When you start talking about shootouts, there is usually money and a bank involved. The only thing I'm willing to bank on is Tom Cable is willing to bench JaMarcus Russell if he isn't the best QB on Sunday.
Right now it's Russell's job to lose. What happens the first three days of Rookie Camp doesn't a season make, so both Russell and Jeff Garcia are rusty. Both are extremely talented, with generous amounts of starting ability.
It's not going to be the end of the world for Russell if he plays a quarter or two and Garcia comes in to finish the game and secure the win. With a schedule like the Raiders have, top five quarterbacks would take their lumps. No one is going to argue that the Raiders are playing a list of creme puffs.
The Raiders do have a trio of backs that are considered elite and with the addition of Lorenzo Neal making huge holes, they only look stronger.
I actually read an article that predicted both Darren McFadden and Michael Bush finish in the top 10 this year. I don't know if I will go as far as predicting both finish that high, but the possibility is there.
More surprising than that complimentary remark is the omission of comments about the Raiders' defensive line. The consensus appears to be that there is a weakness at the wide receiver spot.
I think Darrius Heyward-Bey, Johnnie Lee Higgins, and Chaz Schilens are going to be very strong this year. Adding to the synergy they will bring is the absence of receivers not being able to find a handle on the ball. JaMarcus Russell's stats suffered last year because of this.
Javon Walker is either going to impress every coach on the field or find himself unemployed. As much upside as Walker brings, it would be a shame to see him out of football. Arman Shields is another concern. The film on him is fantastic, the only problem is, that's the only place you're probably ever going to see him play.
All in all, the list of improvements has the Raiders rising to Dark Horse status, which isn't a bad thing.