The Oakland Raiders are a team on the rise in 2010.
After moving on without former No. 1 pick Jamarcus Russell and adding new starting quarterback Jason Campbell, things are very optimistic in the Bay Area.
This slideshow is a full 2010 season preview for the Raiders looking at each regular season game with predictions of the outcomes as well.
Let's get on with it...
I'm pretty sure everyone reading this knows the first thing that needs to happen in order to beat the Titans: control running back Chris Johnson.
That said, it’s entirely possible that Johnson won’t even be in the Titan’s line up. If his hold out goes into the season; the Raiders’ job just got a lot easier.
Vince Young is another key member of the Titans that may not be in the lineup. He still awaits a decision from Commissioner Roger Goodell about whether or not he’ll be suspended for his strip club altercation earlier this month.
Should either or both of these players be missing, the Raiders should win this game fairly easily. The Titans are not the same team without either of these men.
New Raider Jason Campbell can take advantage of the weak Titan secondary. Michael Bush and Darren McFadden have a shot at running up some nice totals against the Titans’ run defense that will be without Kyle Vanden Bosch.
Key Match-up: The Raiders new front seven versus the Titans offensive line.
Projection: Raiders-17 Titans-10
The Raiders couldn't have asked for a better home opener. The lowly, rookie-led St. Louis Rams will be the first of the "lambs" sent to the slaughter in the Black Hole in 2010.
The Rams have but one legitimate, established offensive weapon and that's Steven Jackson. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo must rely on Jackson to support Bradford as he grows. Therefore, stopping Jackson stops the Rams. Period!
On offense, the Raiders should be able to run roughshod over the Rams sub-par defensive line. Fred Robbins is getting old and the rest of their defensive tackles are young and truthfully, not very good.
The aging James Hall and under-achieving Chris Long will not help much either.
Key Match-up: Steven Jackson versus Rolando McClain
Projection: Raiders-34 Rams-6
This game could go either way. No Kurt Warner, no Carlos Dansby, and no Anquan Boldin—but that doesn't necessarily mean the Cardinals are bad. It all depends on the play of Matt Leinart. If he plays well, the Cards play well.
I believe that with Warner and Boldin gone, stopping Chris "Beanie" Wells and Tim Hightower will be vital. The Raiders have to make Leinart throw the ball.
The Cardinal defense is very good, and has some nice pro bowl talent all over the field. Darnell Dockett, Adrian Wilson, Joey Porter and others will make this a tough game for the Raiders.
Should the Raiders be able to run the ball, control the pass rush, and not give the Cardinals any easy chances, they can win this game.
Key Match-up: Darnell Dockett versus the Raiders' interior line
Projection: Raiders-23 Cardinals-20
The biggest threat the Texans pose is obviously in the passing game. A Pro-Bowl quarterback in Matt Schaub, arguably the best wide receiver in the game Andre Johnson, and a talented tight end in Owen Daniels, are formidable.
Ironically, the one of those that I would worry about the most is Daniels because if the Raiders have a defensive weakness, it's in cover linebackers. Oakland can't be so worried about Johnson that Daniels runs free. Either of them can beat you, so you have to be aware of both.
The play-action pass is Jason Campbell's best talent. Jaques Reeves is the only experienced cornerback who's name I recognized. Rookie Kareem Jackson is a good player, but he's young and Louis Murphy should give him fits all day.
Look for a pedestrian day for the Raiders running backs, but a huge day for Campbell and the receivers.
Key Match-up: Owen Daniels versus the Raiders outside linebackers
Projection: Raiders-34 Texans-23
The first divisional test for the Raiders is in The Black Hole, which is good. Unfortunately this early test doesn't come against the Chiefs or Broncos, but against the most recent Kings of the AFC West mountain, the San Diego Chargers.
Oakland's secondary must play disciplined, not bite on double moves, or allow Jackson or Legadu Naanee to get behind them.
Putting a lot of pressure on Rivers will go a long way to prevent that. If the Raiders can get Rivers on the ground early and often, their chances of winning are greatly increased.
The continued hold-outs of Marcus McNeil and Vincent Jackson would play right into the Raiders' hands.
If the Raiders expect to win, they absolutely must control the clock with Michael Bush and the running game; passing only when necessary.
The Chargers have a good pass rush and secondary, so punishing the middle of their front seven should bring the safeties into the box, then Jason Campbell can exploit them with the deep play action pass.
Key Match-ups: Richard Seymour and Lamarr Houston versus the Chargers offensive tackles
Projection: Raiders-13 Chargers-20
This is almost a home game, but not quite. The Raiders will be sleeping in their own beds and won't have jet lag when the sixth game of the season starts. Both are conducive to winning on the road, but playing a much improved 49ers will not be easy at all.
The 49ers fate lies squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Alex Smith. If he can over come the "bust" status he's been saddled with and play like the first overall pick he is, San Francisco will be hard to beat.
Scoring points will not be an easy task. The 49ers are very stout in all facets of the defense. They rush the passer well, stop the run well, and can create turnovers in the secondary.
Jason Campbell has to be extra careful when passing and the running backs have to cover the ball when being tackled. The Raider's receivers should concentrate more on ball security than in fighting for extra yards.
Key match-up: Raiders' receivers versus 49ers' secondary
Projection: Raiders-13 49ers-23
This is a game the Raiders must win to be taken seriously in the AFC west. These teams split their two games last year, but something tells me this won't happen in 2010.
The Broncos did not get much better in the offseason. They lost the most productive wide receiver in the league over that last three seasons, Brandon Marshall.
Adding Jamal Williams to the Broncos front seven was a great move by head coach Josh McDaniels, but they didn't do much to improve their aging secondary.
Safety Brian Dawkins, cornerback Champ Bailey, and cornerback Andre Goodman are all over 30 and not getting any younger.
The Raider rushing attack may suffer a bit in this game due in part to the addition of Jamal Williams and the very good linebacking corps of the Broncos.
The good news is that the running game doesn't have to be spectacular to beat the Broncos.
It only has to be effective enough to establish the play action pass so that Jason Campbell and the young Raiders receivers can eat up yards and make big plays against the aging Broncos secondary.
Key Match-up: Raiders' receivers versus Broncos' secondary
Projection: Raiders-24 Broncos-13
The rekindling of this old AFC west rivalry will be fun for Raider fans to watch. The Seahawks are in the process of rebuilding but still have a lot of holes.
Stopping the Seahawks rushing attack and putting pressure on Matt Hasselbeck will lead to a Raider victory.
Richard Seymour is bound to show rookie left tackle Russell Okung what a real NFL defensive end looks like!
I expect Hasselbeck to be running for his life most of the day because, along with Seymour, Lamarr Houston matches up well against right tackle Sean Locklear.
Seattle is weak in the pass rush department. Patrick Kerney is retired and Darryl Tapp is in Philadelphia. This leaves Chris Clemmons as the only experienced pass rusher they have.
Assuming the pass rush, the run defense, and pass offense work like they're capable of, things will open up for Michael Bush and Darren McFadden to control the clock with the rushing attack to end the game.
Key Match-up: Richard Seymour versus Russell Okung
Projection: Raiders-28 Seahawks-13
Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel are now on the Kansas City coaching staff. This means with Matt Cassel running the show, we can expect them to look a lot like the New England Patriots of five or six years ago...without all the talent.
If the Raiders can control the quick, short pass to rookie Dexter McCluster and draw plays to Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones their offense will be largely neutralized.
To get to their defense, the Raiders must pound the ball between the tackles to set up play action. The defensive line of the Chiefs isn't horrible, but can be taken advantage of by the Raider's guards.
There should be some nice running lanes for Michael Bush and Darren McFadden to exploit.
Once the run has been established, Jason Campbell can take torch the Chief's inexperienced secondary.
Key Match-up: Jason Campbell versus Eric Berry
Projection: Raiders-27 Chiefs-14
After a bye week to rest up, the Raiders will face their toughest game to date in Pittsburgh.
This will not be the same Steelers the Raiders beat last season. They should have Troy Polamalu back, making it much more difficult to beat their secondary like Bruce Gradkowski and Louis Murphy did last season.
Young running back Rashard Mendenhall is big, fast, and powerful. The Raiders cannot even attempt any arm tackles on him. If they do, he could win this game on his own.
Lamar Woodley and James Harrison will be hard to contain. Two tight end sets and chipping with the running backs will be required if the Raiders hope to keep those two out of their backfield.
Dropping off screens to Darren McFadden from time to time will help to slow down their excellent pass rush, but it won't work by itself. There has to be a legitimate threat of the pass over the middle to Zach Miller to keep Woodley and Harrison in coverage, rather than in Jason Campbell's face.
Key Match-ups: Raiders' offensive line versus Steelers pass rush
Projection: Raiders-13 Steelers-28
When the Dolphins come into Oakland, they will be bringing an old Raider adversary with them, Brandon Marshall. Marshall makes this Dolphin team a lot better and more difficult to defend.
The "Wild-Cat" offense is starting to fade away in the NFL, except in Miami. The Raiders have to be ready to stop Ronnie Brown and Rickey Williams without ignoring Marshall.
This will test the Raiders newly assembled front seven. Staying true to their gap responsibility and covering the middle of the field will be key to stopping the Dolphins' offense.
This could be the day Darren McFadden makes the difference. Pitches, sweeps and quick screens can be very productive.
Cornerbacks Vonte Davis and Sean Smith are young and won't get beat with athleticism, but with scheme. Double moves off of play action and complex route combinations will confuse them. This may cause some blown coverages for Jason Campbell and the young receivers to exploit.
Key Match-ups: Raiders' receivers versus Dolphins secondary
Projection: Raiders-27 Dolphins-23
Revenge will be on the menu on December 5th in San Diego. The Raiders will be looking to return the favor to the Chargers for beating them in the Black Hole in week four.
Once again, the key on defense will be to get after Philip Rivers and punish him. Getting him on the ground and constantly harassing him is the only hope the Raiders have. If Rivers is given time to throw, he will pick the defense apart. This game will be won or lost by the pass rush.
If the defense does what is needed to rush the passer and stop the run, the offense will have a chance to control the clock with the run game.
Michael Bush needs to have at least 25 carries; all between the tackles. Once the Charger safeties have to commit to stopping the run, play action passes deep to Louis Murphy and Darius Heyward-Bey can really hurt the Chargers.
Key Match-ups: Same as the first game--Raiders' defensive ends versus Chargers offensive tackles.
Projection: Raiders-23 Chargers-20.
The Jaguars are one of those teams that can beat anyone if they bring the right intensity.
Stopping Maurice Jones-Drew will be the key, but that's no easy task. Jones-Drew is 5'8", 205 pounds of talent and fury. Tackling him is like trying to tackle a bowling ball! Arm tackles and missed gap responsibilities will result in a lot of yards and points for the Jaguars.
Mike Sims-Walker and Kassim Osgood both played very well last season, and with another year to grow and learn, they will be even better.
The Raiders must not allow themselves to lose focus on their coverage responsibilities by spying the backfield looking for the run.
Oakland must stay committed to the run on offense.
Without at least the appearance of a commitment to the run, Jason Campbell won't be able to exploit the relatively weak Jaguars secondary.
Rasheen Mathis is a good cornerback and if he doesn't have to worry about supporting the run, he can play free and make plays for his team.
Key Match-ups: Raiders' linebackers versus Maurice Jones-Drew
Projection: Raiders-14 Jaguars-20
Just like in Week Seven, the Raiders will be jacked up to lay a beating on their hated rivals. This time, there will be thousands of screaming members of Raider Nation egging them on!
This game is destined to turn out just like the last meeting: the Raiders running the ball at will and exploiting the ancient Bronco secondary with speedy, young receivers.
Key Match-ups: Same as before. Raiders receivers versus Bronco secondary
Projection: Raiders-30 Broncos-17
This may be the toughest game on the Raiders' schedule. The defending AFC champs are likely to be just as tough as ever.
The best quarterback the league has seen since Joe Montana always does his homework and, along with offensive coordinator Tom Moore, will have a plan to take advantage of the young Raider front seven.
The most obvious weakness of the new-look Raiders is in the coverage skills of their linebackers. Manning knows this, Moore knows this, and we know this. Look for the Colts' backs to have big receiving days.
If the Raiders' safeties and cornerbacks don't stay focused, it'll be a long day. By the same token, if the front seven fails to stop the run and cover the backs, the secondary will be even more vulnerable.
The only real chance the Raiders have is to run the ball and control the clock. The best way to beat Peyton Manning is to keep him on the sideline!
Key Match-up: Raiders linebackers versus Colts running backs
Projection: Raiders-17 Colts-28
The Chiefs are going to suffer the same fate in this game that they did in Week Nine, only this time it will be in front of their own fans.
The Raiders will run the ball, control the clock and dominate the Chief offense...again!
That's all there is to this!
Key Match-ups: Same as week nine. Jason Campbell versus Chiefs secondary.
Projection: Raiders-34 Chiefs-13
Head coach Tom Cable has changed the culture in Oakland, but still has a lot of work to do.
I realize that I am being pretty optimistic predicting 11 wins for Oakland, but I truly think that Cable and Al Davis have done much more to improve the team than most media is willing to admit.
If the Raiders win only eight games, it will be a decent season; improving by three games and having a non-losing season.
However, all the improvements and positive changes in player's attitudes leaves me confident that the result I've predicted in this slide show is possible, if not likely.
What do you say Raider Nation? Am I right? Wrong? Crazy? Let's hear you!
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