Oakland Raiders at Mid-Season: Is the Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?
Holla at me, RAIDER NATION!
Well, here we are at the midway point of the season.
I know that you've been waiting (and waiting) for our team to turn the corner, and with the Raiders winning their last two games in impressive fashion (racking up...oh, lets say 90-plus points) and moving their record to .500, I know that everyone wants to open their windows or go to their rooftops and scream "The Raiders are back!!"
I can't say that I blame you.
However, I'm here to remind you that we need to show a little restraint:
A) The season is only half over, and
B) Let's remember who we were playing when we had these offensive explosions.
First, let's talk about the Broncos, a team coached by Josh McDaniels, who just might be a village idiot! (And you guys complain about Cable!!) This is the guy who got rid of his No. 1 quarterback, then turned around and got rid of his No. 1 wide receiver. Still not satisfied, he decided to get rid of his (proven) defensive coordinator! If McDaniels isn't (very) careful, soon someone is going to be looking to get rid of him!
We should beat this team!
Next, let's talk about Seattle.
Now, while the Hawks have improved (some) under Pete Carroll, let's be realistic—we're still talking about a team that has, what, like a 4-15 road record! No way should they come into the Black Hole and get a win!
We should beat this team!
The good news is that, at least for now, the Raiders are beating the teams that they should beat (It's been a while.) However, I'm Olde School, and where I come from, you don't get praise for doing what you should be doing!!
(Who started that trend?!?)
At worst we should be 5-4 and tied for a share of the division lead!
Speaking of which, next on the docket we have the Chiefs, another team that we should beat. As we all know, however, very few things are for certain in today's NFL. The Chiefs have been playing well; but when it comes to the Raiders as of late, it's not about our opponents, it's about how the Raiders will perform.
Here are three important factors that could have an effect not only on the Chiefs game, but on how the team plays in the second half of the season:
If you're not the Jets, Pats, Saints or Colts, who your starting at QB could be put up for debate. This statement could apply to the Raiders as well.
It appears, however, that Jason Campbell understands what all QBs need to understand: If I minimize my mistakes and capitalize off of those of the defense, I'll give my team a better chance to win!
The question is, Will Cable keep Campbell as the starter once Bruce Gradkowski is fully healed? This Raider fan hopes so (and after those first two games, I'm surprising myself with that statement...LOL). The truth is that now is not the time for a QB controversy. After two straight very good performances, the last thing this team needs is to have any kind of disruption.
Beyond not disrupting the current harmony of the offense, Jason Campbell has been displaying the gap in natural talent that that exists between himself and Bruce. Make no mistake, I'm not here to knock Brucie G, but the facts are that there are throws that Bruce just can't make. Jason doesn't have that same problem.
If Campbell continues to play intelligent football and combines that with his ability to make all the throws, I see no reason to remove him from the starting lineup.
We, the Raider Nation, have been hoping for a QB with the heart and talent to provide this team a spark to be guided by. Well, I say what could be better than for Jason Campbell to come from Washington (with all that entailed), arrive in Oakland, be named the starter only to play poorly and be benched, and just when all seems lost, get a second chance and the rest, as they say, is "history"
Just as it was a good move for Al Davis to keep Cable as head coach, it's going to be a good decision (I believe) for Cable to keep Campbell as our starter under center and allow him and the team to continue building upon their success.
THE RUNNING GAME
McFadden is at long last healthy, and he is eating up turf at better than four yards a carry. Moreover, he has a few "triple digit" games under his belt already this season. He's been showing everyone (finally) what Al Davis saw in him in the first place.
Take that, Davis haters!!
McFadden's explosive ability is only one dimension of our running attack; the other is the physical, "in between the tackles" style of Mike Bush. Bush, who slipped to us in the draft, has also been playing very well as of late. He's the perfect weapon to attack the defense with, especially after they've grown tired of chasing McFadden.
Better yet, you let Bush beat em' up, and then they are too tired to chase Mcfadden. Either way, we have a two-headed monster in the backfield, a situation that we need to exploit to our benefit.
If the Raiders are going to have any real continued success, it's going to be key that the run game be a big part of the plan. We will need to keep pressure off our QB (whoever that is), and we will need to control the clock as well as the game. That's best done with an effective running attack.
Moreover, this will take some pressure off the most suspect part of our team: the offensive line.
As we know, it's generally a lot easier to run block than to pass block. My feeling is that we should be attacking the defensive line before they attack us, and considering that our O-line is the main weakness on our team, we need to minimize their chances to possibly damage our success.
I say that we should keep pounding the rock, keep the opposing defense off balance, and honest. Speaking of defense...
I could write about the improved (or not so improved) play of our defensive line, or how great (or not so great) our linebackers have been, but, quite frankly, does anyone really care?
Any weakness the defense may have been showing has been lost in the explosion of our offense! No, Raider Nation, I want to talk about a topic that has been on my mind since Sunday: How badly is Nnamdi Asomugha hurt?
I know that his X-rays have come back negative; however, I worry about the dreaded "ankle sprain." This is an injury that can linger for the rest of the season if the team is not careful . Furthermore, I don't even want to think about not having him on the field with the rest of our defense. He's just too important.
While Matt Cassel is no Tom Brady, he's no backup, and with Big Ben next on our list, the last thing we need is to have a suspect secondary.
Any weakness can (and will) be exploited.
Let's deal with the Chiefs (after all we do play them next)
A serious injury to Asomugha could cause a domino effect within the defense. Worst case: We look to overcompensate in the secondary (I don't trust Stanford Routt, do you?) which allows the Chiefs one-two punch of Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles at running back to get on track and run for large chunks of yardage.
Remember Gore running for 64 yards to set up that 49er touchdown? Or how about Arian Foster's 74-yard, third-quarter touchdown run? Thought I'd remind you (in case you forgot) what the defense looked like before these last two wins (just a nightmare that could become a reality).
I believe that Asomugha will be on the field this Sunday, even if he's not at 100 percent. We are going to need his presence to help keep the Chiefs (and everyone else for that matter) honest.
I not only believe that Asomugha will play, but that the team will end its home game losing streak to the Chiefs (which I believe is at seven—I try not to think about these things, so I may be wrong...LOL), just as they ended their losing streak with the Chargers.
WHAT WILL THE RAIDER RECORD BE THIS AT THE END OF NEXT MONTH?
IS THE GLASS HALF-FULL OR HALF-EMPTY?
How the Raiders perform over the next few weeks will answer this question.
We will play the Chiefs this Sunday. Next we have a bye week, which gives us plenty of time to prepare for that Steelers road game. After Pittsburgh, we will have another home game, this one against the Miami Dolphins. Miami is another team which has given the Raiders problems as of late; I believe that over the last dozen or so games against Miami, our team has only won three or four, which is not a very good record.
The Raiders have an opportunity to make a statement. They can go undefeated (for the moment) within the division and can hang losses on AFC playoff rivals Pittsburgh and Miami with wins after a bye week and at home. The Raiders have a chance to win each one of these games; they also have a chance to lose all three.
If the Raiders can manage to win these upcoming games and run the team's record to a respectable 7-4, we know we're dealing with a glass half-full situation. However, as I said, the Raiders have a chance to lose all three games and fall to 4-7 (and we know what that means).
So, this brings us back to my question: Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Stay tuned, Raider Nation, we are about to find out.
Raider from birth.
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