Bold, yes, but I'm not a fan, I'm a fanatic.
I'm part of a Nation that bleeds Silver and Black.
A Nation that believes in their team, no matter the outcome.
Part of a Nation that stands by its guys in good times and bad.
A Nation that holds in the highest esteem the echoes of ancient legends.
A Nation that is the one and only Nation.
I've posted prediction articles before, forecasting 10 things that will happen this year.
I've told you why this year is different than the past.
All of these things are meaningless if it doesn't actually pay off. Now, my boldest prediction yet, Nation. I am giving you a reason to think, even if unbelievably, that the Raiders could sneak right into those playoffs.
Playoffs? Playoffs? Don't talk to me about playoffs!
Oh, but I did, NFL comrades, I said it. Now I will explain my somewhat skewed rational—not skewed to me, of course—but I am sure there will be doubters, *COUGH* Coach Elkins, excuse me, *COUGH* Al's Wingman.
There are always skeptics, but never as many as there are for the NFL team from Oakland.
Number one, sheer logic. The time is now, the quarterback is ready. If you don't believe me, just check his preseason stats.
The coaching staff is the best we've had in many years, if not ever. This is a group of consummate professionals. The reason you haven't seen the capabilities of Oakland's ground game is a highly complex plan, developed by mad geniuses called "Operation: Save It for San Diego."
The bottom line is the Raiders are working the passing game right now. Once the regular season gun goes off, it's off with the passing, and on with the run control, clock management, highly potent and precise passing, and rested defense style of play that wins games in this league.
Head Coach Tom Cable is testing the waters. He is making sure there are no loose ends. He puts one of the worst defenses in the league last year on the field against the best offense from last year for nearly 40 minutes this preseason; we have to call that making progress, even though it looked dramatically ugly live.
Okay, all that said, true Raiders fans and avid readers of Raider news from around the Web know where the hidden talents are on this team.
People around the league, who are not Raiders fans, will soon know exactly why Chaz Schilens is the next household name as far as NFL wide receivers.
They will soon be biting their tongues, wishing they could take back all their JaMarcus Russell bashing.
They will soon realize that Oakland's ground game is no joke, and they will be wishing that their team didn't have to get pounded this week by an extraordinary combination of tailbacks.
Moving on, now that I've gotten your attention, let me explain to you why, game by game, Oakland is the AFC's sleeper team for 2009.
Week 1, Oakland, California: September 14th, 2009 vs. San Diego Chargers
This game is almost meaningless to San Diego, in comparison to what it means to Oakland. San Diego and their fans expect this to be an easy victory.
Due to that fact alone, they will not be completely prepared. While they do know that they do not want to start slow again, like in 2008 when they lost five of their first eight games, they do not realize that their time atop the division is slowly withering away.
They expect their opponent to come out and play flat, on their third straight Monday Night Football showdown to open the season. They expect their opponent to go down again like the 11 previous matchups played by these two rivals.
What they don't expect is for Oakland's halfbacks to outgain theirs in yardage. They don't expect tight end Zach Miller to out preform veteran Antonio Gates. They don't expect to only get 23 minutes of offensive clock to work with.
They don't expect Oakland to keep a 15-0 lead this time, but they are wrong. I think Oakland wins big in this one, 31-17. Sorry "D"olts fans, but I feel no pity for you homers.
Week 2, Kansas City, Missouri: September 20th, 2009 @ Kansas City Chiefs
Let's be honest, the only people who expect the Chiefs to win this contest are the die-hard Chiefs fans...yes, they actually have those. I don't know any, in part because I don't want to, and in part because they never say anything worth me listening to.
Oakland will steamroll the Chiefs in this game, at their own house, and really leave the fans with a bad taste in their mouth. Oakland will beat them so bad, they will wish Herman Edwards was still their head coach, and Tyler Thigpen hadn't been traded for a fourth and sixth round pick to Jacksonville (hasn't happened, just predicting the future).
Oakland rolls back home against Denver as an 2-0 team, after pounding KC, 41-8.
Week 3, Oakland, California: September 27th, 2009 vs. Denver Bronco's
Denver has more questions right now than Alex Trebek has answers. They are in turmoil, the new head coach is apparently having trouble keeping his relationships respectable.
Josh Mc"Dumbdumb" has already had his star quarterback leave town on him, and now his star receiver is threatening to do the very same thing.
Almost all of the Denver fans are like, "It's okay, we have Eddie Royal, Marshall can go." Here's the problem with that situation: now Royal gets double-teamed more then a dumb blonde at a rave party. Rookie halfback Knowshon Moreno is already having injury issues, and cannot do this by himself.
All Denver had going for them initially was offense. Why they would bring in an offensive coordinator to be their head coach is beyond me.
The fact that he has caused more harm than good at this point is horrific, and is probably causing Broncos owner Pat Bowlen to have secret meetings with former coach Mike Shanahan to try and figure out how to get him back.
Oakland will win this game, and will likely sweep the series if they play their cards right. Denver is too out-of-whack to be considered competitive right now.
Oakland wins, 38-10.
Week 4, Houston, Texas: October 4th, 2009 @ Houston Texans
Here is the first loss of the year. Oakland goes in overconfident, having beat a hot Houston team at the end of the year last season.
Similar to the Raiders' first game against San Diego, the Raiders go in expecting to win. The Texans are still sore from last seasons loss, and hand it to the Raiders at home.
The Texans have a great front seven that make it tough for Oakland to get the ground game on the road. Steve Slaton goes off with the help of poor ball control from Oakland's offense.
The rushing defense looks to be exposed again, as the Raiders fall flat in week four at Reliant Stadium. Oakland fans on bleacherreport.com tie up computers for hours discussing how the rest of the year will be terrible, because we've been exposed.
Houston wins, 27-16, and calls it payback.
Week 5, Meadowlands, New Jersey: October 11th, vs. New York Giants
Oakland goes into the game as heavy underdogs, in spite of winning three of their first four. Tom Cable reamed them all week in practice for not playing hard in the Texans game the previous week.
Oakland comes prepared, and the 3-1 Giants come without wide receiver Plaxico Burress, and with an injured Brandon Jacobs, who is sidelined; resting injuries during "the easy one."
Oakland shocks the league by sacking Eli Manning six times, three by rookie Desmond Bryant. The Oakland cornerback combination picks Manning twice, and Chris Johnson takes one to the house 72 yards for six points.
Under pressure all day, and with the offense racking up over 200 yards on the ground, Oakland runs away in New York. JaMarcus Russell hits Chaz Schilens nine times for 132 yards, and a pair of scores.
The final, Oakland wins 34-16.
Week 6, Oakland, California: October 18th, 2009 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Oakland comes in hot, winning four of their first five games for the year. Their rushing attack is tops in the league, averaging 179.2 yards per game.
JaMarcus Russell has thrown six touchdowns passes, and only one interception. Until this game, Oakland is on top of the world in their own minds.
Seems like the only target JMR can hit in this game is tight end Zach Miller. It won't be enough. The ground game finds sucess, scoring twice, but the Eagles offense is too much for Oakland's defense.
The Eagles wide receivers have a good day. Donovan McNabb is 23-36 for over 300 yards and three passing touchdowns. Westbrook adds 108 and a touchdown on the ground. Oakland keeps it close, but the Eagles have too much firepower.
Eagle will win this game, 38-20.
Week 7, Oakland, California: October 25th, 2009 vs. New York Jets
The Raiders come off a game against a very good veteran quarterback, Donovan McNabb, and have plenty of tape to study during the week of practice. They make Mark Sanchez look like he's been playing Pop Warner football for the past 15 years.
Sanchez forces five passes towards Nnamdi Asomugha, and Nnamdi makes him pay by picking him twice, one returned for a touchdown.
Kris Jenkins does a good job against the run, but when he is not on the field is when Michael bush obtains his first 100 yard game of the year. Bush adds two touchdowns.
Darrius Heyward-Bey shows signs of improvement catching five passes for 90 yards and a score. Zach Miller continues a good season, and hooks up with JaMarcus six times for 86 yards and a touchdown.
JaMarcus Russell records his first 300 yard passing performance, in spite of being picked twice by the talented secondary, but the Jets lose by not converting the turnovers into scores.
Raiders take this one in overtime on a 64-yard McFadden breakaway, 30-24.
Week 8, San Diego, California: November 1st, 2009 @ San Diego Chargers
The 5-2 Oakland Raiders are leading the division coming into the game against the 4-3 Chargers. The Chargers will not overlook them this time.
Although Ladainian Tomlinson is out due to injury, Phillips Rivers is focused, and has studied game tape of the first game of the year all week long. Rivers throws for over 250 yards and manages three touchdown passes with no interceptions.
Darren Sproles adds 100+ on the ground. He scores once on a screen pass from Rivers. Oakland hangs in there against the division foe, but can't muster enough against the more developed squad.
The game is a great one, and fans of both teams are satisfied with the outcome. Oakland loses a close one, 24-18, as they run out of time on a deep drive late in the fourth quarter.
Week 9, Bye
Week 10, Oakland, California: November 15th, 2009 Vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Larry Johnson has a good game, racking up 126 yards on 37 carries with a pair of touchdowns. That's it though, Matt Cassell gets harassed all day by, now starter, Desmond Bryant.
Bryant, Tommy Kelly, Greg Ellis, and Trevor Scott have a field day against the Chiefs offense, and combine for a total of eight sacks. LB Ricky Brown adds two of his own, and gives the Raiders a total of 10 for the game.
The Raider offense is all over the Chiefs' aging defense, racking up over 500 total yards. Raiders win big in this one, sweeping the Chiefs in the season series, 40-14.
Week 11, Oakland, California: November 22nd, 2009 Vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati is having a good year, and it looks as though coach Marvin Lewis might keep his job next season. They are 5-4 coming into the Raiders game.
Oakland comes in as the favorite by 3 points over the visiting Bengals. It's another great game to watch. The two quarterbacks duke it out, back and forth the whole game. There are six lead changes, and it ends in overtime.
Oakland gets the ball on the coin toss. The Bengals kick to Justin Miller, who has a nice return to the 50 yard line. JaMarcus fakes a handoff to DMC, and chucks it downfield to Chaz Schilens who makes a "must see catch" that is posted all over the NFL Network, NFL.com, ESPN, and ESPN.com.
Raiders win a nailbiter, 27-21.
Week 12, Dallas, Texas: Turkey Day, 2009 @ Dallas Cowboys
Oakland comes in as one of the suprise stories of the league. Dallas is nervous after the preaseason beat down at the hands of the Raiders.
However, Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice prove to be a lethal combination for the Oakland run defense.
DMC, Fargas and Bush give them a run for their money in a smashmouth game that reminds fans of the 1970s. This one is all about ground game, and clock management, as neither quarterback can really get into a good flow.
The game is talked about as a candidate for game of the year. Highlight reels run nonstop on ESPNews all night and it is the talk of sports shows the next day, which ask, "Are the Raiders for real?"
Dallas pulls out a victory in a great game, 20-17.
Week 13, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: December 6th, 2009 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Raiders play flat, and get handed one by the defending Super Bowl Champion Steelers. Oakland is still tired from their effort in the Cowboys game.
Tom Cable was so impressed with the game in Dallas, he let the team have a light week of practice. In their second straight road game, Oakland gets its first back-to-back losses of the year.
They look bad on both sides of the ball. So bad, in fact, that Jeff Garcia finishes with the second team offense and defense on the field.
Call it a "gimme game" or a "throwaway game," Cable and the Raiders are resting for their playoff run, and absorb a projected loss. Steelers win, 31-10.
Week 14, Oakland, California: December 13th, 2009 Vs. Washington Reskins
Oakland is happy to be home after a rough road series. They practice hard all week. They are pumped and primed after putting themselves in such a good position. Some injury issues have arisen. Mike Mitchell's hamstring is acting up again. A few linemen have stingers. Fargas is out for this one and McFadden is banged up.
Clinton Portis is a great halfback. He will likely have a 90-plus-yard game at least. Jason Campbell is a mediocre quarterback, on a good day. The Raiders secondary is one of the best in the league, and they should be able to take it to a sub-par passing attack.
Expect Tyvon Branch to be able to handle Chris Cooley, and expect the Oakland secondary to come up with a couple of interceptions. Zach Miller continues his impressive season, and Michael Bush carries the load on the ground.
Darren McFadden gets a lot of wide receiver play, as does Johnnie Lee Higgins. JaMarcus continues to play well: 17-24 for 245 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Oakland wins this game, 24-10.
Week 15, Denver, Colorado: December 20th, 2009 @ Denver Broncos
I think the Broncos will rebound here, and could possibly be getting into a groove. They also have a chip on their shoulder from their earlier game against the Raiders.
Orton may have his stuff together at this point in time. He's great at what the Raiders are striving to be—a ball-control team.
If would be a tough loss for Oakland, but the Broncos will need it desperately. Oakland will have to settle for winning their four games in the division, as the Broncos pull one out of the bag of tricks.
Denver will win, 30-28.
Week 16, Cleveland, Ohio: December 27th, 2009 @ Cleveland Browns
This game going to be rough, but in the end, the Raiders will prevail. They have more talent on both sides of the ball, and no Mangini and Rob Ryan to screw up calls.
The Browns will probably bring their air game to this contest. Brady Quinn is going to be a good quarterback. They will try to run Jamal Lewis, but his ailing injuries get the best of him.
No Kellen Winslow, a subpar Braylon Edwards, and a no-name defense will falter all year long. Shake, Rattle, and Roll step their game up. They will have their second 200-plus-yard game of the year.
Oakland will win this game, 33-19.
Week 17, Oakland, California: January 3rd, 2010 vs. Baltimore Ravens
Oakland will give it all they got, wanting to head into the playoffs on a positive note. They will play their starters the entire game, and it's possible that Baltimore will not do the same.
Oakland will likely be in a position to win the division if they get the win in this game. A win means 11-5 and a loss will mean 10-6. I think Baltimore will probably be in a position to make a run at their division as well.
They will play the entire game with starters, unless the division is out of reach, or they have already won their division.
Given that the Ravens were in the AFC Championship Game last season, I cannot truthfully pick Oakland in this game.
Baltimore wins, 20-19.
So, there you have it, folks. Say the surprise game is the win over the Giants. Fact of the matter is the Giants lost four straight games to end the year last season without Plaxico Burress. They are not the same team without him, even if Jacobs doesn't get hurt.
JMR, DMC, DHB, Javon Walker, Zach Miller, Louis Murphy, and Chaz Schilens are all key components to this success.
I expect five to six Raiders players will make the Pro Bowl. I believe five to six Raiders players will make ESPN's "Top 10 Plays."
I expect Tom Cable to have another year, and probably more good years ahead as the head coach.
The Raiders will go 10-6, and this is not a far-fetched idea. Doubt me. I challenge you to do so.
Las Vegas, if you want a AFC sleeper, do a little homework, or read this, and you'll see who it is without question.
We thought they would be good last year under Lane Kiffin, and they would have been, if not for the owner/coach conflict. This season, there is no such thing. Bet on it.