If you’re a gambling man, feel comfortable betting your savings on the fact the Raiders will miss the playoffs in 2013.
Despite having the fourth-easiest schedule next season, it’s wise to temper expectations since Oakland’s reconstructed roster is likely to initially struggle. Throw in an AFC West powerhouse (those pesky Denver Broncos) and an intriguing up-and-comer (in Kansas City), and the Raiders will be lucky to escape the division basement (don’t worry, it’s not as uncomfortable as Ariel Castro’s).
My guess is as good as a licensed fortune teller’s, but here are two scenarios that may play out for the Silver and Black next season. They depend on whether God and Al Davis are getting along.
2013 Perfect Scenario
- Matt Flynn establishes himself as a captain in the offseason and easily wins the starting job. With Darren McFadden distracting opponents, Flynn completes over 60% of his passes and collects more touchdowns than interceptions, becoming a franchise centerpiece.
- .Motivated by skeptics and a contract year, McFadden dances and darts his way to 1,700 yards from scrimmage and exceeds his career-high of seven rushing touchdowns.
- The wide receiving corps stay relatively healthy and Denarius Moore emerges as a star, while Jacoby Ford and Rod Streater cement their status as NFL threats. Rookie Mychal Rivera wins the starting tight end role and doesn’t look back.
- Left tackle Jared Veldheer delivers an All-Pro-caliber campaign, and Tony Bergstrom nearly matches Stefen Wisniewski’s level of play. Mike Brisiel and Khalif Barnes have bounce-back years as the offensive line welds into one of the league’s best.
- On the defensive line, new tackles Pat Sims and Vance Walker become dependable run stoppers with an increased workload. LaMarr Houston improves his technique and Andre Carter finds the last drops of gas in his tank.
- Sio Moore fulfills his promise, earning the starting weakside linebacker job (over Kevin Burnett). Miles Burris fights off Nick Roach at the strongside position, impressing general manager Reggie McKenzie and improving his and Moore’s long-term outlooks with the franchise.
- After several major breakdowns in the first half of the season, the secondary begins to mesh partly due to Charles Woodson’s patience with the youngsters. Tyvon Branch recovers from a lost year, while Mike Jenkins channels the confidence he never had in Dallas. D.J. Hayden’s role grows over the year. Dimension-P Record: 8-8
2013 Nightmare Scenario
- Flynn fails to separate himself from the rest of the pack and plays conservatively in the preseason (checking down early and often), leading to a midseason demotion and the Terrelle Pyror era. Pryor struggles with the nuances of being an NFL starting signal-caller, which prompts head coach Dennis Allen to toss Tyler Wilson into the fire.
- McFadden sprains his toe in week one and misses the following 14 contests, all but sealing his fate with the Raiders. The team overleans on Marcel Reece as a ball carrier (reducing his effectiveness in the passing attack) and Rashad Jennings proves to be expendable.
- Injuries continue to limit the wide receivers, and those healthy show only minimal growth, straining the quarterbacks. Richard Gordon wins the starting tight end spot and essentially serves as a sixth lineman.
- Despite reverting the blocking scheme (to a traditional power system), the offensive line underachieves in part to injuries. Line coach Tony Sparano reminisces the days when he drew respect in the NFL.
- The defensive front four proves to be no better than the 2012 version, as Sims and Walker can’t handle their expanded roles. Pass rush is nonexistent, causing the secondary to regularly collapse.
- Burnett and Roach win the outside linebacker jobs, but playing without a star teammate (like Brian Urlacher or Karlos Dansby respectively) to orchestrate the defense, they underperform and delay Burris’ and Moore’s development.
- Playing out of their accustomed slot positions, Jenkins and Tracy Porter are exposed on the island, while Hayden looks like a bust. Woodson breaks his collarbone for the third time since 2011, and free safety Usama Young makes fans yearn for Michael Huff. Dimension-N Record: 4-12