Rivalries. They are a big part of the NFL with emphasis on those that have become historic. The Packers vs. Vikings, the Browns vs. Steelers are just some of a few. One rivalry that can be included will be a Week One matchup between the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos.
Want more added excitement to this? It's the Monday Night Football opener. The big stage.
The struggles within the division for Oakland have been one thing that has made them the laughing stock of the NFL for the past half decade. However, with their recent rise in talent, better coaching, and the addition of better personnel, the tides are changing in the AFC West.
This was shown last year as Oakland went 2-4 in the division and was a time out from going 3-3. Now the stage is set for them to start the '08-'09 campaign 1-0.
Let's revisit the Broncos recent team activity.
Travis Henry is a guy the Broncos signed last season who they had amazingly high hopes for, and they were not the only ones. Fantasy drafts had Henry usually going in the first round as Denver is well known for producing unknown running backs into stars. So with a proven back, the sky was supposedly the limit. Well, speaking of getting high, Henry is no longer with the team, leaving a giant hole at the running back spot.
Selvin Young and Michael Pittman are the leading candidates for the open spot now. We all know about Young's recent prediction, so while laughing at the current RB situation, let's all take time to acknowledge that too. The guy has a great career as a comedian following his NFL career. Don't get me wrong, he could do it, anything is possible, but it's unlikely, which leads me to my next point.
The offensive line. Matt Lepsis was a great talent, but he's gone. Tom Nalen, another great talent, has already been hurt this preseason with his status for Week One in question. At the age of 37, we cannot be sure, especially with the wear and tear that goes with being an offensive lineman. Ryan Clady was their early draft pick and while he has potential, will he have success like Joe Thomas, or struggle like Robert Gallery? Only time will tell.
New starters, older personnel, this isn't something you want on the starting line. This will obviously make the already weak running game even weaker. Conventional thinking would make you think they could just air it out to get those needed points on the board. If only it was that easy against the Raiders.
Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the best corners in the league and has shown no signs of slowing down as he is having a great preseason.
DeAngelo Hall is now the new corner on the opposite side of the field and the traditional fan would be quick to jump to say he's just as good as Nnamdi, but that's not even close to being the case. Hall is a decent corner but not great. In this game, he'll fare well and I will explain why later.
Michael Huff is moving back to his normal spot at free safety where he will be able to do what he did well in college. Expectations for him this year are very high. Although he hasn't lived up to his seventh overall pick status, this could be the year where he starts opening everyone's eyes. He has the talent; we all just hope he can utilize it to the best of his ability.
And now the newcomer, Gibril Wilson. Wilson is a good safety taking the spot from a very poor one in Stuart Schweigert. There aren't many places where you can have as big of an upgrade as this. Stu has been terrible for the Raiders recently while Wilson has been generally consistent with his play on the defending champion New York Giants.
I just went through the Raider's secondary to show the point that these guys are good, and I haven't even mentioned the two linebackers in Howard and Morrison, whom are also very good in coverage. Why would I be doing this you might ask? I'll explain that now.
The Broncos have a young QB, an unstable offensive line, barely a running game, and now after today we all found out that their stud receiver Brandon Marshall will not be able to play in this game. No it's not for an injury obtained when he "slipped on a McDonald's wrapper," it's for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Being arrested three times in seventeen months also doesn't help.
So now that great Oakland secondary doesn't even have to cover one of the league's premier receivers, it now has the job of covering Brandon Stokely, Darrell Jackson, and Keary Colbert. This might not sound bad to the naive ear, but it's nothing great. It's barely even good.
Colbert, playing opposite of Steve Smith has been injured the past couple years and produced very little. He should not be a viable threat to the Oakland secondary in the first game of the season.
Jackson is coming over from his first and only season with the 49ers where people probably barely even remember. What are remembered of Darrell are his years in Seattle where he had a couple of years with 1,000 plus receiving yards.
We are now three years removed since Jackson's last 1,000 yard season plus he doesn't have Matt Hasselbeck throwing him the football. While I'm high on Cutler, he's not Hasselbeck and no one can argue that. Show me something Jackson before we say you can do it.
Stokely was a great third option for Peyton Manning. I was also once fooled because we often heard his name and that's no lie. Facts are, he's only had one year with a 1,000 yards receiving in that pass happy Colt offense. He's also 32 and has had injury problems his whole career.
So, this Raider secondary, which is looked at as a preseason best, will have the "trouble" of covering those guys? I doubt that will be a problem.
Let's revisit: unknown running game, shaky offensive line, young QB, and poor wide receivers. Shanahan is a great coach; don't get me wrong, but on paper, where are the points going to come from? At least they had Marshall to offer a distraction and stretch the field. Now, with his suspension, this should be one the Raiders should be able to take. Good luck Denver...did I mention that the game is in Oakland also??