worse, so Bartell and Spencer could hold their own a bit. Huff and Branch are coming around. The questions remain the linebackers and penalties. Our best linebacker is in jail, and Aaron Curry still has a ton to prove. Philip Wheeler could be the best linebacker starting 2012. That's a problem. Also, who knows how many steps Dennis Allen has taken to solve the penalty issues/will solve in training camp?
Projected Record: 9-7. The Raiders still have tons of talent. They were on pace for 12-4 before McFadden went down with injury. I'll say he plays 13-14 games this year, and we win 9 of those. Allen should help the penalties, and amazingly, this all happens cap strapped. The Raiders will have dollars to spend next year thanks to Reggie Mac canning all the crappy contracts.
Overall, the steps back taken by San Diego, and the overrated Broncos and Chiefs should result in a Wild Card birth for Oakland at least. It's not as bad as people say it is. The Raiders are still about the same team they were last year. The Raiders are a dangerous team to play in the playoffs. With the speed, Jacoby could run one back, McFadden takes one to the house, and in 2 minutes, you're down 14-0.
One last thing. Just Win Baby.