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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Can the Oakland Raiders defeat the San Diego Chargers?....hahaha

In the fall, the area around Oakland County Coliseum turns into a convention of wistful optimism, where hope springs eternal.

With the start of every football season since 2002, when the Raiders embarrassed themselves in the Super Bowl, the optimists have come out in full force, believing that their Raiders can once again finish the season atop the AFC West,

This year is no different.

The pie-in-the sky harbingers of hope are at it once again in Oakland.

But once October rolls into November, reality rears its ugly head in the form of a runaway freight train known as the San Diego Chargers.

If there is one difference this year, it’s that the freight train will be running on suspect wheels. Some of the Chargers key players have undergone surgeries and are still rehabbing.

Philip Rivers gained the respect of all of his teammates, not to mention his critics, for his courageous playoff stand. Rivers tore his right ACL in the Chargers' AFC Divisional playoff win at Indianapolis. He had minor surgery on the knee before the AFC Championship Game against the undefeated New England Patriots, but he played anyway.

He again had surgery on the knee in the offseason, and is expected to be fully recovered by the start of the season. But you never know with knees and ACLs.

His backfield mate, NFL star running back, LaDainian Tomlinson chose not to play in the AFC Championship Game and had MCL surgery. He, too, is supposed to be ready for the season opener. But will he still have that incredible burst that has made him a future Hall of Famer?

The Chargers also lost two other key members of their backfield—fullback Lorenzo Neal and Tomlinson’s backup, Michael Turner. The Chargers released Neal in the hopes that Andrew Pinnock would be a more than adequate replacement. They also feel their second-round pick, Jacob Hester, can take over for Turner, a free agent, who was signed by the Atlanta Falcons.

The other two question marks are up front. One is All-Pro tight end, Antonio Gates, and the other is center Nick Hardwick, the mainstay of the offensive line. Both are coming off of foot injuries. But the Chargers have yet to say whether either one will be ready for the opener.

Still, San Diego’s question marks are minor compared to Oakland’s.

The biggest one perhaps is not on the playing field but in the front office, namely, Al Davis. First off, he finishes the season by asking his head coach, one-year neophyte, Lane Kiffin, to resign. Kiffin refused. At the very least, he would force Davis to fire him so he could collect the contract money owed to him.

Davis, known for being rather miserly in his old age, opted not to fire Kiffin and save a million dollars.

Then, in a burst of sheer madness, Davis turns around and spends $255 million, hoping to fix what’s wrong with the Raiders. The only problem is that he, himself, is what’s wrong with the Raiders. Davis, a control freak, has turned Oakland into perennial AFC West cellar-dwellers.

Davis has been a miser for so long that he has forgotten how to spend wisely. With a pressing need to bolster a defense that was third in the NFL overall in 2006, but dropped all the way to 22nd in 2007 and 31st in yards allowed rushing, Davis drafts Darren McFadden, another running back.

The Raiders had just signed Justin Fargas to a long-term contract and have a decent backup in Michael Bush. The top defensive tackle in the nation, LSU’s Glenn Dorsey, was theirs for the asking. But, no thanks, Davis wants to add some flash and sell tickets rather than win games.

Yes, McFadden is versatile. Yes, he will add some punch to the offense. But with Warren Sapp retired and a defense that was 31st in rush yards, you cannot let Glenn Dorsey go to the Kansas City Chiefs, which is what Al Davis did.

Then the Denver Broncos dump injury-plagued Javon Walker after catching only seven passes in six games. What does Davis do? He signs Walker to a six-year $55 million contract with $16 million guaranteed. Those seven catches must have really looked great on film.

Then, further bad luck struck the Raiders. Walker was beaten, robbed, and left unconscious in Las Vegas last week. He is expected to recover in time for training camp, to see how much of that $55 million he can earn.

Next, Davis overpays for Tommy Kelly to the tune of $50.5 million over seven years, and $18 million in guarantees. Kelly, coming off ACL surgery, will move from the defensive end to Warren Sapp’s spot at defensive tackle. And to think Davis could have had Dorsey instead.

Finally, there is the quarterback spot and the offensive line. Robert Gallery has been forced to switch from tackle to guard, while free agent Kwame Harris fills in at Gallery’s tackle position. Whether that will actually help Fargas and McFadden gain some yardage does not at all concern the optimists in Oakland.

But the quarterback spot is the biggest question for the Raiders. JaMarcus Russell signed on after the start of 2007 season and held a clipboard throughout most of the games. So he is taking over the offense virtually as a first-year starter.

So, the question remains: Can he throw, and whom can he throw to?

The optimists are hoping it’s not to the Raiders opponents. But the defenders might be the only ones on the field capable of catching a Russell hardball. Not only is Javon Walker coming off an injury, so is their No. 2 receiver, Ronald Curry.

The only thing Raiders' optimists really have going for them is an easy schedule. That should guarantee them two wins—Atlanta and Miami. If they can somehow put together a half-decent defense, they may manage to steal three, maybe four more wins at most.