The Oakland Raiders’ Pirate ship has been holed below the water line and is sinking fast. Trying to sure up the holes won’t do anymore–there is too much structural damage.
Ahead, roaming the AFC seas, there are two rival craft, in much better shape and determined to finish off the good ship Silver-and-Black. They are hell-bent on reversing the victories the S&B inflicted a little while back.
The Raiders look doomed. The “jolly roger” is flying forlornly from the mast and there is talk of mutiny amongst the crew.
Second year man Mike Mitchell puts it quite bluntly: "Is everyone going to decide that we're done (expletive) around, and are we going to play?"
Perhaps it started when they were all given shore leave following the win against the Chiefs; perhaps they bought into their own hype.
The 2010 Oakland Raiders have flattered to deceive. We thought they had reached their nadir against the 49ers and the penny had finally dropped. Suddenly there was life, there was hope, there was even expectation.
But like a cheated lover, just two weeks later, the Raider Nation is left wondering–was any of that for real?
I feel so sorry for coach Tom Cable. He is a likable guy. He has sound beliefs in how to turn the Raiders around–draft well, stay loyal, bring in veteran leaders, stick together and grow piece-by-piece. He has decent coaches around him and what appears to be a very talented roster.
Yet somehow, it still isn’t working. There appears to be no end is sight. Despair has returned to the Raider Nation.
This is not a minor set-back on the Raiders voyage to recovery. Last week against the Steelers was a set-back, a reality check even. But anyone in the Raider Nation was under no illusion that a win against Miami was essential if land was to be sighted anytime soon.
The equation is even easier now. A loss against the Chargers next weekend and the season is over.
The last four games will not matter. The Raiders will be 5-7 and three of their final four games are at Jacksonville (6-5), at home against the Colts (6-5) and then at KC (7-4) with only a game at home against Denver for comfort. Suddenly a record of 6-10 is looming large on the horizon.
What is more daunting still is that a win in San Diego looks almost impossible. The Chargers are the hottest team in football and the Raiders look like they’ve forgotten how to play.
Captain Davis is getting the gang-plank prepared (along with over-head projector if necessary). The life rafts are about to be launched and some of the crew are considering making a swim for it.
There are some fundamental problems that have resurface of late: Flaky quarterback play aligned with inconsistent pass-blocking means that nobody is going to respect the Raiders passing game and is going to stack the box with eight or even nine defenders.
On the other side of the ship, the defenders have fallen into some all-too-familiar bad ways against the run and anyone healthy and not wearing a #21 shirt looks vulnerable to giving up the big play through the air, particularly on third down.
Amongst this debris, is there any hope? Is there anything to salvage from amongst the flotsam and jetsam of the last two weeks?
Here are a few nuggets to cling to as we consider the abyss around us…
- The Raiders do still have an explosive running game. Ranked fifth in the league in total yards, the Raiders have are second in runs over 40 yards (4) and runs over 20 yards (14). Darren McFadden has proved he can be a dominant rusher, if holes are opened for him.
- The Raiders do still have play-makers on offense Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy, Zach Miller and Marcel Reece have all shown they can come up with the good if they are given a chance.
- The Raiders can get after the quarterback with the best of them. They are currently lying second in the league with 32 sacks.
- Nnamdi Asomugha (when fit) can cover anyone
There is a saying that it always looks darkest before the dawn. Let’s hope this is the case, because the vultures are circling this weather-beaten ship and the resurgent Chargers look set to administer the coup-de-grace next weekend.
From somewhere, the crew needs to re-unite and decide they are going on together. The team is all that matters–individual goals are merely stats along the way. They are playing for their careers and that of their coaches.
Can they overcome the odds next week? My heart says anything is possible, my head is telling me otherwise.