Oakland Raiders Have Nothing to Fear Based on First Impression of AFC West
The preseason wasn't pretty for the Raiders but a win tonight can have them right on schedule to fulfill my prediction of winning the AFC West. They are starting to get healthy now as Mike Mitchell, Kevin Boss and Louis Murphy are all that are injured now.
The three will be back soon as the Raiders will have Chaz Schilens available earlier than ever in his career. Yesterday I got a chance to look at the rest of the AFC West and saw nothing the Raiders should fear.
In fact, these games made my prediction look that much better.
Let's see how and why.
Kansas City Chiefs: No More Smoke and Mirrors
The Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC West last year with smoke and mirrors. People love to talk about Jamaal Charles like he's the second coming of Gayle Sayers, but that simply isn't the case.
He's a good player but Chiefs had a well-designed, smoke-and-mirrors running game last year. The misdirections, fake reverses, traps and sweeps off inside handoffs are good ways to get Charles going.
You can't just line him up in the I-formation, give him the ball and let him go because he's not that type of back. Their running game isn't physical enough and that's why the Raiders out-rushed the Chiefs in both of their games last year.
Former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is now in Florida, so the design of their running and passing game is no longer the same. The Chiefs also can't stop the run as they allowed Buffalo's Fred Jackson of all people to rush for more than 100 yards yesterday.
And if the Chiefs can't contain Stevie Johnson and Roscoe Parish, they can forget bout stopping Jacoby Ford and the track team. And unfortunately, the one great player the Chiefs do have in their secondary (Eric Berry) looks to have a serious knee injury.
Then you can add the fact that the Chiefs don't protect the quarterback very well. Against the Raiders' defensive line, not being able to protect the quarterback severely hurts your chances of beating the Raiders.
That will be their fatal flaw when the Chiefs play the Raiders in 2011.
San Diego Chargers No Longer Super
The San Diego Chargers corrected their special teams, right?
Well, they didn't get a punt blocked, but they sure did give up a kickoff return for a touchdown to Percy Harvin. The Chargers also gave up 98 yards on only 16 carries to Minnesota Vikings' running back Adrian Peterson.
On the flip side, the Chargers, known for their passing game, averaged a paltry 2.9 yards per carry when they tried to run the ball yesterday. That means they are what I thought they were—the same team team as last year, and that's not physical enough.
One thing that stood out that reminds me of last year is if you can get hits on Philip Rivers, he just isn't the same guy. It's too bad for the Vikings that they couldn't get that consistent pressure on him.
Tight end Antonio Gates seems to limp a bit when he gets up from a tackle so I wonder if something is going on there. Legadu Naanee is now in Carolina helping Steve Smith and you can see the difference in what Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd can do.
The Raiders don't have Nnamdi Asomugha, but if the Vikings secondary can hold them both under 50 yards a piece, the Raiders with Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson can too. The main thing the Raiders have on the Chargers is the running game and ability to hit Rivers.
Oh yeah, the Raiders have Ford returning kicks, too.
Denver Broncos: We'll See but It Doesn't Look Good from Here
The Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders haven't given their first impressions yet but it doesn't look good for Denver. The Raiders gutted the Broncos with the running game last year and the Broncos go out and get a pass-rushing outside linebacker.
The Broncos did move to the 4-3 from the 3-4 look they were in last year but there's no other real changes in the personnel. Based on that, I fully expect the Raiders' running game led by Darren McFadden to have their way with the Broncos.
One thing I'm curious about is how the Raiders are going to deal with the Broncos' running game. The Broncos offensive line still doesn't seem physical enough to run through the Raiders' front seven or eight.
The Broncos do have Kyle Orton, Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal but Johnson and Routt have seen plenty of Lloyd and Royal. Orton is going to have his hands full with the Raiders' defensive line, so he won't have much time to work with anyway.
This is another team that just isn't physical enough.
John Fox loves his physical teams but hasn't had the chance to build that yet in Denver.
Tonight we should see the Raiders take their first step toward winning the AFC West. Raiders head coach Hue Jackson and owner Al Davis still have work to do to become and NFL "bully," but the Raiders are already the "bully" of the AFC West.
No one from the AFC West showed that they had "bully" in them with their first impressions—the physicality just isn't there.
The Raiders have a chance tonight to show the rest of the AFC West that they do, making their first impression for 2011.
The key to becoming a "bully" is making a huge first impression.
Will the Raiders make it?