Coming into the season, the Oakland Raiders appeared as though they were finally ready to turn the corner and go from a rebuilding team to a competing team. The Raiders made smart moves during the off-season and addressed major concerns at QB position and on their run defense.
Hopes were high that a strong start in their season opener at the Tennessee Titans would propel the team to a year where finishing .500 or above would be realistic. Unfortunately, those hopes were all but demolished as the Raiders suffered an embarrassing 38-13 beat down.
Most fans would have been content, if not happy, had the Raiders played the Titans tough and stayed in the game until the end. A loss does not shatter hope. A loss like the one Tennessee inflicted on the Raiders does. While it was only one game, its one that could have lasting repercussions if the Raiders do not bounce back immediately and in a big way.
In his post game press conference on Monday, Tom Cable said that the Raiders were "kind of pissed off" about how the season opener went and they should be. A loss like this is no longer acceptable for a team that has been in rebuilding mode for the past seven years.
If the Raiders want to regain confidence in themselves and the confidence of their fans, they need to show that they are no longer one of the worst teams in the league. In order to do this, they need to put up a big win over the St. Louis Rams in Oakland on Sunday.
The Rams were the worst team in the league last year and even with the upgrade at QB with Sam Bradford, are still one of the worst in the NFL. If the Raiders really are a team that has turned the corner and is no longer in rebuilding mode, they not only need to win this game, they need to do it in impressive fashion.
One of the keys to having a successful season is to win the games that you are supposed to win. the Raiders were not supposed to win against the Titans in Tennessee. They were not supposed to get blown out either, but in the end, a loss is a loss, regardless of the score. The Raiders need to put that game behind them and play the Rams like the team everyone expected them to be this season.
If the Raiders can walk away from the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday with a two score win that never looked in doubt, it will go a long way towards rebuilding this team's confidence.
The Raiders actually started the game well in Tennessee. The defense looked strong as it harassed Vince Young and shut down Chris Johnson. However, the offense could not get off the ground and the defense could not keep up the intense pace they were playing at. That cannot happen this week. The Raiders need to start off strong and play well throughout the game.
The Raiders do have reasons to expect such success on Sunday. First, the Raiders got better by addition through subtraction. The Raiders cut Yamon Figurs after he muffed the opening kick off in Tennessee on Sunday. Why Figurs ever made the team is something I will never understand. All he did this pre-season was muff kicks and drop passes. Hopefully a new kick returner will be able to spark the Raiders offense.
Additionally, Michael Bush has fully returned to practice and looks like he will be able to share carries with Darren McFadden. Speaking of McFadden, the perennially injured and underachieving first round pick was one of the few Raiders to have a strong showing in Tennessee. Having Bush there to play the thunder to McFadden's lightening will only allow McFadden more room to run when he gets the ball.
On the other hand, the Raiders also have reasons to be worried about the game against the Rams. The Raiders offensive line was clearly the biggest problem against the Titans. The Raiders offensive line woes might get even worse this week if Robert Gallery is unable to go. Gallery injured his hamstring against the Titans and is questionable for the game on Sunday.
The one positive that might be taken from Gallery's injury is that it does not appear too serious and it might give back up Daniel Loper a chance to show that he should be starting at the other guard position. The Raiders offensive line need to get better and it might be time to start seeing if some back ups are actually better options.
In the end, the outcome of this week's game against the lowly St. Louis Rams will be more determinative of how the season will go than the season opener was. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.