The Oakland Raiders reached Super Bowl XXXVII. That was following the 2002 season. They have not had a winning season since. Bill Callahan coached that Super Bowl bound team. Since then Oakland has seen Head Coaches Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable and Hue Jackson come and go. The 2001 NFL MVP Rich Gannon quarterbacked that Super Bowl-bound team. Since then Oakland has used Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Marques Tuiasosopo, Josh McCown, Daunte Culpepper, JaMarcus Russell, Andrew Walter, Bruce Gradkowski and Jason Campbell as starting quarterbacks.
The Raiders, who have finished 8-8 in back-to-back years, will make another go at this year, this time with Head Coach Dennis Allen at the helm and quarterback Carson Palmer under center.
The October 2011 death of long-time owner Al Davis shook the Oakland franchise to its core, but in a way, it also helped facilitate some change in a struggling franchise that has long been a cornerstone of the league.
Reggie McKenzie was brought in from Green Bay to serve as general manager. He quickly fired Jackson after one year and hired Denver defensive coordinator Allen. It was the first time Oakland had gone with a defensive-minded coach since John Madden, which, unbelievably, was 14 coaches and 43 years ago.
Allen is familiar with the AFC from his time in Denver where he turned a struggling defense into a unit that ended up carrying the team last year as the offense struggled under numerous quarterbacks.
Former Oakland offensive coordinator-turned-Head Coach Jackson led some of the more successful Raider offenses that Oakland has seen in the past decade. However, the new coaching staff thought it was time to emphasize defense, although they made a good hire by bringing on board journeyman veteran offensive coordinator Greg Knapp (San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle and Houston). Along with all his other stops, Knapp was previously in Oakland from 2007-08.
Knapp will have plenty of weapons to work with, most notably quarterback Carson Palmer, running back Darren McFadden and wide receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford.
Palmer will have the benefit of an entire offseason with his team unlike last year when he was traded mid-year. Palmer's 16 interceptions in 10 games were absolutely crippling to the offense, and that needs to improve. Michael Bush is off to Chicago so McFadden will need to stay healthy, unlike last year when he suffered a season-ending foot injury in the seventh game of the year. The offensive line is an extremely underrated unit and could be stronger this season with second-year player Stefan Wisniewski moving to center to anchor the unit.
Wholesale changes were necessary this year for an Oakland defense that ranked 27th or worse in passing yards (251), rushing yards (136), total yards (388) and points (27) allowed per game.
Thankfully for Oakland fans, those major changes were certainly made on the defensive coaching staff, and now the question is how that will translate to the field.
Unfortunately for Oakland, it traded away most of its top draft picks for Palmer last year in another instance of offense coming first for the franchise. So any help on defense will not come in the form of first-year players but rather scheme changes with first-year coaches, including incoming defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.
Richard Seymour, 32, and Tommy Kelly, 31, are aging but remain the heart of the defense on the line and they will be boosted by the return of a healthy Matt Shaughnessy.
Moving to zone coverage rather than man-to-man in the secondary will benefit the entire unit. The new coaches have some pieces to work with, including safeties Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff, and newly acquired cornerbacks Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell have experience playing in zone schemes.
2012 Oakland Raiders Football Schedule Analysis
The Raiders have the 18th most difficult schedule in the NFL. They play in the most balanced division in the league, where all three teams went 3-3 against each other last year.
Oakland, Denver and San Diego all finished 8-8 last season and Kansas City was right in the AFC West mix at 7-9.
With this being a transition year for the team, opening up with two pivotal divisional games in the first four weeks is not exactly ideal. The Raiders open the season on the night cap of the Monday Night Football opener when they host San Diego. After traveling cross-country to play the Dolphins in Week 2 they have to host the AFC North favorite Pittsburgh Steelers before visiting Peyton Manning and Denver in a crucial Week 4 contest. A Week 5 bye is also not ideal for a veteran squad which would like to see that bye later in the season. In out-of-division games, the Raiders pay visits to Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Carolina while hosting the Jaguars, Buccaneers, Saints and Browns.
2012 Oakland Raiders Futures Odds
The Raiders are pegged as 75/1 longshots to win the Super Bowl on Bovada and 30/1 to win the AFC. Their odds of +500 to win the AFC West are the worst in the division.
In future NFL point spreads, the Raiders open the season in Week 1 on Monday Night Football as a “pick’em” at home against San Diego. 5Dimes has set the season win total for Oakland at seven wins with the “over” juiced at -120 and the “under” paying +100.
2012 Oakland Raiders Predictions
The season win total posted at seven assumes plenty of first-year headaches with the major overhaul of the coaching staff. But a good portion of the Oakland roster has been assembled through free agency, and the veterans have experience playing in the new systems the Raiders will be implementing this season. The coaching transition is a positive for this organization and expecting at least a repeat of an 8-8 season is not asking much at all. The play is over seven wins.
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