The Oakland Raiders: NFL's New AFC West Winners

Patrick Mitchell@pmitch54Correspondent IMay 18, 2010

DENVER - DECEMBER 20:  Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable celebrates a victory over the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on December 20, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 20-19.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders have been considered by many to be the worst team in the NFL.

For the seventh consecutive year, the Raiders have won no more than five games.

Despite the fact that they have picked in the top-10 the past three years, including the No. 1 overall pick in 2007, they have barely seen any improvement.

So, why am I already predicting that the Raiders will win the AFC West?

Its really simple: this is not the same Oakland team that we have grown used to.

Lets first look at the quarterback play of the Oakland Raiders.

In 2009, JaMarcus Russell—or J-Bust as he has become known in Raider Nation—played in 12 games, starting nine of them. In those 12 games, Russell threw three touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.

I will not put all of the blame on the QB, mainly because of the fact that he did have some valid excuses: lack of a run game; constant pressure; his receivers falling down.

But that does not excuse Russell from everything.

Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye both had better ratings then Russell, and Gradkowski led the team to two fourth quarter comebacks against a playoff team (Bengals), and another team (Steelers) that was trying to make the playoffs. 

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Those are just the quarterbacks that were on the Raiders roster last season. The biggest, and possibly the best, move that the Raiders made this offseason was the trade of a 2012 4th round pick for Jason Campbell.

Washington Redskins fans may have been “happy” to get rid of Campbell, but lets look at his stats since entering the league.

Campbell did not become a starter until his second season, where he started seven games. Campbell posted a 76.5 QB rating, threw for 1,297 yards, had 10 touchdowns and tossed six interceptions.

Every year since, Campbell has improved in every single category: improving the amount of touchdowns he has thrown, the amount of yards per game, as well as his QB Rating.

In 2009, Campbell completed 64.5-percent of his passes for 3,618 yards and 20 touchdowns; his QB rating was an 86.4.

In my view, Washington was a more dysfunctional franchise last year than the Raiders.  The Redskins lost their biggest playmaker in Chris Cooley, and the offensive line was shaky at best.

The Raiders revamped their offensive line, with Gallery now healthy, by adding two offensive linemen picks in the NFL draft in Jared Valdheer and Bruce Campbell. Chaz Schilens is also now healthy, while Louis Murphy and DHB both have another year under their belt; plus, throw in Zach Miller and Oakland's receiving core is much better.

As I just mentioned, the next area where the Raiders received help was the receivers.  The Raiders had two rookies starting, and waited for Schilens to get healthy to join them.

The learning curve for a receiver in the NFL is steep and it is hard for them to learn; everybody talked about how could the Raiders take DHB over Crabtree, and I will admit I was one of them.

One thing that I will admire about Darrius Heyward-Bey (not saying DHB was the right pick, because I do not believe he was) is his work ethic. He was seen staying after, practicing routes and catching balls from Gradkowski.

If DHB does not succeed it will not be because of his work ethic, it will be because he uses his body to catch a football.

Murphy came on strong right away for the Raiders and I expect an even bigger year for him this year.

Schilens missed a large part of last season, but he seems healthy this year and should help out Campbell this year.

Also, even though he is getting older, he can still add valuable experience to the WR group, Terrell Owens makes sense for the Oakland Raiders.

Before I get attacked for this, just look at him: even in Buffalo, which might of had just as many QB problems as the Raiders, he still had solid production with 829 yards and five touchdowns.

Add TO to the mix of our current young receivers, and not only will teams be forced to look at him, it will take attention away from Murphy, Schilens, DHB and Zach Miller.

Not only is this a young group of WR's, but it also can be a very talented group that needs a veteran leader—and I believe Owens can be that leader.

Finally, the defense.

Just look at the first two picks the Raiders made: Rolando McClain and Lamarr Houston.  These two players will step in and become starters right away.

McClain is coming off a National Championship and will help secure the Raiders run defense. Houston, Seymour, and Kelly will all help solidify the Raiders front line.

The trades for Quinton Groves and Kamerion Wimbley will help the LB core.

Imagine, Groves, Wimbley, and McClain as the backers with Houston, Seymour, Kelley, and Scott as the DL.

Throw in the best CB in the league in Nnamdi; how could the Raiders not compete for the AFC West.

Then again, I said they will WIN the AFC West.

How can they win?  Lets just look at their competition.

We will start with the San Diego Chargers.

This Division has been the Chargers Division for the past several years, how can I say that this is changing in one year? I will start with somebody who is no longer on the team: LT.

LT has been the stud of that team, and has destroyed the Raiders for years. Now he is gone, and the Chargers are expecting Matthews and Sproles to take over that.

I will admit that Sproles looked good last year, but he is not an every down back. Also, nobody knows how a rookie will perform; he could end up getting injured in the first game and be useless for the year.  Running Backs are always hard to figure out how they will pan out in the league.  Somebody may come along and have an Adrian Peterson type year, or they will have issues like McFadden and get injured and never fully recover.

There is Rivers on that team, which is why you can never really count the chargers out of any conversation.  He is a solid QB, but with a lack of a run game, and Vincent Jackson still holding out, his weapons are not going to be the same.  Rivers can pretty much guarantee the Chargers at least 7 wins, just by his play alone.  His supporting cast is what has me wonder about the Chargers offense.

Then on defense, they lost their CB in Antonio Cromartie. Some people say Cromartie has lost a step and couldn’t really help the Chargers. I still believe Cromartie is a top CB in the league, and he was just handed to the Jets for almost nothing (the Jets, by the way, also got LT—that should be interesting).

Next there is Shawn Merriman.

Merriman was trying to get traded, but that failed. If he is still playing for the Chargers, it will not be at the caliber of play he has played in the past.

I see the Chargers going 9-7 this year and making the playoffs as a wild card.

The next team is the Denver Broncos.

Josh McDaniels has traded his two biggest playmakers in his first two years as head coach. Marshall and Cutler are gone, and does anybody really believe Orton is going to be the savior of the franchise?

Also, losing T Clady with an injury will hurt them big time. McDaniels shocked the NFL world when he took Tim Tebow in the first round. Tebow was a great college quarterback, and don’t get me wrong—I think he can be a good NFL quarterback. Was he worth being picked over Clausen?

In my personal opinion no, he wasn’t.

All of the flaws Tebow had in the games are still there. Anybody can tweak a motion against air, but how is he going to do when he has Rolondo McClain coming full speed at him?

Nobody knows what will happen with the Broncos, but losing Marshall will cause the production of the Broncos Offense to decrease dramatically.

I see the Broncos going 6-10 or 7-9 this year.

Then, there's the Chiefs.

What can I say about Kansas City?

They were the worst team in the AFC West and the fifth worst in the NFL. I do not see them changing too much this season.

Yes, hiring Weis and Romeo were good hires, but what did they really do to help Cassell Cassell is still going to be pressured and I still believe he was just a product of a system.

Cassell thrived in that year in NE for a few simple reasons.

First, look at his supporting cast: he had a great offensive line, and two of the best wide receivers in the game in Wes Welker and Randy Moss.

Then he goes to Kansas City and his cast is nowhere near what it was.  And the Chiefs passing on Russell Okung for Eric Berry was not the right choice in my opinion.

I love Berry, but there is a reason why LT is important.

Cassell needs protection and going for a defensive back instead was not the right pick. The Chiefs will most likely go 5-11 or 4-12 this season.

Silver and Black have improved on every aspect of the field, where as the other teams either remained the same or got worse.

Losing playmakers will hurt any team, and the Chargers and Broncos both did that. Also not protecting the biggest aspect, the QB, is going cause a team to struggle.

With all that being said, I believe the Oakland Raiders will go 11-5 and win the AFC West this season.

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