EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 23rd of 32 preseason previews in 32 days leading up to the NFL season opener Thursday, Sept 5.
Win total last 5 years: 30
LVH over/under wins (5½)
The passing of Al Davis begins a new era in Oakland Raiders football. “Just win baby,” and “commitment to excellence” will look down from heaven hoping to see a return to those days.
It’s been torment for Raider Nation, coming off a 4-12 season and five straight years of missing the playoffs. With all the losses has come a revolving door of head coaches, coordinators and quarterbacks.
Dennis Allen is back for his second year as head coach, but another 4-win season and he’s likely the next to be sent packing. Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie made the big offseason move signing Matt Flynn, who sat in Seattle as Russell Wilson emerged as a star in his rookie season.
While Flynn entered the picture, Carson Palmer left for Arizona, defensive tackles Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour followed suit and arguably the NFL’s best punter Shane Lechler is now with Houston.
Also missing is wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (Indianapolis), though many in Raider Nation would say that he was never seen in Oakland.
Not only will Flynn have to step up, but the talented and often injured running back Darren McFadden. Fantasy geeks are scared to death of D-Mac because of his potential to both succeed and play one game.
Under Mr. Davis, the Raiders were always a team looking to throw bombs, dating back to the glory days of Darryl Lamonica, Kenny Stabler, Jim Plunkett and even Rich Gannon. Palmer had 4,000-yard potential, but suffered through that 4-12 season and had enough.
The Raiders do have Sebastian Janikowski, but when the best player is your field goal kicker that means you are not scoring touchdowns – especially in the red zone.
Oakland hopes the hiring of former Miami head coach Tony Sparano injects life to the offensive line. Some might say Sparano would be an heir-apparent to the head coaching job should Allen stumble.
Athlon Sports gave the Raiders a C in the draft, which may be a huge upgrade for a braintrust that in the past gave us Jamarcus Russell and Heyward-Bey as No. 1 selections. In 2009, the Raiders actually took Bey ahead of Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Britt. Whew.
This year’s top pick was Houston Cougars defensive back D.J. Hayden. It’s real hard to get excited about the “Silver and Black,” who in a division with Denver, San Diego and the improved Kansas City Chiefs figure to produce another losing season.
At the 5½ wins Las Vegas books project, only Aricona (5½) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (5) are worse. And the Cardinals look to be a lot better if you believe preseason as a barometer to when the games truly count.
Three of the first four matchups to start the season are against playoff teams – Denver, Indianapolis, Washington. Good luck.
Saturday: Philadelphia Eagles
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].