LAST WEEK STRAIGHT UP: 12-2
LAST WEEK vs. SPREAD: 10-4
SEASON STRAIGHT UP: 80-39
SEASON vs. SPREAD: 60-59
Yeah, that's right, knocking on the door of 70% straight-up, back over five hundred against the spread. Holla at ya boy. Until after this week, probably, but the past two bitter years have taught me to enjoy any fleetingly positive development to the hilt while it lasts. Not surprisingly, that pasttime hasn't been too terribly time-consuming.
Since my one-play-away-from-two-time-defending-World-Champs are on their bye this week, resting up and preparing for another deep playoff run - Russell Wilson wasn't sacked at all last week, didja notice? - I'm going to take a look at the other team that somebody else on this site has never talked about much, doubtless out of humiliation and shame. I will not name them other than to say that if their team slogan were adjusted to match their level of play since - and including, really - Super Bowl XXXVII, it would read, "Commitment To Putrescence".
Now as a lifelong Seahawks fan, heaven knows I can relate to perpetual mediocrity and occasional godawfulness, although the past dozen seasons have had much more of the latter than the former for the Silver & Black. Waaaaaaaaaaay back when this team was in its glory years, Seattle was at the beginning of a journey that would last almost as long as the Exodus itself, thiry-eight seasons of futility before the Lombardi Trophy finally came to the Pacific Northwest. Which, I have to admit, gives me more than a little satisfaction in the Raiders' travails of recent years given the rivalry we thought we had with them back in the 1980s, though I doubt Raiders fans even noticed. (Does anybody else remember "Raider Busters"? You know, to the tune of the Ghostbusters theme? Anybody? Beuler? Beuler?). It's almost karmic when you think about it.
But I acknowledge that General Manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio are doing what the late Al Davis never permitted with his endless, Neolithic, "the game has passed him by" meddling in the day-to-day running of the franchise: rebuilding its talent level on both sides of the ball, starting with Derrick Carr at quarterback, and instilling a winning attitude and culture that hasn't existed in Oakland in a very, very long time. The team is definitely on the upswing, and may return to playoff contention sooner than everybody thought.
But they're not there yet.
Let's take a look at the numbers, shall we?
The #13 Raiders are currently 4-3. Here are their four vanquished opponents and where each sits in my current power rankings:
San Diego (#23)
N.Y. Jets (#14)
Two mediocre teams, two dumpster fires. Not a quality (top ten or better) win on the list. That's not to say that taking care of business against teams you should beat isn't part of being a contender (I wrote teeth-grindingly last week about the 'hawks in that regard), but for an up & coming team, they need several of those quality wins to validate their elite status, similar to the blitzkrieg Seattle went on late in the 2012 season culminating in that 42-13 beatdown we laid on the eventual NFC Champion 49ers on Sunday Night Football. The Raiders need to do that to, say, the Denver Broncos at Mile High on December 13th or the Green Bay Packers the week after that, or both to truly grab everybody's attention by the proverbial shorthairs. I certainly wouldn't have any problem with the latter. And it would make everybody forget Oakland's desultory loss to the #26 Chicago Bears.
How do the new Raiders measure up statistically? In a word, uneven.
TOTAL OFFENSE: #9
RUSHING OFFENSE: #20
PASSING OFFENSE: #9
TOTAL DEFENSE: #26
RUSHING DEFENSE: #2
PASSING DEFENSE: #31
Call me old-fashioned - or "Carrollesque" - and absolutely no disrespect intended to young Mr. Carr, whose 65.5% completion percentage, 256 average yards per game, fifteen TDs versus three picks, and 105.7 QBR, good for fifth in the league behind only Tom Brady, Andy Dalton, Aaron Rodgers, and Carson Palmer, are awesome, but young quarterbacks need a running game to fall back on, the Raiders don't really have one, and that's going to bite them in the butt sooner rather than later. And if that doesn't slow them down, the next-to-worst pass defense in the league will, which, in turn, does much to inflate their rushing defense numbers. If everybody's passing on you, stopping the run becomes elementary indeed.
All of that said, I did a little projecting, and I foresee an 8-8 finish for the Raiders in the 2015 campaign. Definite progress analogous to when the 1974 Houston Oilers, who had gone a combined 2-26 the previous two seasons, finished 7-7, prompting coach Sid Gilman to remark that that was his most satisfying season as an NFL head coach. And what happened the next year? Bum Phillips took over, drafted Earl Campbell, and if not for the Super Steelers being in the way, the Oilers probably would have won multiple Super Bowls. Just a thought.
Speaking of the (#9) Steelers, they're today's opponent for the "We can't call them Faiders" at Heinz Field. Let's take a look at their numbers:
TOTAL OFFENSE: #19
RUSHING OFFENSE: #9 (Le'Veon Bell out, DeAngelo Williams in)
PASSING OFFENSE: #21 (Will improve now that Ben Roethlisberger's back for a second week, especially against that porous Raiders secondary)
TOTAL DEFENSE: #21
RUSHING DEFENSE: #8
PASSING DEFENSE: #26
A shootout? Definitely. Both teams' passing defenses suck. But the ability to run the ball will wind up being the difference in the game.
Sorry, Raider fans. You're going to have to be patient a while longer.
Straight up picks indicated by asterisk (*); picks against the spread in parentheses (x). And no, don't bet the farm on these picks; they're just for my amusement and your aggravation. Or vice versa. We'll see how it turns out, now, won't we?
San Francisco (+7)
N.Y. Jets* (-6)
N.Y. Giants* (-2.5)
New Orleans* (-8)
New England* (-14)
San Diego* (-4)