Oakland Raiders Predictions: 5 Players Key to Winning AFC West
Following an 8-8 season in 2010, both the Oakland Raiders players and head coach Hue Jackson believe that they can win the AFC West and send the Raiders to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Last season was all about the running game as the Raiders ranked second in rushing yards per game, only behind the Kansas City Chiefs.
On the defensive side of the ball, the loss of Nnamdi Asomugha puts a lot of pressure on the defensive backs in 2011.
With all that said, we'll look at the five most important players for the Raiders in 2011 en route to an AFC West title.
5. Tyvon Branch
Tyvon Branch led the Raiders in tackles in 2010 and will once again be a key piece of the defense.
Branch, 24, is heading into his fourth NFL season and has only recorded a total of two interceptions in his career.
Branch finished second in tackles in 2009 and will need to improve upon his coverage skills to become an elite safety.
4. Rolando McClain
Rolando McClain had a solid rookie season for the Raiders as he finished third on the team with 85 tackles.
In 2010, McClain tied for the team lead with six tackles for a loss, nabbed an interception, but only recorded one-half of a sack.
In 2011, McClain must show some improvements for the Raiders defense to succeed. The Raiders were 29th against the rush in 2010 and McClain is in the center of it all at middle linebacker.
3. Jason Campbell
Jason Campbell may be set up for a very successful 2011 campaign, as he will have some stability in the form of Hue Jackson for the first time in his career. Campbell was never able to get comfortable in Washington as the coaches were always changing.
Campbell had a decent season in 2010, throwing for 2,387 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Campbell only played in 13 games last season but rushed for 222 yards and another touchdown.
The problem for Campbell was turnovers. He fumbled the ball nine times, which is close to his career average. If Campbell can cut down on his turnovers in 2011 and play consistently, an AFC West title is no stretch.
2. Stanford Routt
Stanford Routt will now asked to be a No. 1 corner for the first time in his career. Routt had always played in the shadows of Nnamdi Asomugha but now has a chance to shine.
Routt recorded a total of 55 tackles, one forced fumble and two interceptions in 2010. In six total seasons with the Raiders Routt only has a career total of six interceptions.
If the Raiders are going to win the AFC West, the secondary will have to lead the defense. In 2010 the Raiders ranked second against the pass in terms of passing yards against per game.
1. Darren McFadden
Darren McFadden rushed for 1,157 yards in 2010 and was a huge reason why the Raiders were second in the NFL with 155.9 rushing yards per game.
McFadden lands at No. 1 because his health is a major concern. McFadden has never played in more than 13 games in his three NFL seasons. He missed the entire 2011 NFL preseason due to a broken orbital bone.
In 2010 McFadden accumulated 1,664 total yards and 10 total touchdowns. The Raiders will need McFadden to stay healthy and be a big factor in the offense in order to win the AFC West in 2011.