Sunday, November 08, 2015

Just Win Baby - Raiders vs. Steelers

By Douglas V. Gibbs

The rivalry reaches back to the seventies, when Pittsburgh amassed four Super Bowl wins, split by a single Super Bowl victory by the hated Oakland Raiders.  The rivalry began in 1970 when the Steelers were moved to the new AFC to make the numbers a little better for the burgeoning football conference created out of the ten American Football League teams.  The Raiders were a part of the upstart AFL, a league that spent a decade through the sixties successfully competing against the NFL.  Their owner and General Manager, Al Davis, was a key component in what eventually became the NFL-AFL merger.

The first game between the two teams occurred on October 25, 1970, with the Oakland Raiders beating Pittsburgh 31-14.  The rivalry's true birth, however, began quite literally in the hands of Franco Harris, with his infamous "Immaculate Reception" in a playoff game in 1972. The rivalry became bitter, leading to the two teams meeting in the playoffs for five consecutive seasons (1972-1976).  It became a war for supremacy in the 1970s as the two became constant rivals competing for the crown of the AFC.

With both the Steelers and Raiders moving into position to make a playoff run in 2015, the rivalry is renewed.

It is amazing that the Oakland Raiders are even being considered to be a part of the Playoffs conversation, but here they are, 4-3 in a conference with only a few teams above .500.  Second year quarterback Derek Carr has matured quickly, and with veteran Crabtree back from the dead after a not-so-brilliant final stint in San Francisco, and potential rookie-of-the-year Cooper as targets, along with a dominant offensive line, an improving running game riding on the legs of Latavius Murray and a defense led by superior sophomore linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack, the Raiders have turned some heads and are making their mark.  Head Coach Jack Del Rio has managed to change the culture in Oakland, and Carr has managed to make the members of the "Black Hole" believers again.

The Raiders have truly returned to a "Commitment to Excellence."

One by one, sportscasters are defecting, proclaiming they are a believer that the Raiders are back.  Oakland, however, must win against the Pittsburgh Steelers today, in Pittsburgh, against the mighty Ben Roethlisberger, to show that the Raiders are truly back in black, and are a competitive and winning football team.

The Raiders, after 12-years of mediocrity, and the establishment of a promising foundation that people were saying could pay dividends as soon as the 2018 football season, have emerged as the 2016 Season's biggest surprise, and most exciting rise from the dead.

Oakland's rise from a decade of death is not something one could compare to the walking dead, per se'.  They are more like the raging monsters in 28 Days Later. . . fast, effective, violent, and demanding to be feared.

If the defense can keep Roethlisberger from extending plays, and breaking out of their grip, and keep Wide Receiver Martavis Bryant from running wild, the Raiders offense should have no problem leading Oakland to a win, and a fifth win for the season. . . a win total not matched since 2011 when the Raiders finished 8-8.  The Silver and Black have not finished the season with a winning record since 2002, which is also the last time the franchise went to the Super Bowl. . . a game during which the Tampa Buccaneers dismantled the Raiders under the tutelage of Jon Gruden, the former Raiders head coach.

My prediction for the early game on Sunday?  Raiders win, 38-24.

Gutsy, maybe foolhardy, but doable.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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