Tag:Hue Jackson
Posted on: October 6, 2011 11:17 am
Edited on: October 6, 2011 11:18 pm
 

Podcast: Ray Rice and Week 5 NFL preview

Posted by Will Brinson & Ryan Wilson

Week 5 of NFL action is coming up and we've got a pretty, pretty spicy matchup between the Steelers and Titans being featured on the mothership. If only we had a superstar NFL running back who's played against both teams to help us break it down.

Oh right, we do! Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, who's working with Sheets Energy Strips, swings by to chat about the Steelers vs. Titans matchup (he's faced both teams through the first four weeks of the season; Baltimore beat Pittsburgh in Week 1 and lost to Tennessee in Week 2), where he stands in terms of the running backs in the NFL, who the best defensive player on Baltimore is, what he thinks of Hines Ward's DUI, whether he's due for a new contract, why Joe Flacco continues to struggle in games and much, much more.

"I think the Ravens are going to do the right thing … with the contract situation, I'll leave it in their hands," Rice said.
We also break down the rest of the week, wondering whether Rex Grossman or Hue Jackson has the more insane guarantee, if Wes Welker is the best wide receiver in the NFL and how he'll fare against Darrelle Revis, whether Cam Newton will go over or under on 370 yards passing this week, and whether we'd want Ryan Fitzpatrick or Matt Ryan as our quarterback if we had one game to play

All that and much, much more -- just hit the play button below to listen (and did we mention that you should subscribe to the podcast via iTunes?). If you can't listen to the podcast below, download it here. And if you'd like to keep working while listening in your browser, pop that puppy out in a new tab here.


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Posted on: October 4, 2011 3:44 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 3:45 pm
 

Hue Jackson says Raiders will win division

Can Oakland can win AFC West? Why not. (US PRESSWIRE)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

“We’re going to win the AFC West. We’re going to do everything we can to get in the playoffs and go challenge for a Super Bowl. I am not backing down from that.”

That was Raiders head coach Hue Jackson at his Monday press conference. Our first thought after reading those remarks: "Hey, why not? This is the AFC West we're talking about. And through the first month of the season, the Raiders have every right to think they can win the division."

Also worth noting: Oakland went 6-0 in the AFC West last season but because of their 8-8 overall record finished behind the Chiefs and Chargers. (Seriously, this could only happen to the Raiders.)

And even without Nnamdi Asomugha and Zach Miller -- two key players who went elsewhere in free agency -- Oakland has been one of the surprises a quarter of the way through the season. It starts with running back Darren McFadden, but Jason Campbell has done a good job of managing the offense, and the defense (save the second-half implosion against the Bills in Week 2) has been solid.

Either way, Jackson sounds like a man legitimately confident in his team.

"I expected to be 4-0," he said Monday. "I really did. I'm not going to back off of that, and we're not. We're 2-2, so I'm disappointed but not discouraged because I know what's in the locker room. I've said this before: I have to keep coaching and keep pushing and keep grinding on these players. And these players have to keep responding, and they've responded every time I've asked them to. Maybe not as fast as I want them to, maybe not as fast as everybody wants them to, but I know the message is there, and it's clear."

Helping Oakland's cause: the Broncos are one of the league's truly awful teams, the Chiefs are somehow worse, and the Chargers hardly look like a playoff outfit, despite their 3-1 start.

The Raiders will face an Andre Johnson-less Texans team this week, the Browns the week after, and then following their Week 8 bye, will play three consecutive division games against the Chiefs, Broncos and Chargers.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: September 29, 2011 10:46 am
 

Hue Jackson still has love for Ochocinco

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Oftentimes, when I hear the name Hue Jackson, I don’t think of him as the Raiders head coach. Instead, I think back to the time a few years ago when, after Chad Ochocinco’s collision with Browns cornerback Leigh Bodden left him with a concussion, he kept calling out for Jackson in the Bengals locker room.

Eventually, Jackson -- then the receivers coach in Cincinnati -- appeared by Ochocinco’s side, and even though Ochocinco was clearly out of sorts (it was an uncomfortable moment inside the locker room that day for those of us who were trying to interview Ochocinco), it was also obvious how much Jackson means to Ochocinco.



And after talking to the Patriots media corps this week, it’s also obvious how much Ochocinco means to Jackson.

Chad Johnson's my son," said Jackson, via CSN New England, who didn’t mean it in the literal way. "I know you guys probably have a hard time with him. He's kind of colorful. But he is a tremendous young man. I really adore him but I won't on Sunday."
 
"I helped raise that young man in Cincinnati. He played for me, he did wonders for me and he is a tremendous competitor and a doggone good football player."

Ochocinco, who will reunite with and play against his former coach Sunday, hasn’t been very good this year, dropping what could have been the game-winning touchdown last week vs. the Bills and recording only five catches for 87 yards in the first three games.

He’s also seemingly undergone a personality transplant. While in Cincinnati, he was playful and obnoxious and self-centered in the locker room. Really, he was like a child. But in New England, he’s been more even-keeled and less fun. Whether that’s a byproduct of the Bill Belichick regime or because he’s struggling with the playbook and with his game, it’s unclear. But for now, it looks like Ochocinco isn’t the same player (or person) in New England as he was in Cincinnati.

"When you tend to have success and things have gone for you the way his career has gone up to this point, it's hard when you don't see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Jackson said. “But one thing I know about him, he's going to continue to work. He'll do everything that's asked of him. He's a tremendous pro. Eventually, it will come off right for him. I just don't want it to happen this week."

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 3:36 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 3

Posted by Will Brinson


Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.

Week 3 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman Fitzpatrick Colts  Knox  Gailey
Judge  McFadden Bills DBs  Bailey  Gailey
Prisco   Romo  Allen  Bailey  Coughlin
Brinson  McFadden  Freeney  Bailey  Gailey
Katzowitz   T. Smith  Freeney  Bailey  Schwartz
Wilson   Welker  Freeney  Bailey  Jackson
Week 3's over and everything in the NFL is clear, apparent and obvious. Like, for instance, that the Lions and Bills are really good. I mean, who didn't see that coming, right? Anyway, it's award time for us.

Offensively speaking, there were plenty of performances that inspired us this week, but Darren McFadden of the Raiders and his 171 yards against the Jets warranted enough consideration to sneak out the award. (And with good reason.)

It was a losing defensive effort that picked up the hardware this week, as Dwight Freeney's efforts inspired enough voters to cast something similar to his name in the ballot and pick up the award. What does it say about the state of defense in the NFL, by the way, that we had three voters cast for either multiple players or an "entity"?

Dan Bailey ran away with the Eye on Special Teams for the second week in a row after his six (six!) field goals against the Redskins gave the Cowboys a victory on Monday night. You can only make the kicks your team gives you and Bailey did just that.

As far as the Eye on Coaching award goes, well, Chan Gailey wins ... again! What kind of world are we living in, huh?

Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Ryan Fitzpatrick Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills
He deserves to win every award ever invented. Offensive award, defensive, Nobel, a Pulitzer and throw in an Emmy. It is true the Bills intercepted Tom Brady four times, a rarity, like when all of the planets in the solar system are aligned. It's clearly Fitzpatrick, despite Buffalo's defense prowess, who is driving this team and did so against New England. They'd lost 15 straight games to the Pats. Fitzpatrick's accuracy, skill and guts powered the Bills in what was the best performance -- period -- of the week.
Darren McFaddenDarren McFadden, RB, Raiders
If this guy stays healthy, the Raiders stay at or near the top of the AFC West. He seems to run at a faster speed than everyone else, and last weekend the New York Jets were that everyone. It takes a lot to impress Jets' coach Rex Ryan, and he seemed overwhelmed by Oakland's running game -- with McFadden the first one through the door with 171 yards, two TDs and an average of 9 yards a carry. We always knew he could be special; what we didn't know ... and still don't ... is if he can stay on the field.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Tony Romo Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys
I know his numbers weren't great, but did he ever tough it out against the Redskins. He played with a broken rib and punctured lung and made some tough throws. He took some shots, but kept on going. Not only that, he was playing with a bunch of backups.  Still doubt this guy?
Darren McFaddenDarren McFadden, RB, Raiders
If there was any question about Run DMC leading the league in rushing, he answered it Sunday, by rolling over the Jets with 171 yards on just 19 carries. He's piling up yards at a terrifyingly efficient clip (6.4 YPC) and deserves to be in the discussion as the best back in the NFL.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Torrey SmithTorrey Smith, WR, Ravens
The Ravens were looking to get off to a fast start vs. the Rams. And behind the play of rookie Smith, who had yet to record a single statistic in a game before Sunday, that’s exactly what they did. Smith caught three touchdowns in the first quarter, and overall, he had five catches for 152 yards to help get the Ravens offense back on track.
Wes Welker Wes Welker, WR, Patriots
It's rarely the case that a Patriots wide receiver has 16 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns and New England still loses. But when Tom Brady throws four interceptions and Chad Ochocinco drops what should've been a touchdown pass, that's exactly what happens. The lesson? No lead is too large for the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills to overcome.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Dwight FreeneyIndianapolis Colts, DST
I'll avoid more Bills slurping and go an unusual route--the Colts.I know. Very weird. Yet in a game which the Colts truly had no chance to win due to the absence of Peyton Manning that Indianapolis defense played brilliantly minus a play or two. They stripped a sloppy Ben Roethlisberger twice and picked him off. They were the only reason Indianapolis was in the game late.
Drayton Florence Buffalo Bills Secondary
The Bills' secondary had three of the team's four interceptions vs. Tom Brady and fueled the team's comeback from a 21-0 hole. Incredible. Nobody spots Brady 21 points and wins. Only Buffalo just did, ending a 15-game losing streak. Drayton Florence's go-ahead TD was the big blow, but defensive backs George Wilson and Leodis McKelvin had crucial interceptions, too. Do you believe in miracles? Brady had four interceptions all of last season; he had four on Sunday.
Prisco Brinson
Jared AllenJared Allen, DE, Vikings
I know his team didn't win, but he was a force all day. He had three sacks and was spent the game in the Lions backfield. He also made some nice plays against the run.
Dwight FreeneyDwight Freeney, DE, Colts
Don't tell Freeney that the Colts only upside to this season is nabbing Stanford's Andrew Luck -- in a game that the Colts weren't supposed to even be in by the fourth quarter, he dominated up front and gave Indy a shot at its first win of the year with two sacks, a forced fumble and total disruption.
Katzowitz Wilson
Dwight Freeney Dwight Freeney, DE, Colts
Freeney dominated the Steelers offensive line, recording two sacks, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble. He almost single-handedly kept Indianapolis in the game and forced the Steelers to kick a last-second field goal for the win. Too bad Freeney can't play quarterback.
Dwight Freeney Dwight Freeney & Robert Mathis, DE, Colts
They spent Sunday night meeting on Ben Roethlisberger, combining for three sacks and two fumbles that resulted in 10 Indianapolis points. You could make a case that Freeney and Mathis are just as deserving of offensive honors, too.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Johnny KnoxJohnny Knox, WR, Bears
I know, I know. The spectacular return didn't count because of a phantom hold. A really phantom hold. Such a phantom hold it insults the word phantom. But the fake-out kick return by the Bears was such delicious subterfuge and Knox was king actor selling the fake completely. It was a wonderfully designed play that worked. Did I mention the phantom holding call? One other thing: I think Knox could be one of the top three special teams players in football if he got more opportunities.
Dan Bailey Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys
He did the only scoring in the Cowboys' come-from-behind defeat of Washington Monday night, with a 40-yard field goal to win the game. Bailey wasn't the story of that game; Tony Romo was. Not sure how he gutted his way through another victory, but it wouldn't have been possible if Bailey weren't there to punctuate the drives that Romo began.
Prisco Brinson
Dan BaileyDan Bailey, K, Cowboys
He made six field goals, including the game-winner late in the fourth quarter, to tie a rookie record. Well done.
Dan BaileyDan Bailey, K, Cowboys
The last place you want to kick as a rookie is in Dallas, where there's been a revolving door of kickers for a while now. But Bailey doesn't care and he gets my nod again this week as his leg carried the Cowboys to a crucial victory when they clammed up in the red zone.
Katzowitz Wilson
Dan Bailey Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys
With Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo getting very little help from his wide receivers and his offensive line, Bailey provided all of Dallas’ points in its win against the Redskins and set an NFL rookie record with six field goals in a single game. Bailey is now 9 of 10 on the season.
Dan Bailey Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys
For the second time in as many weeks, the Cowboys rookie kicker earns the nod. He was 6 for 6 on field-goal attempts against the Redskins and accounted for all of Dallas' points.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Bill BelichickChan Gailey, Bills
He ended a brutal losing streak to New England but Gailey has done more than that in Buffalo. He's made the Bills relevant and the Bills haven't been relevant since the invention of barbecue wings.Buffalo hasn't had a winning record since 2004 and the last time the Bills made the playoffs was the late 1990s. Gailey isn't a great coach but he's solid. If he can steer the Bills into the playoffs he will have done one of the great coaching jobs of the past decade and making the postseason begins with their win over the Patriots.
Mike Munchak Chan Gailey, Bills
He wins in a photo-finish with the Lions' Jim Schwartz, and for this reason: Somehow, some way, he convinced his players that they weren't dead meat after falling behind by 21 points to Tom Brady and the big, bad New England Patriots. They'd lost 15 straight to these guys, for crying out loud, so there was every reason to quit. But they didn't. Now the question: Are these guys for real? I don't care. I just care that Gailey accomplished what no one in Buffalo has been to accomplish in years.
Prisco Brinson
Tom CoughlinTom Coughlin, Giants
When his team looks to be down, facing a lot of adversity, Coughlin always gets them to respond. They went into Philadelphia as 9-point underdogs and dominated the Eagles. That's why Coughlin is a top-tier coach.
Mike MunchakChan Gailey, Bills
We joked after Week 1 that Gailey deserved the award since it was his only shot of winning. Um, whoops? Gailey's masterful coaching job with the Bills has them undefeated and if the first two weeks weren't convincing enough, a 21-point comeback against the Patriots certainly should be.
Katzowitz Wilson
Jim Schwartz Jim Schwartz, Lions
What can you say about the Lions’ resiliency after falling behind by 20 points at halftime to the Vikings only to force overtime and win? Whatever it is, Schwartz’s coaching -- the adjustments the staff made and the fact it settled down the players -- can't go overlooked.
Hue Jackson Hue Jackson, Raiders
The Raiders first-year coach out-Rex Ryan'd Rex Ryan Sunday, forcing critical turnovers and relying on well-timed gadget plays to outlast the Jets.



Posted on: September 26, 2011 11:44 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 9:47 am
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 3

Posted by Will Brinson


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Podcast is coming tomorrow -- this week's edition of SSP is brought to you in tardy fashion by the Ford Fusion that hauled your writer home at 3:00 a.m. ET Sunday.

Group exercises are, for the most part, ridiculous. I trust you! You trust me! How groundbreaking.  

But play along for 30 seconds and repeat after me: "the Bills and Lions are undefeated."

Haha, but no seriously. This is happening. The idea that bad NFL teams become good and the idea that good NFL teams become bad isn't shocking. It shouldn't be. It won't ever be absolutely mind-blowing, because this is what happens in today's NFL -- some teams get good, some teams get bad and some teams just happen to become the first team in NFL history to mount consecutive comebacks of 18 or more points.

Parity is what drives this league. No one doubts that, no one thinks that's weird, and no one should. There'll be some regression to the mean, and it'll probably happen to the really good teams who are only really good through a few weeks. When it does, please don't act like it's any weirder than what went down in a b-a-n-a-n-a-s Week 3 of NFL action.

1. Young guns
Two of the top three passers from Sunday's action -- Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford -- are excellent examples of the young crop of quarterbacks that are blossoming early in 2011.

Questions surrounded both Flacco (Can he beat the Steelers?) and Stafford (Can he stay healthy?) and, three weeks into the year, they're answering their critics. Flacco struggled against the Titans in Week 2, but the Ravens did a fantastic job of bouncing back from a subpar Week 2 to point out to everyone that they're elite.

I watched the games Sunday with my NBA counterpart, Matt Moore (yes, the link's ironic, thanks, I know), and at halftime of the Vikings early beatdown of Detroit, he pointed out that the Lions bandwagon was derailing.

He was correct at the time, but the Lions stormed back on the strength of Stafford's arm, winning in overtime to move to a surprising 3-0.

If Stafford stays healthy and Flacco keeps developing like he has thus far this year, we're going to be re-ordering the list of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and both these guys will be joining the upper echelon sooner, rather than later.

Look, the list of truly "elite" quarterbacks will continue to feature the names you know: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning.

Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger are also there, but we're seeing a new "generation" of quarterbacks starting to come into their own, as guys like Flacco, Stafford and other recently-drafted quarterbacks really start to generate some press.

And it's happening in a year when passing attacks are at an all-time high, which is only going to make the game better.

2. What do you know about pressure, Tom?

There's an ample number of awesome young quarterbacks in the NFL right now, but two very familiar names -- Brady and Brees -- are tops in the league when it comes to passing. Brady in particular is lobbing up some pretty ridiculous numbers right now; he leads the league in passing yards with 1,327, the most by a quarterback through three weeks in NFL history.

Only 22 people in the history of football have thrown for more than 4,500 yards in a single NFL season. 14 of those have happened in the past 10 years. (As we've noted, it's a passing league.)

So can Brady break Marino's record? Well, yes, he most certainly can. Remember that Marino, during his record-setting season, didn't surpass 400 passing yards in a single game until Week 5.

He's on pace for a stupid 7,077 yards for the season, although we have to assume he'll regress off that pace a little bit.

Just for fun, though, let's imagine Brady completes his schedule by passing for the exact same number of yards that his remaining opponents have allowed per game through three weeks. (Yes, there are several problems with this calculation, but just play along.)

Based on the remaining 13 games and the teams' respective yards per game allowed via the pass, Brady would pile up another 3,072 yards, which would give him a total of 4,399 yards for the season.

Conversely, Brady "only" needs to average another 289 yards per game to match Marino's record from 1984. That's not easy, per se, but it's certainly possible. And given how badly New England's own pass defense has been this season -- they're dead last in yards allowed -- it may be required too.

3. Hit the Snooze Button

Look, this is a world where Eli Manning is criminally undervalued -- the man referred to himself as "elite," tried to prop up his game, and everyone wanted to trot him out to the guillotine. No big deal though, you guys, because Eli doesn't need to show up and throw beautiful passes to Brandon Jacobs for 40-yard touchdowns. (Pardon the interruption, but FTC rules require that I write "OH GOD" in big letters again at this juncture so you'll be aware that the Apocalypse is coming soon to a city near you, by the way.)

The Giants are, somehow, not terrible. And while I might be [metaphorically] drunk on Tom Coughlin's team having watched them play in a Giants bar, it's pretty damn hard not to be impressed with what they've done this year. Last week's win over St. Louis was the single-worst blowout victory I've ever witnessed and, no, that is not a compliment.

This Sunday was an entirely different ballgame. Despite the face that actually fielding a defensive roster should be an impossibility, the Giants showed up to Philadelphia, generated a ton of pressure on Michael Vick, and barnstormed their hated division rival en route to a win that gives the NFC East more of a jostle than a trip to Sterling Archer's tumbler.

Let's move past the Giants, though, because they're the same thing that we knew they were, we just undervalued the properties they own. The Eagles are in much worse trouble than New York, simply because everyone assumed that if you have a really talented but sometimes injured quarterback and combine him with a marquee-worthy defense that secretly sucks up the middle, you don't have to worry about the rest of your problems.

Then the season happened, and the Eagles, as it turns out, have a terrible offensive line and a pretty bad combination of linebackers and safeties. Vince Young's belief that this is the "Dream Team" was fun to mock in the offseason, but it's downright comical at this stage.

Vick and Nnamdi Asomugha drew the headlines in the offseason, and DeSean Jackson plus LeSean McCoy make any team a viable threat to win any week just based on offensive explosiveness. But just like the Miami Heat, the Philadelphia Eagles offseason signings might have masked some serious positional-skill issues that will only become more exacerbated when depth starts creeping in.



4. A Hue-gh Win
The only way that the weird scene of a rookie Raiders coach dominating a third-year, Super Bowl-guaranteeing guy is if, well, the Raiders won. And they did. And people predicted it -- this actually happened. The absolutely weirdest thing is that it somehow managed to go Hue Jackson's way, as opposed to Rex Ryan's.

With a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, Mark Sanchez threw a touchdown pass and in classic New York-style, Derek Jeter-fashion and the Jets shortened the lead to seven points. It had all the stink of a Ryan win, which is, frankly, a compliment. You can't lose well in the NFL -- just ask Cam Newton! -- and people will question your every move. But if you win and you're not that good at it, it's OK.

Jackson's got Oakland doing some fun, funky things on offense right now, as if Darren McFadden's pump-faking a throw nine yards in front of the line of scrimmage while running an option end-around of sorts doesn't make that obvious.

He's an aggressive attacker, and can do creative things with all the speed that the Raiders have drafted in recent years, but Jackson also knows that using Oakland's physicality and letting McFadden do what McFadden does best -- pile up yardage by the ton -- is how Oakland can remain a viable playoff contender all season long.

5. Ponder This
Are the Vikings that bad or are the Lions that good? The answer is likely the second one, but the Vikings aren't that bad, and it's not fair to say that just because they choked away a trio of halftime leads.

Here's the thing that people will miss -- the Vikings are a not good team in the middle of a rebuilding project they don't know about.

There are problems with the Vikings. Adrian Peterson is an epic talent somehow surrounded by an aging cast parading as a group of guys that are, in the NFL environment, "making a last run." The truth of the matter is that Peterson is the definition of sublime when it comes to running backs, and the rest of the Vikings just aren't that good.

On the bright side, at least they didn't do the double disservice of trading up for a quarterback AND trading further picks for a veteran who is, despite his reputation, quite clearly a one-year rental.

Which is where things get problematic -- I asked Rich Gannon last week if he thought the success of Newton and Dalton cranked up the pressure on teams like the Vikings, who drafted Christian Ponder this past year, to play their rookie.

"I don't think so," Gannon said. "I don't think the plan in Minnesota will change unless they continue to lose and all of a sudden that whole process will be expedited. I think there's more pressure now, certainly moreso now than there was 10 years ago to develop that position and have a guy play right away and be successful. Days of what they did even with Aaron Rodgers, I don't know if we're going to see as much as that. I think they're paying these guys so much money that it's like, let's get these guys on the field.

"The problem is they're not always ready to play."

And that might be the case with Ponder in Minnesota, especially if he looks as overwhelmed as he did during the preseason. On the other hand, if Ponder steps in and looks even remotely good after/if this season's lost for Minnesota, it'll do wonders for the scrutiny on Leslie Frazier.

6. What about the Packers?
Detroit won, so we shouldn't discount them for the sake of chatting about the Vikings. But the real NFC North story is the Packers, who dominated the Bears on Sunday, winning by double digits against their biggest rival for the first time in three years.

Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes, all to Jermichael Finley, and this is precisely why everyone should be very scared of Green Bay again in 2011.

Finley is an absolute terror who is nearly impossible to defend near the goal line and, really, anywhere else on the field. The Packers won the Super Bowl without him, of course, and if he's healthy this year, Green Bay's offense is only going to be more difficult to defend than it was in 2010.

What's interesting is how Rodgers and Mike McCarthy have done a fantastic job of making sure that Greg Jennings and the other wide receivers stay incorporated, though Finley's obviously a much bigger part of the passing game than he was last year.

Jenning really struggled early on in 2010 and only blew up after Finley went down (and after he'd made mention he wasn't thrilled with how many targets he was getting). The transition to the 2011 version of the offense featuring Finley's been much more seamless, and that's reason to fear the Packers again this season.

They're the defending Super Bowl champion and arguably the best team in the NFL right now, and yet, why aren't we talking about them much?

7. Not running away from anyone now
There's very little sympathy for Kenny Britt around the NFL. Dude racked up more tickets this summer than "my friend" at college piled up.

Aside from that clown's reputation, it's important to note that when stupid people do stupid things a stupid amount of time, we take notice. Britt drew tons of attention this summer for his off-field antics, and he should have. Somehow he skated out of a suspension, but karma appears to rolled his way, as he'll likely miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL and MCL.

Britt shredded his knee on a screen pass, fumbled the ball, and carted off the field in a Week 3 win against the Broncos.

The worst part about this saga is that Britt somehow had the "Dwayne Bowe circa 2010" look about him, making plays, looking like a top NFL wide receiver, and generally wrecking the same havoc on the NFL that he wrecked on the legal system this summer.

Without him, the Titans offensive gameplan is an entirely different ballgame, especially considering that the corpse of Chris Johnson can't do a whole lot without providing more than three yards a carry. Look, Matt Hasslebeck deserves tons of praise for doing what he's done with what he's had to do while, um, doing what he do.

That being said, this is a Titans team that's begging to lose it's offensive identity in 2011. The biggest curiosity they face isn't so much "how the hell are the 2-1?" so much as it's "how they hell are they scoring points at a pace to make them less terrible than the Chiefs?"

Between the two questions, one is substantially better, and one question -- hint: it's about Kansas City -- is one you don't want everyone asking about your team. Yet Tennessee continues to survive. Maybe that's the way Mike Munchak's regime will win, and that's fine.

But expecting an exact repeat of Jeff Fisher's reign just because Munchak worked for Fisher but didn't necessarily retain all the offensive firepower seems like a stretch.

8. The Camwagon
As you probably know by now, when the word "Cam" gets dropped, it's time for some bragging. Well kudos first go to me for predicting that Cam Newton wouldn't have the monster game everyone expected when he beat -- yes, Cam won! -- the Jaguars on Sunday.

Before you strain your elbow giving some much-deserved pats, though, you should know that I have a weather app on my iPhone.

Speaking of weather, if someone tells you that Newton won a game, make sure you point out that he did it in the most terrible fashion ever. The Panthers might have come out victorious, sure, but did he throw for 400 yards? And was there a double rainbow? No sir there was not.

Ergo, the only answer is that Cam is absolutely terrible at controlling the weather and therefore not a winner. This is actually a thing that someone at your office will probably try and say.

Here's the truth though: Newton was really bad on Sunday, horribly inaccurate with his passes and very much looking like a rookie. The Panthers won 16-10, but they should have won 60-10, even with the weather. Blaine Gabbert, in his first career start, gifted Carolina a safety in his first career drive, and the Panthers somehow never managed to capitalize the opportunity.

Then all of a sudden there was a monsoon in Charlotte, the exhibition matchup became a legitimate great game and Newton was in danger of "not being able to step up." Or something. Everyone will find an excuse. Know this, though -- the Jaguars are a sneakily decent-sounding 1-2 and they're a terrible team. This is despite the career-high 185 yards (through the first two weeks anyway) that Maurice Jones-Drew has compiled.

Another nice day from MJD and a start from Gabbert masked what should have been one really team blowing out another much worse team. Jack Del Rio, this last sentence is for you, sir.

9. Just Wing It
Enjoy saying this now, because there's a strong chance you'll never say it again: "The Bills nearly left too much time on the clock when they scored." Fred Jackson streaked for the end zone to put Buffalo up a touchdown (Again! Against the Patriots!) and give Tom Brady a shot at what Tom Brady does.
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Instead, instant replay ruled Jackson down, the Bills got the ball just shy of the Patriots end zone, and were able to melt the clock down before kicking a game-winning field goal. The really wonked out thing here is that the scoring replay change was perfect for Buffalo.

We've watched enough football to know what happens if you hand this Brady character the pigskin with two minutes remaining and down a few points, right? Watching Brady eviscerate a pass defense en route to a comeback win is still exciting and thrilling and something everyone should do before they die, but it's borderline cliche.

Instead, the Bills flipped the narrative on us, won the damn game and are the leaders at the two-thirds of one-quarter mile-marker for the 2011 NFL season in an AFC East division that didn't have a single bit of prediction promiscuity at the top.

Yes it is early and yes we've seen the Bills storm out of the gates hot before, but there's something afloat in Buffalo's water these days and it's not Spalding's Baby Ruth bar.

10. Houston, We Have … No I'm Sorry I Can't Make That Joke
While we're taking a magical ride on the jump to conclusions mat, let's go ahead and assume that the Texans are terrible at defense and that they are much closer to the 2010 abomination we know, understand, love and play fantasy people against than they are the 2011 would-be division winners.

Except that's silly.

It's not silly to point out that there are a lot of teams who cannot "stop the pass" -- quotations are necessary here because in case you're not reading this regularly, the NFL woke up and decided to chunk the ball down the field with collective regularity.

Arian Foster missing is not the problem, of course. It's still defense for Houston, who appeared on the verge of justifying the Wade Phillips 3-4 hype before coughing up 40 points to New Orleans. But before we freak out and judge this team let's again remember that it's Week 3, again remember that this is Drew Brees commanding a very efficient and very dangerous offense, and let's, most importantly, remind ourselves that it's a baby-stepping process.

Houston wasn't becoming an elite defense overnight, and much less so in a lockout-shortened season. Losing to the Saints is tough, but they're still taking this division, and once they're playing against rookie quarterbacks, it will probably be on the strength of their offseason signings on defense.

While we're here, and because it's too important for muffed punts, Darren Sproles is the most important offensive signing of 2011's free agency. Yeah, I'm doing the knee-jerk thing, but this guy is making a difference in the Reggie Bush role for Sean Payton's offense.

The awkward thing is that he's just flat-out better than Bush at every facet of the game. That's not to rip Reggie, who probably needed to move on anyway, but it's an important reminder that sometimes it's not signings with the big, bold lights that really make the difference once people start playing football.

Pop-culture referencing Jim Irsay tweet that's sure to drive Colts fans insane of the week
"After 9 days,I let the horse run free..cause the desert had turned 2 sea"

Irsay's referencing "Horse With No Name" by the band America. Except he decided to do so a day after refuting his own statement that Peyton Manning wasn't playing this season.

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
- A Fox Sports bar in the Charlotte airport made the decision Sunday night to shut off their televisions because a bunch of airport patrons were crowded around the outskirts of the restaurant, watching the Colts-Steelers game. It was the most obstinate, pig-headed display of customer service I've ever seen.
- If you go to New York City and need a good spot to watch some football, the Cornerstone Tavern in Manhattan is pretty freaking fantastic. Good food, nice beer selection and tons of televisions. Also, it's like the unofficial place for Florida Gators to go, so there's that.
- Alex Henery has been a bright spot for the Eagles, by the way. Kid comes in as a rookie, replacing a legend like David Akers, and is producing on some crucial kicks.

Worth 1,000 Words


Hot Seat Tracker
So here's something fun -- Sportsbook.com has odds for the first NFL coach to be fired. We'll include them in parentheticals.
  • Tony Sparano (-120): Sparano's 0-3, the Dolphins can't seem to score and Chad Henne isn't progressing as we thought he might after the first week. Losses at the Chargers and the Jets over the next three weeks make him the favorite to get canned first.
  • Todd Haley (+180): A decent effort against the Chargers on Sunday at least should give Haley a bit of comfort that he can hold onto his job. Plus injuries are a nice excuse.
  • Jack Del Rio (+350): Speaking of nice excuses, the weather in Charlotte on Sunday really helped out Del Rio, because it gave the Jaguars a chance to win against the Panthers. Jacksonville recovered five (!) fumbles and still couldn't pull out a win.
  • Leslie Frazier (+400): Yeah, I was as surprised as you to see him here and I'm only including him because Sportsbook did. Oh, right, and because the Vikings have been outscored like 6,456 to six in the second half so far this season.
  • Jim Caldwell (+1000): It's hard to imagine the Colts canning Caldwell if he continues to keep games close, having lost Peyton Manning. There's  no reason for a midseason firing unless there's a particularly viable candidate out there.
  • Random note: It's just crazy that Tom Coughlin was in this spot less than seven days ago. Oh NFL, you're so nuts.
Chasing Andrew Luck (All odds mine)
Dolphins (1/2): They're almost assuredly going to be 0-5 through six weeks. That should be good for morale.
Chiefs (3/1): Somehow they've already played the easy portion of their schedule!
Colts (2/5): What to watch here is whether or not Indy thinks Peyton Manning can play more than two or three years.

MVP Watch
I'm sticking with my boy Matthew Stafford for now -- hard to argue with him considering the Lions are undefeated, he's second in the league in passing touchdowns (nine), fifth in passing yards and has only thrown two picks. Obviously Tom Brady's a good choice but if the season ended today, he'd get the Offensive Player of the Year award and Stafford would get my nod for MVP. Aaron Rodgers is certainly in the conversation as well.
Posted on: September 23, 2011 1:15 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 1:16 pm
 

Sanchez's love of hot dogs motivate Raiders

Are the Raiders using Mark Sanchez's eating habits as bulletin board material? (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson


Remember back in the mid-2000s, when Rodney Harrison would invent flimsily constructed reasons for why no one in the league respected the Patriots? It was an absurd notion, and surely Harrison knew this. But by saying it into a microphone somehow made it true, at least long enough for the New England locker room to buy into the idea and take it out on their next opponent.

The predictability (it seemed to happen almost every week) and lack of originality ("We get no respect!" has been done a time or two) quickly made it annoying. Well, there are no such concerns with the 2011 Oakland Raiders, who face the Jets this Sunday.

Apparently, they're still smarting from the 38-0 whuppin' New York put on them back in 2009. And while getting shutout at home is one thing, the idea that a rookie quarterback would come into their house and enjoy a delicious hot dog while the game was still being played is, well, unconscionable.

That's right: the Raiders are using Mark Sanchez's in-game snacking habits as motivation this week.


"Coach showed that to us," defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said, according to the Oakland Tribune. "It was just a reminder. We're going to remind him of that during the game."

Kelly's kidding (we think). And even if he isn't, head coach Hue Jackson seemed unconcerned.

"I hope we can make it more interesting for him so he doesn't have to eat hot dogs," Jackson said. "Hopefully we can take the mustard and the relish and the onions and all that and put it away and play a little football." Asked if he would use the issue as motivation, Jackson said, "I can't let all my secrets out. The guy had a hot dog. Was it Der Wienerschnitzel? I don't know. It looked to be pretty good the way he was eating it. So I'm sure we'll have some fun this week."

No word yet on what Jets head coach Rex Ryan thinks about all this but we'll venture a guess (naughty language alert).


The New York Jets are in search for their third win as they prepare to take on the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Who will come out on top? NFL.com's Pat Kirwan and Jason Horowitz preview this upcoming game. Watch the game on CBS at 4:05 PM ET.

* via Shutdown Corner

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Posted on: September 13, 2011 3:37 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 6:49 pm
 

Eye on Football NFL Awards: Week 1

Posted by Will Brinson



Every week, our NFL experts will hand out the Eye on Football hardware to the best of the best from the NFL week that was.

Week 1 NFL Awards
Expert Offense Defense STeams Coach
Freeman Brady Revis Ginn Jackson
Prisco Brady Urlacher Ginn Gailey
Judge Brady Ngata Ginn Harbaugh
Brinson Brady Urlacher Cobb Harbaugh
Katzowitz Newton Haden Ginn Jackson
Wilson Rodgers Suggs Trufant Gailey
Week 1 of the NFL season is in the books and goodness, was it a week. We saw Cam Newton break the rookie record for passing yards in a debut and, not to be outdone, Tom Brady show up on Monday night and eviscerate the Miami Dolphins for the fifth-highest passing yardage total (512) in NFL history.

Oddly, that was only the second time Brady's been over 400 yards in his career. But it was just good enough to land Brady our inaugural Eye on Offense Award. Though there are compelling arguments made for other players -- Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton -- you'll see his unreal performance on Monday night was just too much for our panel to pass up.

Scoring on defense isn't a must, but it helps too, and despite a hefty effort by Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata in throttling the Ravens, Brian Urlacher's 10 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown give him the nod on defense.

Meanwhile in the special teams category, Ted Ginn mopped up the competition with his back-to-back returns in less than five minutes. We had a three-way tie for the inaugural Eye on Coaching award and while we almost ruled out the Raiders and Bills because they're the Raiders and Bills for strength of schedule purposes, we give Chan Gailey the sympathy nod here since as our boss puts it "he'll never win again."

Leave your votes in the comments below or scream angrily at us on Twitter @EyeOnNFL.

Eye on Offense Award
Mike Freeman Clark Judge
Tom Brady Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
He throws for over 500 yards. He wears UGG boots. He dances. No better choice. Brady makes the ordinary receiver look like Jerry Rice. The two tight ends for the Patriots both looked like Kellen Winslow.
Tom BradyTom Brady, QB, Patriots
First, I hear Vontae Davis tell us that Miami has the best pair of starting cornerbacks in the business. Then, I watch Brady shred the Dolphins' defense for 517 yards and four touchdowns in a lopsided game that, frankly, could've been worse. Yeah, I know, Miami's cornerbacks were suffering from the heat all night and ran in and out of the lineup. But I wouldn't blame them if they didn't want to be anywhere near that field -- not when Brady's torching an entire unit. Marvelous, marvelous performance, but typical Tom Terrific. Nobody does it better.
Pete Prisco Will Brinson
Tom Brady Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
I watched his 517-yard passing performance with my own two eyes. It was sensational. His ability to find open receivers and put the ball into tight spots was amazing. He hit 10 different receivers. Brady also threw a 99-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker, changing the play at the line of scrimmage. I've seen him do some amazing things, but this was by far the best.
Tom BradyTom Brady, QB, Patriots
Of all the record-breaking performances we saw this weekend, it wasn't close as to which was the most impressive -- Brady disemboweled the Dolphins defense on Monday night and while it's one thing to watch a quarterback rack up yardage by chunking the ball deep, it's an entirely different thing to watch someone conduct their offense the way Brady did Monday. Two 100-yard receivers and four guys with six catches or more? Yikes.
Josh Katzowitz Ryan Wilson
Cam NewtonCam Newton, QB, Panthers
Obviously, he didn't accumulate as many big numbers in Week 1 as Tom Brady, and in fact, the Panthers didn't even win their game. But Newton's pro debut was better than impressive. It was outstanding. And sort of surprising. With his 422-yard performance, he shattered Peyton Manning's record for a pro debut (302 passing yards), and he destroyed Otto Graham's 346-yard total in 1950 when Graham was making his NFL debut (he previously had played in another pro league). So, obviously, Newton is much better than Manning and Graham. Ultimately, we don't know if Newton will be Carolina's savior, but we do know this: he was damn fun to watch in his first game.
Aaron Rodgers Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
It's not a particularly sexy pick after what we saw Aaron Rodgers do the the league's best defenses during the postseason in January and February, but after a four-month lockout in which the Packers admitted that they weren't holding player-organized workouts (and Rodgers was pimping auto insurance), he looked every bit the Super Bowl MVP when he stepped on the field against the Saints last Thursday. If Tom Brady was prolific, Rodgers was clinical. He completed 77 percent of his attempts for 312 yards, including three touchdowns. He also knows how to rock a 'stache, something Brady could never pull off.
Eye on Defense Award
Freeman Judge
Darrelle RevisDarrelle Revis, Jets
He gets crucial interceptions. Sure, Tony Romo gift-wrapped it but after giving up some big plays early to Dez Bryant it was Revis who clamped down on Bryant in the second half and shut down the Cowboys' biggest weapon. By the second half Revis looked like the best defensive player in the NFL. That's because he is.
Haloti Ngata Haloti Ngata, DT, Ravens
People ask how the Ravens could have unraveled mighty, mighty Pittsburgh, and I tell them to rewind the videotape to the Steelers' first two series of the second half. On the first, Ngata blows up running back Rashard Mendenhall, forces a fumble and recovers it. On the second, he deflects a pass at the line of scrimmage that Ray Lewis intercepts. The guy's a load. Pittsburgh committed seven turnovers, and Ngata was a primary reason why. The Steelers had no answer for him.
Prisco Brinson
Brian UrlacherBrian Urlacher, Bears
He was all over the field for the Bears and scored a touchdown on a fumble return. But his best play was an interception of Matt Ryan. He was locked in man coverage with the back and ran stride-for-stride with him and made a great pick of the football. Urlacher was overrated at times in his career. But now that he understands the game better, he's much improved over the guy who used to get mostly with amazing physical skills.
Brian UrlacherBrian Urlacher, Bears
Who would have thought the 33-year-old Urlacher could look so young at the start of his 12th season? He made an interception that was the definition of acrobatic. His recovery of a Julius Peppers-forced fumble ended up in the end zone. He also piled up 10 total tackles and continued to show that he's the motor that drives the very vanilla-painted car that is Lovie Smith's Cover-2 defense.
Katzowitz Wilson
Joe Haden Joe Haden, Browns
His performance was lost in the shuffle because the entire Browns defense was caught sleeping when the Bengals quick-snapped in the fourth quarter and Bruce Gradkowski threw the easiest 41-yard game-winning touchdown pass to A.J. Green you'll ever see. But Haden clearly frustrated 2011 No. 4 pick Green for much of the day. With that kind of performance, Haden will draw the opposing team's top receiver every week, and in Week 1 at least, it looks like he can handle it.
Terrell Suggs Terrell Suggs, Ravens
This could go to any number of Ravens defenders but Tuggs racked up three sacks and two forced fumbles and made the Steelers offensive line look like, well, the Steelers offensive line. Suggs has now sacked Ben Roethlisberger 15.5 times in his career, more than anybody else, The only thing he didn't do Sunday was score a two-point conversion.
Eye on Special Teams Award
Freeman Judge
Ted GinnTed Ginn, WR, 49ers
That noise you heard on Sunday was Dolphins fans puking. Ginn has been a lousy wide receiver but as a kick returner has long showed promise. This might be the year he becomes a star as a returner.
Ted Ginn Ted Ginn, WR, 49ers
He returned a kickoff for a touchdown. He returned a punt for a touchdown. Yet Seattle kept giving him chances.Someone please explain the logic of giving Ginn four opportunities to return kickoffs. I'm serious. The Seahawks had no touchbacks, and someone tell them the NFL just moved kickoffs to the 35. It's OK to drill the back of the end zone. Instead, the Seahawks kept feeding Ginn, daring him to beat them, and, well, he did. When San Francisco acquired him it was as a return specialist first and pass receiver second. Now I can see why.
Prisco Brinson
Ted GinnTed Ginn, WR, 49ers
Ginn Jr. is playing for a new contract. He's off to a good start. He returned both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the 49ers victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Just when it appeared the Seahawks were making a game of it, he ripped of the 102-yard the kickoff return and then followed it up with a 55-yard punt return for a score. Wow.
Randall CobbRandall Cobb, WR, Packers
Cobb might face a fate worse than being struck down by lightning if he takes any more kicks out from the back of the end zone, but for one night, he was the difference maker for the Packers as they topped the Saints in part because of his 108-yard touchdown return. It might not count for this purpose that he scored on a pass, but it doesn't hurt either.
Katzowitz Wilson
Ted Ginn Ted Ginn, WR, 49ers
My favorite part of Ginn's performance for the 49ers on Sunday -- you know, he scored on a 102-yard kickoff return and a 55-yard punt return in the span of less than a minute -- was the Twitter reaction immediately following, proclaiming that Ginn had fulfilled his entire two-year productivity quota in a single afternoon. And even if Ginn doesn't do much for the 49ers for the rest of the season, we honor his standout performance in helping lead San Francisco past the Seahawks on Sunday. 
Isaiah Trufant Isaiah Trufant, DB, Jets
A former Arena League and UFL player, Trufant was signed to the Jets practice squad last season and elevated to the 53-man roster just before the Cowboys game. Sunday night, he was in the right place at the right time, scooping up a Mat McBriar blocked punt (courtesy of Joe McKnight) and scoring a touchdown with five minutes in the game. The play tied the score, 24-24, and moments later, Tony Romo's ill-advised interception pretty much sealed Dallas' fate.
Eye on Coaching Award
Freeman Judge
Hue JacksonHue Jackson, Raiders
He got the Raiders their first season-opening win in almost a decade. When the Raiders win, the terrorists lose. I'm wondering if Jackson is getting more autonomy than other recent Raiders coaches because the team's game plan looked, well, sensible.
Cliff Lee John  Harbaugh, Ravens
Talk about issues. He had an offensive line that hadn't played together. He had inexperienced wide receivers. He had cornerbacks who seemed vulnerable. And he had a quarterback who never, ever, ever beat Ben Roethlisberger. So he draws defending AFC champion Pittsburgh in the season opener and doens't just win; he wins in a 35-7 laugher. Unbelievable. The pre-game edge had to belong to the more experienced club, the team that made fewer off-season changes, and that team was Pittsburgh. Logic told us that Baltimore was an unsettled club that would only improve as the season progressed. But tell me: How do you improve on this?
Prisco Brinson
Chan GaileyChan Gailey, Bills
The Bills passed on taking a quarterback in the first round of the April draft because Gailey believed in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Now we know why. He threw four touchdown passes as the Bills blew out the Chiefs 41-7. The defense also did a nice job shutting down the Chiefs offense. Gailey has this good-old-boy demeanor about him, but the man knows offensive football. He has his team ready to play against the Chiefs and pulled off what many considered to be an upset.
John HarbaughJohn Harbaugh, Ravens
The most impressive thing about the Ravens manhandling the Steelers was the game plan they had from the start -- and that falls on Harbaugh. They attacked on offense in an unexpected, high-powered manner and the defense just swarmed. Hell, they even had a built-in fake extra point play ready in case they needed it ... or in case they wanted to embarrass their arch-rivals on national television.
Katzowitz Wilson
Cliff Lee Hue Jackson, Raiders
In making his head coaching debut, Jackson had his team ready to play vs. the Broncos and coached a smart game, using much of the same gameplan Oakland formulated to beat Denver last season, to lead Oakland to the 23-20 road win. It was the first season-opening win for the Raiders in eight years, and at this rate with Jackson in command, Oakland might run the entire AFC West table again. 
Chan Gailey Chan Gailey, Bills
If anyone's due some recognition, it's Gailey. After suffering through a four-win season a year ago, the Bills showed up ready to play against the Chiefs in Week 1. Kansas City did not and they got rolled 41-7. Whether the Bills can keep this going remains to be seen, but for now we  salute you, Chan.



Posted on: September 12, 2011 5:25 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 1:54 am
 

7-Point Preview: Broncos vs. Raiders

James Brown asks Dan Marino, Bill Cowher, Shannon Sharpe and Boomer Esiason for their thoughts on the Monday night matchups between the Patriots and the Dolphins and the Raiders against the Broncos. Watch The NFL Today every Sunday at 12 p.m. ET.

Posted by Ryan Wilson

1. Oakland Raiders (0-0) at Denver Broncos (0-0)
A few months ago, this game looked to be the official start to the Tim Tebow era, but a lot has happened since July and Kyle Orton remains the starter. And for now, he gives the Broncos the best chance to win (Orton has thrown for at least 3,600 yards in each of the last two seasons). Although, you could argue that Denver won just three times with Orton under center a season ago. Duly noted. (Tebow got the start in the Broncos other win in'10.)

The Raiders, meanwhile, lost two of their best players -- cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and tight end Zach Miller -- to free agency, and Hue Jackson replaces Tom Cable who was fired after leading the team to eight wins. (It was the first time Oakland had more than five victories in a season since they went to the Super Bowl in 2002. So, naturally, Cable was canned.) Jackson, to his credit, sounds undaunted by the task of working for Al Davis.

"I expect to win here," he said. "And 8-8 doesn't cut it for me. I'm not interested in being 8-8. I'm interested in being great." And Denver's as good a place to start as any. The last time the Broncos hosted the Raiders, Oakland was up 21-0 before Denver ran an offensive play. By the time it was over, the Raiders had won 59-14, racked up 508 offensive yards, including 165 yards on the ground from Darren McFadden, who also added four (!) touchdowns.

But it's a new season; hope springs eternal and all that. The Broncos, under new coach John Fox, are looking to improve on last year's four-win effort. And the Raiders, a team that went undefeated in the division, are hoping to make the postseason for the first time since 2002.


2. What the Degenerate Gamblers and Eggheads Are Saying
The Broncos are favored by three points, according to Bodog.com. Translation: it's a pick 'em with Denver getting the edge because they're playing at home.

Interestingly, the Football Outsiders preseason projections have the Raiders ranked 28th (28th in offense, 21st in defense, 7th in special teams) and the Broncos ranked 29th (21st, 29th and 8th), ahead of only the Cardinals, Titans and Seahawks.

Based on the Vegas line and the FO projections, the Raiders and Broncos are evenly matched, though not much is expected from either outfit. (Of course, the same was said of the Chiefs last year and they won the division.)

And because we wouldn't be doing our jobs if we didn't mention it, every CBSSports.com expert but Pete Prisco likes the Broncos. Make of this what you will.

3. Key Matchup to Watch
Asomugha's now in Philly, which means that offenses can attack both cornerbacks without trepidation. So Chris Johnson and Stanford Routt will be in Orton's crosshairs. They'll be tasked with slowing Brandon Lloyd, who came out of nowhere to log 1,448 receiving yards and 11 TDs a year ago (by comparison, Lloyd managed just 2,370 yards in his first seven years in the league), and Eddie Royal. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos' 2010 first-round pick, is sidelined with a broken finger and a sore Achilles, so that's one less thing the Raiders' secondary has to worry about.

Offensively, Oakland will need to rely on its running game to open things up for the passing game. Now that tight end Zach Miller is in Seattle, quarterback Jason Campbell doesn't have a legit go-to receiver. We're still waiting for Darrius Heyward-Bey to play like a first-rounder, and Kevin Boss, signed to replace Miller, is out with a knee injury. This means that o-line will have to create holes for McFadden, Michael Bush and Taiwan Jones. If Oakland can establish a running game it will help neutralize a Broncos' pass rush that features Elvis Dumervil and rookie first-rounder, Von Miller.

4. Potentially Relevant YouTube
This is both awesome and awkward. The Monday Night Football intro from the 1996 Broncos-Raiders game. (Look at Jaws' 'stache!)


In case you're wondering, the Broncos won, 22-21.

5. The Raiders win if…
The offensive line can control the line of scrimmage, open up running lanes for McFadden and company, which will have the dual effect of eating clock and slowing the Broncos' pass rush.

6. The Broncos win if…
Orton can exploit the Raiders' secondary, build an early lead, and then let the defense tee off on Jason Campbell.

7. Prediction: Raiders 17 Broncos 20

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com