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The Oakland Raiders Have What It Takes To Win The AFC West

Just as the Kansas City Chiefs emerged as AFC West Champions for the first time since 2003, the Oakland Raiders became the first team in NFL history to sweep their division and miss the playoffs.  Both clubs are equipped with young talent, veteran leadership and drive from the coaching staff, but will also have to keep a close eye on the high-powered San Diego Chargers.

Phillip Rivers and company were left on the sidelines from postseason play due to a special teams unit that forced blood to shoot out of the eyes of Bolts’ fan base and several injuries.

The Denver Broncos are lurking in the shadows right now, without a definitive answer at quarterback and in a new regime being built in the midst of the lockout.  Hope is on the horizon, but it’s safe to say high expectations probably aren’t with the Mile High for 2011.

Oakland Raiders: State of The Franchise

The Silver and Black have been the laughing stock of the NFL the past eight seasons.  Time and time again the team failed to make smart, level-headed decisions—whether it was the draft, free agency, trades, contract offers or coaching shifts.  But there’s light under the tunnel.  Something sparked last season.  It wasn’t enough to make fans want to toss confetti into the air, but it might have been just what the Raiders needed to get back into the thick of things.

Hiring then-offensive coordinator and now-head coach Hue Jackson led to a jaw-dropping successful performance in the 2010 NFL Draft, where the likes of middle linebacker Rolando McClain, defensive lineman LaMarr Houston and Jared Veldheer were snagged up, before quarterback Jason Campbell was shipped over via trade for a Black Friday type of deal with Washington.  Campbell didn’t put up staggering numbers in his first season with Oakland, but he did deliver stability, versatility and leadership to the offense.

Defensively, things are in tip-top shape with veteran leadership from Kamerion Wimbley and Richard Seymour.

Coaching

Hue Jackson is in control of the wheel and is ready push the team to press on turbo to end the playoff drought.  Despite some of the media and fans alike taking pot shots of criticism from several angles, Jackson is not afraid to handle it by telling it like it is—providing a new directive and turning heads, answering questions with flying colors—something Raider Nation hasn’t seen since the short-lived days of John Gruden.

The new coaching staff is made up of ex-players and gurus of the game.  Watch out ladies and gentlemen—the Raiders will be on the prowl, ready to attack.  They’re only moving forward.

However, every team has its question marks, especially with the lockout situation, as many of the top players in the league aren’t taken on the open market.

Free Agency

The Raiders can return to greatness.  But the missing pieces to the puzzle must be added once free agency reopens.  Owner Al Davis needs to address the secondary and make a decisive decision about the secondary.

Nnamdi Asomugha, the most-prized possession in free agency, could be signing papers minutes after the lockout ends.  Odds are against him returning to Oakland, but it’s still a possibility.  Free Safety Michael Huff could be back too, but I wouldn’t bet on it.  Replacing two starters in the secondary is undoubtedly going to set this defense back from the strides made in 2010.

Another player on the open market that won’t be coming back is guard Robert Gallery, who despite never lived up to his high draft pick status, has been a very solid piece to the offensive line.  Gallery exemplified a monster impact in the run game that carried the team in recent years.

Oakland has taken a stab to atone for its deficiencies on the Offensive-Line in the 2011 NFL Draft, with the most-notable addition in Stefen Wisniewski.  The organization may try to resign one of these aforementioned players, but the others will look to be heading another team and the impact of those players will be addressed with another available talented free agent or just by sticking with the young in-house talent.

Conclusion

In the past few seasons, the Silver and Black have discovered young talent at skill positions.  These include, but are not limited to, tight end Zach Miller and running back Michael Bush, who’re both free agents, but have a very good chance of returning to Oakland this season.  There’s also up-and-coming star dual-threat Darren McFadden and Louis Murphy, who’s quite honestly the veteran receiver on the team.  First-round-pick Darrius Heyward-Bey is looking more and more like a bust every year.  If DHB fails to improve, the team may temp to lock down a true veteran wide receiver via free agency.

Exciting as it was to capture all eyes on making improvements, the Raiders still need to develop and continue to pursue excellence that they were once known for.

A tight-nit battle lies ahead this season between the Chargers and last year’s AFC West champ Chiefs.  If the Raiders can develop the correct mindset and an extra charge, they may just be on their way to playoff contention.

Will Oakland have the magic to shine on top of the AFC West?  It remains in question, but the team is headed in the right direction with a superior coaching staff and veteran leadership a team needs to win.

 


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One Response to “The Oakland Raiders Have What It Takes To Win The AFC West”

  1. Jay says:

    I strongly feel my Oakland Raiders will win the AFC west this year. They should have won it last year with letting games in Jacksonville slip away..The Raiders didn’t just beat every team n the division last year 6-0 , they stomped each team at least once. The Chiefs bled badly the last game of the season, as The Raiders were just peaking. I would like to see them resign both Huff and Gallery. Nnamdi is injury prone and getting older

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