In my opening preview for the Raiders, I predicted that they would finish 3rd in the AFC West and end with a 7-9 record. Well half way through the season, the Raiders sit in a three way tie with the Chargers and Chiefs at 4-4. The Raiders have had many good games (comeback win against the Jets, win against the Bills, and an emotional win against the Texans) but they also have had some bad weeks (last week against the Broncos for example).
They have a division record of 1-2 and in a way control their own destiny. They still play the Chargers twice and Chiefs one more time. But before you can look to the rest of the season, you must evaluate the Raiders from the 1st half of the season.
Quarterbacks – “C+” – Although I got on him a lot and his stats weren’t all that good looking, Jason Campbell was a great in game manager. When the Raiders lost him for the season, they made a splash with the Carson Palmer trade and thus far you can’t tell if the trade was worth it. I would of given a higher grade if Campbell was still healthy but after the loss of Campbell, Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer have not performed well.
Running-backs – “A” – I give Darren McFadden and Michael Bush an “A” because they have single handily carried this team. Even with the loss of McFadden for a few games, Michael Bush has filled in nicely. They are used to control the clock and without this run game, this Raider team can be totally different.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends – “B-” – The Raiders receivers have been very inconsistent this season. In the beginning of the season, the Raiders were a run first team and it could be seen in the receivers production but since the death of Al Davis, they have attempted to spread the ball around. Darius Heyward-Bay has come on this season and T.J. Houshmandzadeh may be their best receiver by years end.
Offensive line – “B+” – The offensive line has to get a high grade because McFadden and Bush could not have the success they have had without the big guys up front. If the Raider keep pounding the rock, it will be behind the success of the O-Line.
Defensive line – “A-” – The Raiders D-Line has been fantastic. With Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour locking down the middle, teams can’t run up the middle on them. Also, DE Lamar Houston is quietly having a great season.
Linebackers – “B+” – Kamerion Wimbley is having another good season if though he isn’t sacking the quaterback, he is putting pressure on them. Rolando McClain still looks like he is figuring out the whole NFL but his weaknesses were so noticeable because teams can’t run up the middle on them. There is no doubt Aaron Curry will be a help to McClain improving throughout the season.
Secondary – “C+” – This is the hardest game to give. On one hand you have Michael Huff and Demarcus Van Dyke playing well and on the other hand you have the inconstancy of Stanford Rout and Tyvon Branch. If the Raiders want to go anywhere this season, the secondary must step up their second half play.
Special Teams – “A” – Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler are the backbone to this team and their outstanding special teams will continue to strive in the 2nd half.
Coaching – “B” – Like the players, Hue Jackson and his staff have been inconsistent this season. At 4-4 this team looks like they are unprepared in some games and fans need to remember that each game is a learning experience for Jackson who after all is a rookie coach.
A look ahead – The Raiders are 4-4 and really control their own destiny. It’s not often that a team half way through with a .500 record can say that but they really do. Win-able games against Minnesota and Miami is a positive but tough games against the Chargers (x2), Chicago, Green Bay, Detroit, and Kansas City can’t be too promising. I see them finishing 8-8 and not making the playoffs.