Since they are first up, I will use the Chargers as my first subject. First off, any football fan knows that momentum is a great tool for confidence. Oakland draws Denver and Kansas City in the first two weeks of the season with both KC and Denver still rebuilding their teams a little (not to mention the crowds in KC are no longer allowed to really cheer). This vastly improved Raider team can beat their divisional rivals.
As for Buffalo, well, they don't have much of a team to speak of apart running back Marshawn Lynch, so I have little doubt that Oakland can defeat them as well.
So that brings us to Week Four and the San Diego Chargers, which will be played in Oakland. Make no mistake: San Diego is no pushover. They are a very talented team with a sup-par head coach at the helm.
The Oakland Raiders know Norv Turner very well, as he was the head coach of their team just two seasons ago. With no notable wide receivers to speak of, the offense is left up to Phillip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Antonio Gates.
Don't get me wrong, those are three very credible threats, and you can look as far as the record books to see how hard to beat this Chargers team is. However, that, of course, is the past - and what we are looking at is a possible future.
And if the Chargers can contain Tomlinson -- and no-one loves carving up Oakland quite like LaDainian Tomlinson - then maybe.
Again, going back to what history has taught us, all good or even great running backs usually hit that wall between 28-30 years of age. Tomlinson has just turned 29, and he had knee surgery in the offseason. Those two facts alone could spell "uh-oh" for the Chargers' offense.
By Week Four, that knee still may not be 100%, and I doubt if any of us will know if he is healthy.
And back to containment of the offense. Well, it sounds much simpler than it really is. If the Raiders use that greatly improved secondary to contain Gates and their two receivers, Craig Davis and Vincent Jackson, Oakland's linebackers can help contain LT, and that will keep them from scoring touchdowns.
The Chargers' defense is another story. Linebacker Shawne Merriman is one of the scariest men on a football field, and cornerback Quentin Jammer is still making plays. Jammer, however is also 29 this year. Isn't that the age where great players lose a step?
The 2008 Raiders are a very fast and young team. Can the now-aging Chargers really keep up with this young and powerful offense that Oakland possesses?
One more thing Chargers fans: It was an equally young, and far less talented, Raider team that almost beat you not once, but twice last season.
And onto the New England Patriots...oh how the mighty may fall.
Last season they finished 18-1. We will see how well these Patriots fare in 2008.
Let's take another look back to 2007. NE was the No. 1-ranked offense and No. 4-ranked defense, but after almost the entire secondary in NE jumped ship to other teams or retirement in the offseason, how far will that No. 4 defense fall?
With a greatly improved running game in Oakland, can New England contain them? They could bring in the secondary closer, but that would only open up the passing game. Offense, however, won't beat the Patriots - the New York Giants proved that. It will be the defense that will beat the Patriots.
People often forget that Oakland was the No. 3-ranked defense back in 2006. Injuries led to the fall to No. 23 in 2007. In 2008, Oakland has a very scary secondary with Nnamdi Asomugha, and DeAngelo Hall at the cornerback positions, and Stanford Routt, Michael Huff, and Gibril Wilson rounding out a very fast and dangerous secondary.
That begs the question: Whom will Tom Brady throw the ball to? Well, NE could try running the ball, but they are not really known for their running game, and much like SD, there will be players waiting to deal with the Patriots' mediocre running back Laurence Moroney.
There you have it: my theory of how the Oakland Raiders could possibly beat two of the toughest teams in the NFL.
I know both Chargers fans and Patriots fans are going to go nuts over this, but just remember this: on any given Sunday, anything can happen.
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