For the first time since Rich Gannon took snaps for them the Oakland Raiders see a light at the end of the tunnel. Bettors and books like Sportsbook got used to giving the Raiders little hope in the AFC West after watching their management labor through one horrific offseason after another.
But everything changed in 2010. The Raiders – these same Al Davis-owned Raiders – actually made some smart moves. They cut JaMarcus Russell and replaced him with a safe, albeit low-ceiling, quarterback in Jason Campbell. They didn’t go way off the board with their first-round draft pick, instead making a sensible choice in linebacker Rolando McClain. With their heads on straight, can the Raiders make bettors some money this season?
Odds to win Division: +750 Regular Season Win Total: 6 (OV -125, UN -105) Super Bowl Odds: 100 to 1
The Raiders are expected to win roughly six games after winning five last season. Anyone betting on their win total has to ask: Did the Raiders improve by one win over the offseason? Is it possible that Oakland actually improved by two victories and could win seven in 2010? Upgrading from JaMarcus Russell, who was spectacularly ineffective, to Jason Campbell has to be worth one win alone. Campbell won’t make a Pro Bowl any time soon but he was quietly decent with Washington last year. He threw for 3,618 yards and 20 scores while completing 64.5 per cent of his passes. For a Raiders offense that hasn’t even seen a competent professional at quarterback for several seasons, Campbell could work wonders.
Zach Miller managed to play well at tight end with no help; considering how well Campbell worked with Chris Cooley in Washington, Miller could break out in 2010. Even the disappointing Darren McFadden could slide into more of a pass-catching role with Michael Bush becoming the featured back on first and second downs. Stopping the pass wasn’t too bad for Oakland on paper last year; it ranked seventh in the NFL, largely because Nnamdi Asomugha did a great job stopping opposing wideouts at corner. Then again, the rank was misleading because teams didn’t have to pass on Oakland. The Raiders were atrocious against the run, surrendering 155.5 yards per game last season. Perhaps the rookie McClain will remedy Oakland’s interior defense. He’s expected to start right away and could actually become a defensive leader in a hurry. The Raiders still aren’t a great football team but a look at their new depth chart suggests they’ve only gotten stronger from 2009 to 2010. Beating the win total of six looks possible, especially since Oakland has a relatively easy schedule. The Raiders face some tough teams early (Tennessee, Houston, San Diego, San Francisco) but dodge most of the league’s powerhouses this season. Oakland gets the Colts at home in Week 16 – when Indy could be resting its starters if history tells us anything. Yep, things are looking up for Oakland.