Two straight seasons at 8-8 for the Oakland Raiders, but with a new general manager and head coach in town the team looks to cross the .500 line and head to the playoffs.
With the death of owner Al Davis comes great change, and GM Reggie McKenzie started that out quickly. He fired last year's head coach, Hue Jackson, and hired a young man named Dennis Allen, formerly the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator.
Then McKenzie cut No. 1 cornerback Stanford Routt, showing that he planned to make a splash—for the better.
Several items need to line up for the Raiders to be successful in 2012, starting with McKenzie but not stopping there.
Here are seven expectations, albeit bold, for the Oakland Raiders this season to get wins on the board and fans cheering in the Black Hole
After years of penalty woes during bad seasons, the Oakland Raiders reached a new low in 2011.
The team broke the NFL record for penalties and penalty yards in a season.
That's one record that fans of competitive football hope was meant to NOT be broken.
Questions abound about how the Raiders could continue to play sloppily and accrue more and more penalties. But even when then-head coach Hue Jackson was on the players about it, the team couldn't get it together.
Jackson is gone, and Raiders fans hope the penalty woes are too.
With a new regime in town, the team should be able to shed its weakness to jump off the line or touch a receiver too early.
As the first few weeks of the season last year began unfolding, some (like Yahoo's Michael Silver) were beginning to see Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden as one of the best players in the league.
After all, he produced 140 or more yards in the first three games—and continued to perform well in the following three.
But then came the foot fracture.
Despite head coach Hue Jackson (repeatedly) insisting McFadden might return, the star running back didn't play again last year.
The Raiders cannot win without his flash and skills. They will need him to stay on the field to win in 2012.
However, Oakland also needs him to put that eye for talent to the free-agent market.
Last year, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh helped GM Jed York to sign some cheap talent which helped the Red and Gold to a 13-3 season. Acquisitions included secondary players Dashon Goldson, Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner.
McKenzie will have to match that effort.
Expect more to come, and several to play key roles on the 2012 Raiders squad.
The Raiders have an impressive stable of young receivers, none of whom have lived up to the potential they've flashed at times in the past three seasons.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Louis Murphy and Jacoby Ford must break out in 2012.
Murphy lead the team in receptions and yards in his first two seasons but was plagued by injuries last year.
Heyward-Bey is the only receiver of the four who has neared 1,000 yards in a year (975 for him last season).
At least one has to climb to that plateau this year, and the others need to act like the strong supporting cast they can be.
By trading all but the team's fifth- and sixth-round picks in the 2012 NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders put themselves in a hole—one that new GM Reggie McKenzie will have climb out of with some smart selections.
The Raiders spent three of their draft picks on quarterbacks: first-rounder for Carson Palmer, third-rounder for Terrelle Pryor and fourth-rounder for Jason Campbell.
But with compensatory selections given for key losses in free agency a year ago, the Raiders are back up to five picks.
At least three must stick with the team and make contributions in the coming years, and McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen must make that happen.
The acquisition of quarterback Carson Palmer from Cincinnati has been much-maligned, as the Oakland Raiders gave up this year's first-round draft pick and a first- or second-round pick next year.
But Palmer is an important key to a successful season in 2012.
The 10th-year pro must return to his 2005/2006 form, when he went to the Pro Bowl. That means returning to above-90 quarterback rating, and matching the two-plus TD-per-INT rate of those years (2.66 in 2005, 2.15 in 2006 but not above 1.62 since).
The first step is getting a handle of the offense, which was a challenge last year as he arrived (from his couch in L.A. no less) in Oakland midweek and midseason.
"I am fired up to get my playbook," Palmer told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Once he's got his hands on new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's system, he'll begin the process to another spectacular season in the NFL—this time for the Oakland Raiders.
New Raiders head coach Dennis Allen is known for his ability to solidify a defense—particularly in the secondary.
Though the perception a year ago was that Tim Tebow saved the Denver Broncos, the reality was that the team's defense—coached by Allen—kept the games close until Tebow Time took effect.
Allen has a unique challenge in Oakland, since the team will not be under Al Davis for the first time since 1963. With more control, and the change of guard (the Raiders cut DBs Stanford Routt, Hiram Eugene and Chris Johnson, signed four free-agent cornerbacks), Allen has to use his magic on the Raiders secondary.