Oakland Raiders: Why Silver and Black Will Win the AFC West in 2011
The Oakland Raiders will win the AFC West in 2011!
Yeah, I said it!
There's a new Sheriff in town!
There's a new "bully" on the block!
I would never have dared to say such a thing from 2003 to 2009 but 2011 is a different year. In 2010, the once "proud and poised" franchise showed signs of regaining those traits to come out of their seven year funk.
There is now plenty of reason to believe the Raiders can win the AFC West!
Turn the page to explore the reasoning behind the prediction.
Dominated AFC West in 2010
The Raiders "bullied" the AFC West to the tune of a 6-0 record.
"Oh, they just got lucky."
Two wins in row is lucky?
I could understand stealing one on the road then getting a solid win at home but that didn't happen. The Raiders won their AFC West home games by a total score of 97-70 then blew them out at home 118-37.
They Raiders played quarterback shuffle during their non conference games but with the exception of one split due to injury. Other than that they were able to settle on one man and he would lead them to that 6-0 record.
What am I trying to say here?
I'm saying 6-0 means the Raiders are the better team in the division.
Thank goodness Marty Schottenheimer and Mike Shanahan are out of the AFC West. Shanahan was 20-6 against the Raiders while Schottenheimer was 19-5 against the Raiders.
The Raiders took more abuse from those two men than anyone in the league from 2003 until the were fired by the Chargers and Broncos respectively. Al Saunders, who led the Kansas City Chiefs offense to the NFL's No. 1 ranking from 2002 to 2005 is now the Raiders' offensive coordinator.
Jackson was a pupil of Saunders in Baltimore and now the master works for the pupil. Jackson already seems to have mastered the AFC West so the burden of adjustment is on John Fox, (Denver) Norv Turner, (San Diego) and Todd Haley. (Kansas City)
The jury is still out on Haley, Fox just inherited to team that in no way fits his rugged style, and we know about Turner from his stint in Raider Nation. He can't coach fleas to jump on a dog that hasn't had a collar in two years.
The Raiders have added Rod Woodson to coach the defensive backs and brought Chuch Bresnahan to coordinate the defense. Raider legend Stephen Wisniewski will help Bob Wylie with the offensive line and Greg Biekert will coach the linebackers.
The Raiders have the edge here.
Let's look only at each team's first pick.
The Raiders help themselves more without a first round pick than all the other teams put together. The Raiders needed a good sized center in the worst way because Samson Satele was bulled back too much in his time with the Raiders.
Second round pick Stefen Wisniewski is the 6'3" 315 pound man the Raiders need to man the position. Meanwhile, the Broncos took pass rushing linebacker Von Miller in the first round but that won't help 2010's No. 31 ranked run defense.
The Chargers took Corey Liuget in the first round to bolster up the defensive line. Jamaal William is aging but I don't know if Liuget is a nose tackle or a defensive in in the 3-4.
They are already top five stopping the run but the need to do something to stop the Raiders' running game. The Chiefs got a good pick in receiver Johnathan Baldwin but it takes time for young receivers.
Either way, the Chiefs aren't going to beat the Raiders by throwing the ball.
They especially won't if Nnamdi Asomugha stay in Raider Nation.
The match ups favor the Raiders in the division games.
The Raiders defend what the Chargers do best with the No. 2 pass defense in the league. The receivers and defensive backs are a wash as Asomugha and Malcolm Floyd are free agents but it favors the Raiders because of the punishment Charger quarterback Phillip Rivers takes.
The Chiefs have the No. 1 running game in the NFL but their not physical enough to get it off against the Raiders.
They're just Denver.
They'll be a while.
The main reason why the Raiders dominated the AFC West is because they are the more physical team. I go to boxing for this analogy because there are certain similarities between a football game and a boxing match.
You have on fighter that's more of a finesse fighter that tries to out think his opponent and keep him off balance. Then you have the other fighter that simply wants to use his physicality to impose his will on the other fighter.
No matter how slick the finesse fighter is, he's going to have to bite down at some point.
That's when you find out how the fight is going to turn out.
Once they fight, the stronger, tougher, more physical fighter has a different sound to his punches that stand out. If the finesse fighter isn't tough or strong enough, he is sure to be the one getting the most damage done to him.
Then after the fight, he is the guy that not only looks more beat up but can barely make it out of the ring. The more physical fighter's energy level looks high enough to fight another fight.
The Raiders were that physical team in every game they played in the AFC West as the won the hitting game in all of them. Every big hit that the opposing players take chips away at what they can do going forward.
It's a momentum swinger too.
Jason Campbell is the aforementioned quarterback that they settled on to lead them to that 6-0 division record. Raider head coach Hue Jackson has already announced Campbell as the 2011 starter.
What does that meant for the rest of the AFC West?
If last year has anything to do with it, they're in trouble.
In 2010, Campbell was incredibly efficient in the passing throwing for completion percentage of 68 percent. To go with that, he threw for seven touchdowns and two interceptions with a quarterback rating of 106.88.
Campbell also threw for 8.7 yards per attempt and had a touchdown rushing.
That's lights out football!
McFadden and the Running Game
Campbell was able to flourish because Darren McFadden was beasting through the AFC West in 2010. Many criticize Campbell for that but your supposed to run to set up the deep ball.
That's been Raider football since Raider owner Al Davis took over the team. Mark Van Eeghen, Kenny King, then the mercurial Marcus provided plenty of run support for Jim Plunkett in his day.
McFadden played on four of the six division games and had 470 with a 6.5 average per carry and four touchdowns. I know this is about the running game but McFadden added 90 yards receiving with another touchdown.
Back to the running game.
In the two games that McFadden was out, Bush rushed for over 100 yards in his stead. I'm not sure if the AFC West will see Bush again or even have him on their team (god forbid) but they are sure to see McFadden.
There haven't been too changes in the division to say the Raiders won't be able to run against them in 2011.
Defensive Line Beats Up Quarterbacks
"The quarterback must go down and he must go down hard" is what Davis once said. That is the quickest way to make a team cough it up for you, making it much easier for you to win in the NFL.
The Raiders did just that in the AFC West last year.
Richard Seymour called Tommy Kelly, Matt Shaughnessy, and Lamarr Houston to several meetings in the opposing AFC West team's backfield. In six games, these meetings accounted for 23 sacks and 36 quarterback hits.
Outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley sometimes put his hand in the ground and got five of them.
AFC quarterbacks won't stand a chase under the heat lamp the Raiders will put on them in 2011.
Ford the Returner
The Raiders have an edge in the return game because Jacoby Ford can strike quickly as a kick returner. When the Raiders were down and sputtering on offense in the first Chief game, Ford took one back 94 yards.
That got the crowd and the Raider offense going from that point.
But it's not just run backs, return men also give the ball to the offense in good field position. Ford has done that by averaging 29 yards per return against the AFC West.
With the new rules, we'll see how many chances Ford gets.
The Recieving Corps
There is no need for additions to the Raiders' receiving corps.
This is an extremely talented group that I believe is all set to break out in 2011. Louis Murphy was on pace to get over 1,000 yards before and injury to his shoulder threw him off.
I'm looking for big things from him and Ford, who Jackson said will be a household name in 2011. Murphy and Ford are deep threats that have done their damage against the division.
For Murphy, it started in 2009 on opening night against the Chargers. He had a 19-yard touchdown catch taken away from him the first half then caught a clutch 57-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. In 2010, Murphy had a 58-yard catch and run against those same Chargers.
Then there is the lightning rod they call Jacoby Ford that had a 71-yard run for a touchdown on a reverse against the Broncos. His real heroics came the the first game against the Chiefs where he had catches of 19, 39, and 47 yards.
The 47-yarder set up the game winning field goal in overtime.
I'm also predicting that 6'4", 225 pound, 4.33 40 running, 43 inch vertical leaping, sure handed Chaz Schilens is going to be healthy in 2011.
He did manage a touchdown grab in Week 17 against the Chiefs.
Still the Receiving Corps
With the track team going deep, Campbell will have plenty of options underneath. That starts with Zach Miller, who fought injury to get 18 catches for 197 yards and two touchdowns in 2010 vs the AFC West.
When McFadden wasn't running, he chipped in with 90 yards receiving with a touchdown. Let's not forget former college receiver and now fullback Marcel Reece, who chipped in his 146 receiving yards and a touchdown against the AFC West.
Reece is a sub-4.5 running fullback that can get deep on linebackers so he puts extra pressure on the defense.
The Raiders owned the AFC West when playing them in 2010.
I don't see where any of this is going to be reversed in 2011 as the main match up should be the same. The Raiders did however improve their run and pass blocking with young Wisniewski.
The more physical Raiders just got more physical.
Speaking of physical, Bruce Campbell looks like he'll be starting in 2011.
I'm sure Davis has something up his sleeve for free agency too.
I also look for Rolando McClain to improve in his second year and strengthen the Raiders' run defense. With a dominant offensive line to go with the talent at the skill positions, the AFC West is soon to belong to the Raiders.
That time is coming.