Are the Raiders Up for Test in AFC West?

You learn no more about the NFL after one week than you do of a book by simply looking at its cover. However, after what we saw of the Oakland Raiders in Tennessee over the weekend there are some serious concerns. The same concerns that have been the Silver and Black plague for the last seven years.

Not all hope is lost. It is a long season and there will be plenty of ups and downs for every NFL franchise.

If Tom Cable is serious about getting this team into the playoffs then the only route is to win the AFC West. With that being said, it bears asking just how ready the Raiders are for their divisional foes.

Let’s not get too carried away with this storyline of how improved the Kansas City Chiefs are. They beat the Chargers on Monday night. Good for Todd Haley! My advice for him is not to go all Josh McDaniels and start running around Arrowhead fist pumping with the fans. It’s September and Norv Turner never has his team ready until the calendar flips to December.

Where the ‘Chief” concern lies for the Raiders is the improved play of the Kansas City defense. Clearly, the Raiders are offensive-line-inept (again). As long as Matt Cassel is still putting up JaMarcus Rusell numbers, while collecting a JaMarcus Russell check, KC will continue to struggle. What the Raiders needs to do, simply, is to defend home field against KC.

Since ’07, the Raiders haven’t lost to the Chiefs in Arrowhead. However, you have to go back to the final day of the ’02 season to find the last Raider victory in Oakland against the Chiefs. Memo to Coach Cable: No fake field goals.

The Broncos are still mired somewhere between mediocrity and meaninglessness. A team without an identity whose only storyline is a backup rookie quarterback. Without pass rush extraordinaire Elvis Dumervil, the Broncos will find it difficult to win games with more pressure lumped on an inconsistent offense.

With a top tier secondary, the Raiders main focus on competing with the Broncos is, again, stopping the run.

Take a look around the AFC West and you’ll see a diverse group of running backs all with Raider killing qualities. The Chiefs boast of a proven commodity in Thomas Jones and an up and coming gamebreaker in Jamaal Charles. The Broncos have their own duo of Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter. And, of course, those hated Chargers field rookie upstart Ryan Mathews balanced out with the shifty Darren Sproles.

Which brings us to the biggest test of all in the AFC West – the San Diego Chargers.

Plain and simple, the Raiders have no chance of going anywhere unless they can beat the Chargers. No team has dominated another for such a prolonged period of time as the Chargers have the Raiders.

Beating San Diego is not impossible by any means. Without Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill, you can expect to see more of those trademark Philip Rivers hissy fits. They are still an underachieving roster under the rule of an overrated coach. Despite their divisional dominance, the Chargers have little to show for their regular season accomplishments.

We can sit here and dissect the chargers, seeking ways to find their weakness but that has gone out the window after a near decade of dominance. Tom Cable, an old school guy, needs to remain old school in his approach to beating the Chargers. Play mistake free football, dominate the line of scrimmage and Just Win Baby!

The AFC West is still very much up for grabs. Absolutely nothing has been decided after one week. For Coach Cable, though, his job status could be decided very soon if there are not massive improvement against the St. Louis Rams this weekend.

The Raiders are far from dead in the water but you’d be dead wrong to think what happened in Tennessee is an anomaly. We’ve seen these same problems persist for years now. The Silver and Black have what it takes to pass the AFC West test, the only real question is how much studying are they doing. After Sunday, they’d better be pulling all-nighters.

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Tags: Correll Buckhalter Darren Sproles Elvis Dumervil Jamaal Charles JaMarcus Russell Josh McDaniels Knowshon Moreno Marcus McNeill Matt Cassel Norv Turner Philip Rivers Ryan Mathews Thomas Jones Todd Haley Tom Cable Vincent Jackson

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