The media is all on the Oakland Raiders' jock going into the 2017 NFL season, and with good reason. The Raiders finally have a franchise quarterback (who is being paid like one) to go with a veteran running back in Marshawn Lynch and two premier receivers, Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.
Combine that with the fact that Oakland heavily invested on the defensive side of the ball in the Draft with two defensive backs in the first two selections, and it's easy to see why Oakland is considered one of the favorites in the AFC. But in order to get to the Super Bowl, they will have to go through some stiff competition. Which teams can say they're better than the Raiders?
Let's look at the other top teams in the AFC and discuss which ones re actually superior to the Raiders Death Machine.
5) Tennessee Titans
This is not a joke. Not only is the Tennessee offensive line arguably just as good as Oakland's, they have two excellent running backs in Derrick Henry and Demarco Murray to go with Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. The third-year quarterback finally has a true number one receiver in Corey Davis and the Titans should be an offensive juggernaut when you combine their strong running backs with Mariota's preternatural running ability and strong arm.
Where the Titans struggle is on defense. Their secondary last year was weak, and they have no great pass rushers outside of NT Jurell Casey. Oakland should be able to shred them Week 1, but it will be tough to stop that Titans offense on the road. We'll find out immediately which team is better, but for now I give the edge to Oakland.
4) Houston Texans
The Raiders went 1-1 against the Texans last season, and that one loss came in a disaster of a Wild Card Playoff game wherein the Raiders started a rookie at quarterback. The Raiders at full strength defeated Houston in Mexico City, in a game that was so lucrative and successful that the league is sending Oakland back there to face another team on this list in 2017.
In the Mexico City game, Houston started Brock Osweiler, who was mediocre at best. This year, the Texans have former Clemson national title winner Deshaun Watson, but plan to start Tom "Macho Man" Savage until Watson is ready to take over. This is foolishness, because Savage is the cream of the crop and nobody does it better.
The Texans also sport what is easily the best defensive line in the NFL. Jadeveon Clowney started out slow, but has become a very good defensive end. Whitney Mercilus is a stalwart, and J. Jonah Jameson Watt should be back healthy this year. However, the Texans lost a borderline elite cornerback in A..J. Bouye in free agency and may be searching for answers in the secondary. Not that they stopped Oakland even when they were healthy.
The Texans did draft Dont'a Foreman out of Texas this year and the more he plays the better. While Houston will be a very good team this season, I don't think they match up well with the Raiders because their main strength is neutralized by the Oakland offensive line. Oakland is better.
3) Kansas City Chefs
Here is where things begin to get dicey. The Chiefs suck and everyone knows they suck, but they keep winning. It's infuriating. Alex Smith is well below the Dalton Line and is not a playoff quarterback, but he keeps getting dragged there by his defense, running game and sheer dumb luck. Look at this play, without which Kansas City does not win the division, and tell me this team doesn't have a horseshoe crammed so far up its ass it has to pick iron filings out of its teeth.
Luckily, the Chiefs have been having some financial difficulties of late, probably because Eric Berry is so damn good they felt obligated to give him all the monies. They fell into a trap similar to starting a land war in Asia by trading up to draft an Air Raid quarterback from Tortilla Tech. They cut Jeremy Maclin, who even in his injured state was still streets ahead of most other receivers on the Chiefs roster, and Dontari Poe is now a Falcon, filling Atlanta's giant William the Refrigerator Perry-shaped roster hole. Jamaal Charles took his talents to Denver and Tamba Hali is 67 years old.
The Chiefs will be demonstratably worse this season than last, but they have the Raiders' number because Oakland can't help but trip on their own dick when they play the Chiefs, who I suspect paid off that wire-camera to get in the way of Derek Carr's pass to Amari Cooper. I hope all those coupons for Big Bubba's House of Shitty BBQ were worth it, Mr. XFL Camera.
Until the Raiders beat the Chiefs decisively, I won't believe them capable of doing so. On paper, the Raiders are vastly superior, but in the storied rivalry of Raiders vs. Chiefs, which team is actually better means precisely dick.
2) Pittsburgh Steelers
Not only are the Steelers one of the Raiders' oldest and most bitter rivals, they also are one of a handful of teams which, on paper, have an advantage over the Raiders. They have an elite quarterback in addition to perhaps the best running back and wide receiver in football. However, the Raiders nearly defeated Pittsburgh on the road in 2015 with a vastly worse roster than they currently have. The Steelers are leaving their prime, while Oakland is just entering theirs.
The individual play of Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown make up for a multitude of sins, and those sins are committed by the Steelers defense which is a shell of what it once was. The secondary is a mess, and corner Artie Burns was recently arrested after trying to set the land speed record in urban Ohio. He must have been trying to get out of the state, so I can't blame him. Pittsburgh has no useful linebackers outside of Ryan Shazier. James Harrison will begin collecting Social Security in addition to his salary this season, although the man is still strong enough to lift a car. He will still hit hard even if he's not quite as athletic as he once was. Their free safety is Mike Mitchell from Ohio University of Ohio (OH). Yes, THAT Mike Mitchell.
While the Steelers may look like they have an offense that would hang with the Raiders, they'd have to win a shootout because the Raiders would brutalize them in the trenches.
Are they better? Maybe. But not for long.
1) New England Patriots
The World Heavyweight Champions are the only team in the AFC that can definitively say they are better than the Raiders. Tom Brady is still around, as great as ever, and they added Brandin Cooks to their already potent offense. They lost Lagarrette Blount, but they still have James White and Dion Lewis. Rob Gronkowski is healthy now and will be back until he sprains his dong in Week 5 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneer Cheerleaders. All of them.
The Pats don't really have any weaknesses. They have perhaps the best quarterback ever and the best coach ever. They have an exciting offense that consists of three plays: Run Left, WR Drag and TE Seam. They have a no-name defense but they get the job done because the other team is usually playing from behind.
But the Raiders will get their chance this season to show the Patriots who the new Big Dog is, and who is the Owner of the Yard.
And the Raiders will have more on their mind than just winning, baby. They will be out for revenge.
So how many teams are better than the Raiders? Just one, and we'll get to kick their monkey asses this year, hopefully twice. Believe dat.