I always over-project the Raiders record for the upcoming season.
I'm a dreamer.
But with three new starters at linebacker, a new quarterback, and a fiery new offensive coordinator, the Raiders are one healthy offensive line away from being a good (10-6) team.
For the purpose of projecting the Raiders record in the 2010 season, I placed their opponents into four categories: Weak, Mediocre, Strong, and Elite. I then projected the Raiders record against each group.
Projected Raiders Record: 5-1
I won't make any disclaimers about the Chiefs and Rams; they are not good teams. The experts are high on what the Seahawks have done this offseason, but with all the changes they're making, I'm going to take a "believe it when I see it" approach to their capability.
The Broncos had a good season in 2009—if one disregards their finish—but they've lost more than they've gained this offseason. The departure of Brandon Marshall, Tony Scheffler, and Mike Nolan, along with the injury to Ryan Clady, have turned many of the team's strengths into question marks. Their quarterback situation is a mess.
All the Raiders have to do is eliminate mental errors against this group in order to win five out of six.
Projected Raiders Record: 2-1
All three of these teams have great potential and could surprise with a strong season, but none are beyond what the Raiders can handle. Despite each teams' talent, none are solid in all facets of the game, making consistency a serious issue.
If the Raiders stop the run in these games they will win at least two.
Projected Raiders Record: 2-2
Are you wondering what the Colts are doing in this group?
Normally, they'd fall into the "Elite" category, but the Raiders play the Colts in Week 16 this year. If last season is any indication, a game against the Colts in Week 16 or 17 is essentially a "gimme" for their opposition.
The other three teams are primed for great seasons, but are prone to periodic lapses in performance (last year the Titans gave up five TDs in the second quarter of one game).
Three of these four are home games. Winning two games is not out of the question.
Projected Raiders Record: 1-2
I'm not going to predict the Raiders ending their 12-game losing streak against the Chargers this year, but there's always a chance.
Last year, the Raiders beat the Steelers after a long week off following their Thanksgiving Day game. This year the Raiders face the Steelers after their bye week. They'll have plenty of time to prepare for Pittsburgh again in 2010.
The Raiders will need to play a complete game to beat either of these teams. One win is optimistic.
This projection assumes that the Raiders are done giving games away with complete mental breakdowns. It assumes their quarterback will be able to complete a screen pass once in a while and not fumble snaps. It assumes that the offensive line will stay healthy and that the defensive line will be able to stop the run. It assumes that the new linebacking corps is better than last year's group.
Frankly, this projection assumes a lot of things the Raiders haven't proven they can do in the past seven years. If all these assumptions become reality, though, the Raiders will be a very good team. I'd love 16-0, but, in 2010, I'll settle for 10-6.