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AFC West: New Decade will see changing of the guard

Winning games is no small feat, especially for a team that has seen them few and far between in recent years. The Oakland Raiders have not exactly been the pinnacle of success over the past seven seasons; not by any stretch of the imagination. But after some quality wins last year, combined with a productive draft and 2010 offseason, things could actually be looking up for the NFL’s laughingstock team in the AFC West.

Is this most recent draft stunner a sign of things to come for the Raiders, or is it just another fluke win for a team that will never see the top of the mountain? That’s what Head Coach Tom Cable calls it: “seeing the top of the mountain” or “taking baby steps towards climbing the mountain.” His philosophy tells us that each victory is a baby step. He believes that the Raiders have to win three straight games to get past their inconsistency and start winning with confidence on a long-term basis. That is a feat they failed to accomplish in 2009. In fact, they haven’t won three straight games since the Super Bowl season in 2002.

Yet even so, you have to wonder why the Raiders can beat teams like the Bengals and Eagles, and the defending Super Bowl champion, Pittsburgh Steelers in their house. These are those pinnacle teams of the league (well maybe not the Bengals). And granted, even the Chiefs obtained a hard fought victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. But maybe it’s a sign of change for the entire division. I mean the Chiefs do appear to be coming on strong lately.

There is definitely a change in Denver– a change for the worse. Forgive me, but the Broncos did the same thing two years in a row didn’t they? Started out great and finished up horribly. The season before the last, something miraculous happened. Mike Shanahan, the Raider slayer, left town; booted in favor of the young upstart Bill Bellicheat protege, Josh McDaniels.                    

So, is all the offseason turmoil going to catch up with the Broncos? Hard to say. Although, at this point, everyone is getting to see how much of a bad omen having Ty Law is for a team. Not that he has done anything individually to make them lose, but just having his presence on a team seems to be a hex lately. Look what happened to the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs when he was there. The problem in Denver is about more than having Ty Law though. The fact is their true colors are shining through, sad colors…but true, Donkey fans.

The Oakland Raiders are like that rock you find in the backyard that has potential, and once put it in the rock polisher, uncovers its inner beauty. The Broncos are like cubic zirconia; They shine like a diamond for a while, but then you find out that they really aren’t worth that much and the fake gold that you thought was real starts to turn your hand green.

The Chargers are said to be the crème de la crème of the division. Over the past few regular seasons, they have hit their stride at the right time, but they always choke when it matters most. Thus, my favorite nickname that has been adopted for these misfits is the “San Diego Super Chokers.” They better look behind them though, because the Raiders and Chiefs are young and learning how to fight for the full 60 minutes.

The Chargers have experienced change in a big way lately. No longer is Shawne Merriman wreaking havoc in opponent’s backfields. L.T. is not there anymore running the show on offense.  Jamaal Williams is no longer in there to eat up blockers in the middle. It remains to be seen what the youngsters who took the places of these former stars have up their sleeves. They could be declining despite the rising performance of quarterback Phillip Rivers.

The Raiders could make a case for the best looking roster in the division right now, as far as new faces go. I won’t go so far as to say they will take advantage of it. However, the fact that last season they were competitive against playoff teams like Cincy, Philly, Pittsburgh, and the Chargers speaks well as far as holding out hope for the miracle of a season without the stigma of 11 losses.                       

I think the Raiders and the Chiefs could make some noise in the upcoming season. The schedule for the division this year is perhaps one of the least intimidating schedules in recent memory. The changes in the coaching staff and roster moves are moves that even those outside of the Oakland and Kansas City fan bases consider to be signs of positive things in the future. So I ask you Raider Nation, is it a sign of things to come? Let me hear what you think in the comments section.

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