Oakland Raiders: 6 Reasons Jack Del Rio Might Be On To Something

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Dec 28, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; A general view in the first quarter of the game between the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 47-14. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Talent Gap in the AFC West Closed

For years, there was a huge talent gap between the Raiders and the other teams in the AFC West. The Broncos, Chiefs, and Chargers were all able to roll out better rosters and fight for playoff spots year after year after year. Meanwhile, the Raiders, with their vastly inferior rosters, were always left out of the dance.

This year is different. The talent gap between the Raiders and the rest of the division has been closed. Though some undoubtedly scoff at the notion, the fact is that Oakland has as talented a roster as any team in the division.

Peyton Manning looked like a 38 year old quarterback last season. Rather than the prolific passer he’d always been, Manning looked like a quarterback in the twilight of his career. And there is no reason to believe that he’ll look any better this year.

Factor in also that new head coach Gary Kubiak favors a power run game – which plays right into Oakland’s hands – and Manning might not be working his magic nearly as often on Sundays. But given the fact that he’s lost key offensive linemen Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin, as well as his favorite red zone targe in Julius Thomas, it may not be a very good year for Manning at all.

Denver has some solid talent, but they’ve also got an aging, past his prime QB, and too many questions after offseason departures to be considered the runaway favorite in the AFC West.

Philip Rivers is coming off a back injury that impact him last season. There is no telling how he will respond until he’s back in live action, but he says he’s back to one hundred percent. Unfortunately for Rivers, he’s coming back to a team that has lost his favorite and most reliable target in Antonio Gates for the first four games of the season for PED’s.

And outside of Keenan Allen, the Chargers don’t have much offensive firepower. Rookie Melvin Gordon is going to be good, but he is a rookie and there will be growing pains this season. Though the Chargers did improve their offensive line a great deal, they have way too many holes on offense, as well as a so-so defense.

Oakland most definitely pulled even, if not pulled ahead of the Chargers, in terms of raw talent.

Kansas City has one hellacious defense. They will be, hands down, the best defensive unit in the AFC West – if not in the NFL – in 2015. That defense will wreak havoc and keep them in a lot of games this year.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the defense can’t play offense because Kansas City’s is so poor, they’re in real trouble. Yes, they signed Jeremy Maclin, but Maclin can only be effective if Alex Smith can get him the ball. And Smith has a penchant for eschewing the deep pass for something that’s safer and has a higher percentage. Smith is the king of the checkdown passes. Which doesn’t bode particularly well for a deep threat like Maclin.

Of course, the Chiefs still have Jamaal Charles. And though some question whether or not age is beginning to creep up on him, he is still an effective weapon. But if a team can bottle him up, it all falls on to Smith’s shoulders – and to this point in his career, he doesn’t seem like he’s handled that pressure and those expectations all too well.

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