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Horse Tracks: Raiders fans laying claim to AFC West

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Is Broncos Country going to stand for this?

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Mile High Report’s sister blog Silver and Black Pride published this article on Sunday proclaiming that the Raiders are a lock to win the AFC West. While I agree that the Raiders will be an improved football team from the one that went out of their way embarrass themselves year after year, I have to take issue with some of the claims made in their article.

First of all, the Raiders aren’t a lock for anything. Any fan of the Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, and Raiders know how competitive the division is. When, after a few early wins in the 2016 season, projections had Oakland wiping out New England on the way to a Super Bowl Championship. We all know how well that worked out... With Oakland racking up exactly as many playoff wins in 2016 as the Denver Broncos did.

While the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers were hiring new head coaches and the Kansas City Chiefs fired their GM, the Raiders will be returning essentially the same staff. The Raiders did not resign former Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave, but his replacement, Todd Downing, had served as Quarterbacks coach the previous two seasons. Downing has a better relationship with Carr which was a big reason the Raiders promoted Downing.

They’re returning the same staff, but that staff is Jack Del Rio’s staff. In eleven years as a head coach, Jack Del Rio has only had back-to-back winning seasons one time. He’s only had four winning season in his entire career and a quarter of those came last year. Also, author of this article wants to minimize the departure of Bill Musgrave and neglects to mention he fled to Denver and took a demotion to do so.

Derek Carr.

Carr will be even better in 2017 with an improved running game and another season with the same core group of receivers. Coming into training camp already familiar with his wide outs should let the offense hit the ground running. The Raiders did add tight end Jared Cook and dangerous return man and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson which will give Carr more weapons to work with.

I will be the first to admit that Derek may make us all forget how truly horrible his brother was at football. However, he is coming off a broken leg and just received a payday the likes of which no other NFL quarterback has ever seen. As a young quarterback, Carr will have to overcome his injury in live action and Raiders fans have to hope he doesn’t ‘see ghosts’ and fear, even subconsciously, another injury. Further, his contract extension guarantees he’s making serious bank for the near future. Nothing motivates a player like knowing that win or lose, he’s going to be able to make his yacht payment.

Frankly, Carr is good, but to call him a reason the Raiders are a lock to win the AFC West is crazy. He’s a young, injured quarterback, with a lot of money... What could possibly go wrong?

I understand that the writer of the Silver and Black Pride article is writing for his audience of Raiders fans. I get that... but even Raiders fans have to balk at reason number three the Raiders will be a ‘lock’ to win the AFC West.

“Winning Culture”

In 2016, for the first time in 14 years, the Raiders had a winning record. One good year does not a culture make. Further, the Raiders demonstrated that when a component in their team blows, they fold. When Carr went down the team gave up. Any Raiders fan who wants to dispute that should explain the dominant 6-point display in the final game of the 2016 season and their embarrassing loss to Houston (HOUSTON!) in the playoffs.

There was a time not long ago, that players saw the Raiders as the team you sign with to get your last payday. Players would show up for the game checks but not much else. It was obvious in the results on the field with games constantly ending in lopsided fashion. Now the Raiders are a team players like running back Marshawn Lynch are coming out of retirement to join.

Am I the only one who sees the irony in this? Sure, you can see it the way that the author of this article sees it... or you can see it with the perspective of a decade and a half of watching the Raiders make boneheaded moves. Am I the only one who sees Lynch’s coming out of retirement as a ‘player who sees the Raiders as a team to sign with to get his last payday?’ That’s exactly what he did. The Lynch signing has disaster written all over it and Broncos fans will be there to point and laugh when it blows up in their faces. Raiders fans better hope that they get off to a fast start, because if its a rough road, Lynch and his ambivilant—’me first’ attitude—is going to make it even harder.

The last reason the Raiders are a lock to win the AFC West is their improved defense. I’m not going to take much of an issue with this one. Although, your defense will look amazing when it’s playing 2016 AFC West offensive lines. MHR has long maintained that Kalil Mack owes his accolades from the last couple years to the left tackle position on the Denver Broncos... Philip Rivers would likely offer up candidates of his own that contributed to those awards... Alex Smith would... raise his hand.

Simply put, it’s too early to declare locks on any division. I applaud Silver and Black Pride for pounding its chest. In the digital era of sports blogs it’s something Raiders fans have never seen. I think it’s wonderful. Do I think it’s accurate? Not in the slightest... but that’s why they play the games.

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