NFL Preview: Oakland Raiders

Al Dannity | Thu. Jul 07 2011, 12:07 pm

Last season saw a radical improvement by the Raiders but with Al Davis still running the show, don’t expect things to stay sane for long. Al Dannity looks at the prospects for Oakland in 2011.

The players The most notable change in Oakland will be the departure of Nnamdi Asomugha to parts unknown. The cornerback is one of the finest players in the NFL but Al Davis must now plan to retool his secondary without him. Free agency won’t be rich in alternatives, and in truth it would be impossible for one man to adequately replace Asomugha unless Darrelle Revis decided to head for the Bay.

Back in the real world that means the Raiders will need to look at their draft as a means of supplementing their secondary. Chimdi Chekwa is the classic Al Davis project, a player with no shortage of physical gifts but still far from a refined talent. Demarcus van Dyke out of Miami is another prospect with plenty of speed. This pair will need to stay on their toes as teams will be much happier airing it out against Oakland this season.

Mark your calendar Weeks 3 through 5 should tell us plenty about the 2011 Raiders. The Jets pay a visit in Week 3 followed by the Patriots a week later. A crucial trip to Houston in Week 5 will pit two fringe playoff contenders against one another.

Only a bye week breaks up three straight match-ups against divisional rivals in the middle of the Raiders’ slate. If ever a set of games was set up to make or break a season, this is it. Once those, relatively, local matters are attended to the Raiders face tough test against the Bears and at Green Bay. The tail end of the schedule features a pair of divisional games, at Kansas City and at home to the Chargers.

The verdict Last year I told NFL betting fans to take the over of +5.5 wins for the Raiders. They more than managed that with an 8-8 record. This year I expect them to stay in and around that 8-8 mark. The loss of Asomugha will be big but Hue Jackson should be able to bring the offense forward to compensate. Treading water would effectively be a step forward for this organization, which tends to revert to madness whenever anything good happens. Two stable seasons in a row would represent significant progress after a decade of despair.