Oakland Raiders: 10 Reasons the Silver and Black Are Playoff-Bound in 2011
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The Oakland Raiders are on the way up. In 2010 the team was competitive for the first time in years and wasn't mathematically eliminated from the playoffs until week 16 and finished with a respectable 8-8 record.
2011 will be a different story. This team will make the playoffs, and maybe, go even further.
Here is a look at the top ten reason the Raiders will make the playoffs in 2011.
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These are the Raiders; it had to be said.
The Raiders, quite possibly, have the fastest team in the NFL. Jacoby Ford, Stanford Routt, Darius Heyward-Bey and now Demarcus Van Dyke were all the fastest players in their respective combines.
The Raiders have speed all around; at running back, on the defensive line, at linebacker, at defensive back and even on the offensive line. The only team that can even think about matching the Raiders' speed is the Philidelphia Eagles with Michael Vick, Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
With superior speed, the Raiders' defense will be able to close quickly on both ball carriers and the QB. On offense, they will be able to out run defenders and stretch the field, thus forcing defenders to back off and respect their abilities.
You can teach an athlete to play football, but you can't teach 4.3 speed.
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It isn't nearly as bad as it looks, as the rest of their division must play those teams as well.
For one, the Raiders only have two games within the Eastern time zone: September 18th in Buffalo, and December 4th in Miami. Clearly, the Raiders play better on the West coast; last year the Raiders didn't record a single East cost win. As a matter of fact the Raiders won only two games outside of the Pacific time zone: one in Denver and one in Kansas City.
Furthermore, the Raiders have only one projected cold weather game in the regular season: December 11th at Lambeau Field against the defending Super Bowl champs, the Green Bay Packers.
In comparison, the Raiders' AFC West rivals all have, at minimum, three games on the east coast and two cold weather games.
To make matters even better, the Raiders have a favorable bye in week eight before playing the Denver Broncos.
Great Practice Turnout Despite Lockout
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Currently, the Raiders have 34 players in attendance, including Richard Seymour, Jason Campbell, Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece, Darius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford, Rolando McClain, Louis Murphy Stefan Wisniewski, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Richard Gordon, and numerous others.
34 players (including three rookies) is great turnout, especially in comparison to a team like the New York Giants, who had only six players in attendance at their practices.
When the season starts, the Raiders will be a step ahead of many of their oponents.
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I'm not the biggest Jason Campbell fan, and I've said negative things about him in the past. I'm not about to tell you that Campbell will be an elite QB, throw for 4000 yards, make the Pro Bowl or any other nonsense.
However, what I'm about to tell you is that Jason Campbell will be greatly improved and will put up respectable numbers in 2011—likely something to the tune of 3600 yards, 20 TD's and 14 INT's.
For one, Campbell is a perfect fit for the Raiders' vertical attack offense. The Raiders love to set up the deep ball with the run. Campbell's arm strength and polished play fake compliment this type of offense well.
Then, there's familiarity. This will be the first time Jason Campbell has run the same offensive system two years in a row. Despite their new head coach, the Oakland Raiders will continue to run Hue Jackson's offense. Not only that, but Jason Campbell has been reunited with one of his former offensive coordinators in Al Saunders.
In 2011 the Raiders' pass offense will be much improved along with Jason Campbell.
The Run Game
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The Raiders have one of the best running games in the league,and in 2010 they ranked 2nd in rushing yards with 2498 yards as well as 19 rushing touchdowns.
Darren McFadden led the team in yardage with 1157 yards while Michael Bush quietly rumbled, leading the team with 8 rushing touchdowns.
This duo will be back and contending for the leagues No. 1 rushing attack.
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I won't go as far as to say that the Raiders have the best special teams unit in the NFL, but they may have the most dangerous.
Shane Lechlar is the best punter in the league. Although he has the leg to pin teams deep in their own territory, the distance of his kicks is often detrimental to the team, as he can out-kick the punt coverage.
Sebastion Janikowski has the biggest leg of all NFL kickers. In fact, he has the leg to beat the all-time NFL record for longest kick of 63 yards. But his accurracy and consistancy are an issue, as he showed us against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Raiders also have a very dangerous return man in Jacoby Ford, and another one is likely to emerge among Taiwan Jones, DeMarcus Van Dyke and the rest of the Raiders' speedsters.
Not only that, but the Raiders have been known to block an occasional punt or field goal.
Mark my words: the Raiders will win games by way of the special teams' play, similar to how they beat the Chargers in week 5 last season.
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Elite Pass Rush
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I will say it right now: the Raiders have the best pass rush in the NFL.
Sure, you can argue the Steelers have a better pass rush because they had 48 sacks compared to the Raiders' 47. But with a closer glance, you will realize the Steelers also saw 127 more passing attempts than did the Raiders. With an additional 127 chances to pursue to the QB, the Steelers were only able to accumalate one additional sack. Thus, it appears that the Raiders have the better pass rush.
In 2011, Richard Seymour, Matt Shaughnessy, Kamerion Wimbley, Tommy Kelly, Lamarr Houston and the rest of the Raiders' pass rushers will continue to torment their opponents' QB's.
Improved Coaching Staff
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I've already touched on how the continuity in their offensive scheme and Al Saunders' familiarity with Campbell will help the Raiders' offense.
But what about their defense?
On defense, the Raiders brought in Chuck Bresnahan, Greg Biekert, Rod Woodson and Kevin Ross to help coach on the defensive side of the ball.
As we all know, by order of Al Davis, the Raiders will continue to run the same archaic defense that they have always run: 4-3, man coverage, single high safety.
The reason these coaches will help the Raiders is simple: they've all had success either playing or coaching such a defense.
Chuck Bresnahan coached the Raiders to the Super Bowl while running such a defense, while Woodson and Biekert played in that defense.
The new coaches will use their experience to teach the players how to be succesful in man coverage.
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It can be said that football teams are a personification of their head coach. In 2011, the Oakland Raiders will resemble the firey character of Hue Jackson.
When in 2010 Al Davis brought in Hue Jackson to run the offense, the results were spectacular. Under Hue Jackson the offense previously ranked 31st in the NFL improved to sixth in scoring.
Now that Hue Jackson is the head coach, the team as a whole will make a similar improvement to that which the offense made under Jackson.
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There, I said it: after winning the AFC West title, the Raiders will be in the playoffs for the first time in eight years.
Are there any points I may have missed?
Or do you disagree? If you disagree, tell me why you think I am wrong.