Oakland Raiders: Why the Silver and Black Will Win AFC West in 2012
The Broncos are not the only team who will be better for the 2012 season. The Kansas City Chiefs will have Jamal Charles healthy again, and they acquired Peyton Hillis in the offseason to share the load.
Although the San Diego Chargers lost Vincent Jackson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Phillip Rivers won't be throwing another 20 interceptions anytime soon. Ryan Mathews will resume his role as the feature back with Mike Tolbert in Carolina.
The AFC West will be better and even more competitive this year. That may be hard to do, considering three teams finished 8-8, and the Chiefs were only one game back.
The Raiders will be better as well, even though the didn't have a first-round draft pick or a major free-agent pickup. This year has promise because Carson Palmer will have a full offseason to learn the offense and Darren McFadden is healthy again.
That's right, RunDMC is ready to go, and after running for 600 yards in his first six games last year, there are high expectations. Interestingly enough, it's McFadden is who setting the goals.
According to the Oakland Tribune via ESPN, McFadden has set a goal of 1,800 yards, the same amount he set a year before.
How many wins will the Raiders have?
I was hoping to get to 1,800 rushing yards, but it didn't work out that way...I will keep pushing for it this year and hopefully get to those goals.
More pressure will be on No. 20 to perform with Michael Bush in Chicago. All the carries and the added spotlight will fall on McFadden.
With his ability to also catch the ball out of the backfield, it's safe to say that much of the Raiders' offense will go through McFadden this year.
Although Palmer ended the season with more interceptions than touchdowns, improvements were made towards the end of the year. If you scratch out his four-pick game against Green Bay, Palmer had six touchdowns against four interceptions over the last month.
Palmer's success or lack thereof can be partially credited to his inexperience with the offensive schemes. He got the job midseason, took some snaps in practice and then went out and played.
If you give Palmer a whole training camp to gel with the receivers, including standout Darrius Heyward-Bey, the Raiders' passing game will be much improved.
Also with McFadden back, there will be less pressure on Palmer to throw the ball. If he is given the chance, the nine-year veteran will find the Raiders' talented young wideouts.
The Raiders' defense needs to be better this year if they want to contend in the AFC West. They ranked 27th in the NFL in both passing and rushing defense, and near the bottom in forced turnovers.
Negatives aside, the Raiders were 12th in the league in interceptions and 15th in sacks. Overall, the team has plenty of room for improvement, and with the introduction of defensive-minded coach Dennis Allen and a 3-4 defense, the Silver and Black will be better.
Although they finish the season on the road at Carolina and San Diego, they have a three-game homestand preceding it. On December 2nd the Browns come to town, followed by division rivals Denver and Kansas City.
These three games will be critical to the Raiders' late-season success and whether they make a postseason run.
After their owner died, they lost their starting quarterback and running back to injuries and got a quarterback who hadn’t played a down a football all year.
2012 is a new year, and they have moved on from last season's disappointments literally (i.e Hugh Jackson),
Don't expect a Pro Bowl year from Palmer, but he will make improvements from last season. And as long as McFadden stays healthy, he will be one of the best running in the NFL.
The Silver and Black won't dominate anyone this year, but they will have enough to win the AFC West.
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