5 Reasons Why the Oakland Raiders Will Still Win the AFC West
The nasty taste of the Oakland Raiders' loss to the New England Patriots should now be out of Raider Nation's mouth. But let's really look at it—coming into the season it looked just like the Raiders were going to be 2-2 at this point.
Then when the Raiders lost to the Buffalo Bills, it looked like the Raiders would be under .500 as this point. But a Raiders' upset victory over the New York Jets suddenly made Raider Nation believe they would beat the New England Patriots.
That didn't work out so well, but there is no reason to suddenly believe the Raiders won't win the AFC West. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of reasons to believe that they will win the AFC West.
Turn the page to see what those reasons are.
The Raiders are going through the toughest part of their schedule right now. They were beaten by a much improved Buffalo Bills team, then played the Jets and the Patriots in back-to-back weeks.
The Raiders already own the AFC West, and the only legitimate contender the Raiders have on their schedule in the Green Bay Packers. There really aren't too many other teams left on the schedule that match up with the Raiders on the line of scrimmage at that.
In the rest of the division, the Broncos have already lost to the Packers, the Chiefs lost to the Bills and the Chargers lost to the Patriots. But no other team in the AFC West has seen the gauntlet that is the Bills, Jets and Patriots.
The Raiders are only one game out of first place with the schedule being played out as is.
The Raiders defense will be a much better unit as they start to get everyone back healthy. When he comes back, Chris Johnson will not get abused the way he was before a hamstring injury took him out of action.
To be honest, that hamstring pull may have been the best thing to happen to him so he can rest his groin. He had surgery on that groin at around the mid-point of camp and tried to play on it before he was ready.
This was big because he was in the top five among corners in burn percentage last year. Then you have Mike Mitchell, who covers the tight end better than any Raider on the 2010 roster.
He played in his first game of the season last Sunday and Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was shut down. I also believe his tackling will be a huge addition to the Raiders secondary that has whiffed all year.
Second team All-Pro free safety Michael Huff is what he is because he can cover the slot in addition to blitzing and patrolling the back end of the secondary—you saw what Wes Welker did to Joe Porter last Sunday. He passed his concussion test last week but still didn't play, but I'm expecting him to be good to go this Sunday.
Matt Shaughnessy is another important defensive player who should be coming back from his shoulder injury soon. The Raiders pass rush wasn't quite there last Sunday, and Shaughnessy is a big part of why.
I thought that Jarvis Moss did okay in his stead, but he isn't as good as Shaughnessy against the run. Shaughnessy's presence also keeps Moss fresh to rush the passer when he does come in.
I was perplexed by the fact the Darren McFadden had only 14 carries in the Patriots game. I questioned Jackson but shouldn't have as I later found out that McFadden went out of the game to get something checked.
He went back in the game, but he was probably decoy because he wasn't quite right. Having him and fullback/weapon Marcel Reece will be big as they will make plays in the passing and running game.
Don't forget about clutch home run hitter Louis Murphy coming back some time soon!
Kansas City Is Horrible
The Kansas City Chiefs are now horrible without the smoke and mirrors that former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis used to get them in the playoffs. Chiefs fans will probably blame the injury of Jamaal Charles for the Chiefs' demise but that's not it.
Losing Charles didn't help at all, but he did very little when he played because the smoke and mirrors are no longer there. All the fake reverse, misdirection madness has been figured out, and Weis is no longer there to call the plays to set these things up.
Weis's departure has also affected the play of quarterback Matt Cassel, who's off to rocky start in 2011. They really didn't help themselves in letting Brian Waters leave town, as the offensive line has been pretty bad.
Looks to me like the Chiefs could possibly be playing for Andrew Luck.
Denver in Transition
The Raiders will eventually start having major problems with the Denver Broncos. I just don't think too many solid teams in the NFL including the Raiders will have those major problems this year.
They sit and 1-3 right now as head coach John Fox is turning this team into a more physical one than they had under Josh McDaniel. He wants to go to the power running game and play defense—using the 4-3 front instead of the 3-4.
Especially with the lockout, this transition will take time as Fox has only had one draft. But as for now, they are 1-3 and don't look like they are going to turn around and compete for the AFC West right now.
However, the stakes will be raised in this rivalry soon.
Raiders Matchup Well with Chargers
By the time the Raiders play the San Diego Chargers, they should have everyone back and clicking. The Raiders are much more physical than the Chargers, and I'm not too worried about the three-wideout sets.
Michael Huff will be there in the slot, Mitchell will handle a gimpy Antonio Gates with a healthy Johnson and Stanford Routt. I'll tell you what I really like—Legadu Nanee is now a Carolina Panther, so that hurts the Chargers' three-wideout set.
With a healthy defensive line, Rivers will get punished—throwing him off a bit.
It's not that bad, Raider Nation!
The Oakland Raiders had all these starters injured on defense and they were still within two turnovers of the New England Patriots. Let's be real here—no one would have thought the Raiders would have come within 21 points of the Patriots with all those guys hurt.
It's just they way that they lost that makes it disgusting.
As disgusting as it may be, there is still plenty of hope for the team.
In fact, they are going to win the division.