On September 20th, the Oakland Raiders (5-11) will travel to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Kansas City Chiefs (2-14). This will be the Chiefs first AFC West opponent of the year, while Oakland will be in the middle of three straight divisional games to start off the season. They play San Diego in Week 1 and Denver in Week 3.
Last season, when the Kansas City Chiefs played the Oakland Raiders in Week 2, the fans got their first indication that something was seriously wrong with our football team. On 47 rushing attempts that day, the Raiders ran for 300 yards and 14 first downs. QB Jamarcus Russell only completed six passes on seventeen attempts. The Chiefs didn't even score until there was four minutes left in the game. And we gave up a Raider touchdown after that, making the final score 23 to 8.
Needless to say, it was a rough day to be a Chiefs fan.
But as a consolation, the Oakland Raiders 2009 off season has made it tough to be an Oakland Raider fan. It hasn't been the comedy of errors that we've seen play on in Denver but we're talking about Al Davis here. We're talking about the league's second worst run defense and an owner who has done virtually nothing to address the problem.
After the jump, we take a look at what the Raiders have done this off season to improve their team and then we'll examine how this Week 2 match up in Kansas City may go down.
2008 Season Snapshot
The 2008 Oakland Raiders finished the season ranked 29th in both points and yards gained per game, 32nd in passing yards and 10th in rushing yards per game. Their defense didn't fare much better over the long haul. Oakland finished 2008 24th in points allowed; 27th in yards allowed; 10th in passing yards allowed; and finally 31st in rushing yards allowed.
Where the Raiders excelled was rushing the football. They rushed for more than 150 yards in five contests and went over 100 yards rushing in nine games total last year. The rushing combo of Michael Bush, Darren McFadden and Justin Fargas was a potent one, as the team split carries mainly between those three players and amassed nearly 2,000 yards rushing for the season.
With Jamarcus Russell throwing the football last year, the Raiders were absolutely terrible in the passing game. Russell passed for over 200 yards only three times and passed under 150 yards a game nine times.
Much like the Chiefs did, the Raiders got killed in the running game last year on defense. The Raiders gave up over 2,500 yards rushing on the ground and had a middle of the season stretch where nearly every team destroyed Oakland on the ground.
2009 Off Season Roster Moves
Veteran Signings: QB Jeff Garcia, RB Gary Russell, FB Lorenzo Neal, OT Khalif Barnes, OT Erik Pears, G Marcus Johnson, C Samson Satele, DE Greg Ellis, DT Ryan Boschetti, S Keith Davis.
Draft Picks: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, SS Michael Mitchell, DE Matt Shaughnessy, WR Louis Murphy, OLB Slade Norris, DE Stryker Sulak, TE Brandon Myers.
Offseason Losses: FB Justin Griffith, WR Ronald Curry, WR Drew Carter, WR Ashley Lelie, OT Kwame Harris, C Jake Grove, DE Kalimba Edwards, OLB Robert Thomas, SS Gibril Wilson, S Rashad Baker.
While Al Davis continues this off season to sign guys with serious knee problems, let's go straight to the source of Raiders fandom over at Silver and Black Pride to get their thoughts on the team's first round pick, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey:
40 YARD DASH TIMES ARE NOT EVERYTHING
This is why we will never win until al davis goes away. if you want fast guys there’s plenty of skiny sprinters in the olympics. WE ARE THE WORST RUN ORG IN THE NFL.
Even if he turns out to be descent picking him at 7 is terrible imo. We could have grabbed a 4th rounder and traded down a dozen spots to snag him. Bah being a Raiders fan on draft day is rough.
So, without going into too much more detail, Raiders fans are quite upset with Al Davis not properly addressing the team's needs through the draft. Through the draft, Oakland did bolster what is quickly becoming one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Despite being a reach, second round pick S Michael Mitchell is highly talented. Top corner Nnamdi Asomugha makes #2 CB Chris Johnson's job that much easier as well.
The team did address part of their offensive line needs through free agency by adding OT Khalif Barnes. As you can see though, the Raiders did pretty much nothing to address that terrible defensive line. Al Davis, at it again.
Why the Chiefs Will Win
It was clear last season that teams knew what to do against the Raiders - run the football. And with Al Davis doing virtually nothing to fix that problem this off season, the Chiefs' best chance to beat the Raiders in Week 2 is to pound, pound the football. Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles are going to have to combine for at least thirty rushing attempts this game to ensure a Chiefs win. It would make no sense not to attack the Raiders biggest weak point.
Couple that terrible run defense with what will hopefully be an improved and more efficient passing game with Matt Cassel leading the way and the Chiefs should definitley have the Raiders' number on defense. If the team can't produce yards and points against this Raider defense in Week 2, it's going to feel a lot like last season's Week 2 loss in Oakland - demoralizing, depressing and a sad indication of things to come in KC.
The lack of a decent Oakland passing attack will also help the Chiefs win this game. Jamarcus Russell still hasn't impressed really anyone and the addition of WR Darrius Heyward-Bey hasn't exactly put the Raiders over the top in the receiving talent category. If you take a look at the Raiders roster, tell me who exactly besides Heyward-Bey is Russell going to throw to? Javon Walker? TE Zach Miller should see an increase in his production this year. He may end up being Oakland's most reliable target.
Why the Raiders Will Win
By far the biggest reason the Oakland Raiders were able to win one of their two games against the Chiefs last year was their ability to run the football. The Raiders may have been 31st in the NFL in rushing yards allowed but the Chiefs were 30th (and not far behind Oakland's average). The Raiders will be looking to do what the Chiefs will be looking to do against them - run the football all day long.
|Quarterback Tyler Thigpen #4 of the Kansas City Chiefs is sacked by Derrick Burgess #56 of the Oakland Raiders during the first half of the game on Saptember 14, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)|
I'll admit it. A new defensive scheme with hopeful but unproven younger guys makes me scared against Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas. Those three destroyed the Chiefs last year in Week 2 and there really isn't a whole lot, besides the addition of Tyson Jackson, that makes me think the Chiefs will have solved their rushing problems by Week 2.
Also, I know I'm not in the minority when I emphasize how much different this offense is going to look without Tony Gonzalez. I really have no idea what to expect without TG lining up for the Chiefs. I suspect that the loss of TG is going to hurt much more than any of us really want to admit right now. We'll be finding out very early in the season, and especially during Week 2, just how well the Chiefs are going to function without the Hall of Fame tight end.
Finally, the Raiders have a big edge on special teams. Sebastian Janikowski will continue to be a top notch kicker, even if the last few seasons haven't reflected that. Shane Lechler is the NFL's best punter. Plus, Oakland has two great return men in Justin Miller and Johnnie Lee Higgins. Miller returned two kickoffs for TDs last year and Higgins took three punt returns all the way back for scores. One big return by either one of those guys, resulting in a field goal or a touchdown, could be the difference in what I predict is going to be a close game.
I hate admitting this but the Chiefs and Raiders are pretty close in talent level right now. Things could easily change if say our rush defense gels quickly in 2009 but for right now, these two teams are pretty even.
I don't believe that either one of these team's defenses are going to be markedly improved by Week 2. With that said, I'm not predicting a shootout either. Both secondaries could be considered team strengths, which will limit both team's relatively weak passing games. I predict a sloppy game that is decided by one or two defensive breakdowns that result in points for the opposing offense. Looking at last year's Chiefs/Raiders point totals, I predict a 20 to 17 Chiefs win. The Arrowhead Advantage pulls the Chiefs through in a close divisional game.