This is the time of the year that all of the magazines make their annual predictions for the '09 season. Surveying numerous magazines, the predictions for our Oakland Raiders range from 2nd place to last place with almost all of them predicting the Chargers to win the AFC West.
What I don't like about the majority of those magazine preseason predictors, is that they are very superficial, base their analysis mostly on the previous season and bypass many of the important intangibles such as coaching, scheme and character that may change from season to season.
On April 5th of this year, I conducted a pre-draft poll on this site asking members if they thought at the time if the Raiders had done enough at the time to overtake the Chargers and win the AFC West. Below are the results from that April 5th poll:
Now that we have had the draft, had additional players added through free agency and know a little more about the teams from their offseason, mini camps and OTA's, lets look at the AFC West now and see if you have any changes from April 5th:
- San Diego has the look of a 10+ win team, as they have for the last several years, but each year they have failed to meet expectations. They also have Norv Turner, who may be a great coordinator, but has the proven track record to not get his teams to meet their expectations. The big "if" for the Chargers is whether Shawne Merriman returns to form and can still be the difference maker that he was prior to his injury. The Chargers have a stacked roster with excellent play makers, their biggest areas of concern are lack coaching leadership and a history of injuries to key players. If they can stay healthy, then they are still the favorites, but not by much.
- The Raiders had probably their best and most quiet offseason in recent memory, as they prudently went about signing their own most important free agents before venturing out into the market to sign a select few very key free agents. As with most teams, the play at QB will determine the fate of the Raider this season, but with some coaching stability and experience, JaMarcus Russell is poised to have a solid year. If not, then for once, the Raiders have an experienced veteran in Jeff Garcia who will lead the team.The Raiders will rely on their two main strengths: running the football and stop the opposing team's passing game, if they can now make the strides in stopping the the run, then this team will be right in the thick of things. Their schedule is very tough, but it is tough for the rest of the division as well and the week 1 game in Oakland against the Chargers will be a defining moment.
- The Chiefs were an "unlucky" team last season going 1-9 in games decided by 7 or less, but if they were a good team, then they win those games. The trade of Tony Gonzalez will be a major setback, and I believe that Matt Cassel is a one year wonder that was a product of a superior Patriots offense. They are also changing to a 3-4 defense but may not have the personnel to run it effectively. Until this team has something better than the worst pass rush in NFL they're not going anywhere.
- The Broncos are a a mess and have been a soap opera for most of this offseason. Trading away Jay Cutler will be a price that this team will pay for many years to come. Denver did nothing of quality (plenty of quantity) to improve their soft, almost non-existent defense. They have a lot of talent, especially on offense, but the obvious inexperience of their head coach and an offseason that had to be a distraction, has the Broncos looking like a 6 win team.
Now it's your turn for your 2009 NFL predictions. Where do you think the Raiders will finish and how do you think the rest of the AFC West will fare?