Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sleeping with the Enemy: Week Two, Raiders @ Chiefs

Welcome in, HoGnation to the first in-season football post of 2009. Naturally, this is a shame because I offered no analysis of the Chiefs' pre-season, or a review of week one at Baltimore. That said, these were my thoughts regarding that game: 1) I thought it would be a route so I was pleased when it was not, 2) The defensive/special teams plays that kept KC in the game through most of the fourth quarter were reason to be excited for that game and that game only, 3) I dug Todd Haley's animation on the sideline

as well as 4) Brodie Croyle's performance on the field. It was a loss, but the result, at least, was what I expected. Aside from a pass-happy offense, the Ravens were, a-hem, who I thought they were.

That said, it's time to kick off another season of "Sleeping with the Enemy," where we sit down for a minute with a fan of the week's opponent. Last year, Oakland Raider fan Zeitgeist joined us. He was kind enough to offer us his time again for Sunday's game. My questions, his words, post-jump.

Bankmeister: For starters, how much football did you watch last weekend? Did you see the Chiefs-Ravens game? Denver-Cincy? If so, what were your thoughts on them? Second, I assume you watched Oakland-San Diego Monday night. What did you think of your team's performance?

In my estimation, the Raider defense surprised a lot of folks last year, yet they let the beautifully mulleted Rob Ryan go, and, after one game, it would appear to be even better? There was a lot of front-line domination going on, and even though the Chargers had to piecemeal an offensive line early in the game, it seems as if this unit is for real. Was that game a fluke, or is this Oakland D going to punch a lot of teams in the mouth?

Zeitgeist: I saw a most of the Chiefs Ravens game. Brodie Croyle coming off an 0-8 in starting was there to replace an injured Matt Cassel; it didn't look good. However, he completed 16 of 24 passes (66.7%) for 177 yards and tied a career high with two TDs. Defense and special teams looked good with a punt block for a return, as well as a Derrick Johnson INT for a lengthy 70-yard return. It looked like they might just have something, and alas, I was not surprised they just couldn't pull it off. Much credit to Joe Flacco and Ravens D. In the end, 188 yards for the Chiefs vs. 501 yards for the Ravens, and you get the picture: still lots of work to be done at Arrowhead.

All I caught were highlights of the Broncos-Bengals game, and by the looks of it that's all I needed to see. Congratulations to Kyle Orton for his flop of a game-saving touchdown (if that's what you call it). In our fantasy league his points actually beat out P. Manning's. What was I thinking benching him(Orton) over Manning!?

Now on to the Monday night game(s).

I pretty much yawned my way through the Patriots-Bills game. I really had no interest in either team, and throwback uniforms kinda make me sick. They always look so bad, why remember that? I watched it for maybe a new glimpse of the T.O. Show but his day was a fizzle. Mostly waiting for the next game and a girlfriend of mine to bring some food and drinks. I'll pass the time with football any day.

Raiders-Chargers was a game I went into with much doubt on my shoulders for my team. I was reluctant to applaud when things were going right but soon couldn't help myself. The addition of Richard Seymour to the defense was awesome for them. Sacking Rivers twice in the first half and holding the elusive L. Tomlinson at bay. I admit that I thought Rob Ryan was one of the only good things the Raiders organization hadn’t fired and was surprised to see a very improved defense this season. I know it's only week one, but keep up that practice, and you are going to win some games. Two things they were not prepared for: the two-minute-drill power of Philip Rivers and the explosive speed and small size of Darren Sproles. It will be very interesting to see the adjustments made by this defense in the upcoming Chiefs game. From what I saw however they have what it takes to be a contender. Is the offense ready to support?

B: I couldn't agree with you less regarding that Pats-Bills game. I don't care much for either club, but I thought it was a good game. Also, I think throwbacks in all sports are pretty awesome, unless they're the powder-blue Chargers, which are guh-ayy. Powder blue is supposed to be reserved for bad Kansas City baseball only.

There is indeed much work to be done for the Chiefs, and I think we're far from knowing just what the Denver Broncos will bring this season. I'd argue the same for the Chargers. An interesting thought I had though: Our two teams have a lot in common this year. Most are expecting that they will generally suck, even though there are the select few that have predicted close-to-.500 finishes for both Kansas City and Oakland. Since the last time we spoke, the Chiefs have completely cleaned house. There's a new general manager, head coach, team of coordinators, and mostly a new roster as well. Comparing this year's 53-man for the Chiefs with what it looked like at the end of last season, 30 players have been cut; some three have found NFL jobs since their departure.

So I'm curious: Do you think this franchise is heading in the right direction? Are they making smart choices? Is it too early to tell?

I'll ask you the same about your club. Obviously, most NFL fans think negatively of Al Davis. We've covered him in the past, so we'll leave him be for the most part. The weird thing to me, though, is the promotion of Tom Cable from offensive coordinator to interim coach, leaving him in that position while you interview other candidates, and then deciding to stick with him in the end. Seems like that's somewhat of a rarity in professional sports, but it could wind up being a smart choice. What are your thoughts on your coach? Did you have any opinion on the jaw punch he delivered to his assistant? Do I understand correctly that that assistant was then relieved of his duties?

As far as the squad, Darren McFadden showed last year, against the miserly Chiefs at least, that he could be a pretty promising rock toter. Monday night looked decent for him as well. Factor in Michael Bush and Justin Fargas when healthy and the Oakland running game could be stellar. As with any running game, this depends heavily on the blocking scheme of the offensive line, which, if Monday night was for real, they should be tough. The defense, as I mentioned, seems to be improved, which bodes well for the Raiders in a potentially weak division of offensive schemes.

The X-factor, in my opinion, continues to be JaMarcus Russell. I don't know how much you follow the SportsTalkRadios, the newspaper columnists, or the blog writers. I follow each in varying degrees, but try to keep my opinions my own. Russell is one topic of discussion in which I can do little more than agree with all of them in the sentiment that he is simply not a good quarterback.

The one compliment that he keeps getting is that he's a large physical specimen, which, to me, is a back-handed way of saying "fatass that hasn't, and might not, develop into a real deal." We talked a bit about him last year, but your thoughts now? Any comment on Russell sporting that trendy mohawk that has unfortuneately come back into fashion for the kidz?

What about this receiving corps? What's the deal with Javon Walker? He's on the roster, but I've heard nary a peep about him. Johnnie Lee Higgins? Darrius Heyward-Bey? Think these guys'll pan out? Looks to me like Louis Murphy and Zach Miller (TE) are the only decent threats Russell has to target. Who's gonna lead this team in catches? Receiving TDs?

Finally, where do you see this team finishing in the standings? Give us a place, and a win-loss prediction, give us a prediction for the game, and tell us, assuming you're going to the 'Head regaled in silver and black, where you're sitting. And if you won't be in attendance, explain to us why you won't be supporting your team in person.

Z: Oh man, leave the Royals out of this; I can only do one bad K.C. team at a time. I can understand the devotion of a Chiefs fan in the hardest of times, because I'm a Raiders and Royals fan. It's pretty bad when even Detroit has a better sports demographic.

It's hard to tell this early in the season if it is the right direction, however it is without a doubt a very "new" direction, which is something the Chiefs have needed for a long time. The Chiefs have been teetering on the clean-house totter for quite some time and after the long awaited resignation of Carl Peterson, I think this organization can finally start anew. I'm excited to see the progress and the unavoidable mistakes that can be made by a fresh team. I gotta tell ya though: Watching Chiefs new Head Coach Todd Haley light up Brodie Croyle like he did early with 9:35 left in the first quarter (Croyle was sacked on 2nd and 9, the Ravens took a timeout....and then the Chiefs took a time out. Why? Brodie Croyle get couldn't the play called in time.) To watch Haley flare up like he did shows real devotion to a winning team and not to players who don't know their job. I could be wrong, but I liked it! With the current staff and attitude I think they have made the best choices they could. Only time will tell on this one.

I'm sooooo done with blaming Al Davis for this team. It might be a factor, but it still comes down to the field. However, when it comes to coaching changes and head scratching afterward this it totally Davis' m.o. That being said, I think I like Tom Cable where he is. The whole punching Randy Hanson thing is nearly a closed case and no charges have been pressed so far. I also heard that this particular asst. had problems with Kiffin also, and was suspended after the Sept 2008 games vs. Denver after harsh words were spoken to the coach. Have not heard about a firing though; looks like they are handling it internally. I'm new to the Tom Cable philosophy and whether it's constructive or not. Right now in hostility-filled Oakland, seems like a good fit.

I couldn't agree more on several levels with the running game and the direction the Raiders are headed with it. This leads into the JaMarcus Russell problem too. Russell has never seemed to be able to calm down enough to keep his accuracy at bay. Several times this last game he threw the ball to no one. I think the organization is putting a lot more emphasis on the run in order to compensate for these problems with the newish QB. Is he or is he not a good QB? Right now I'm leaning towards no. He has a lot of ability and strength, his college performances were outstanding.

However in the NFL everything is faster and everyone is bigger. After sustaining that knee injury last week and getting right back on the field there is no question he is dedicated. He needs to start becoming a leader and heading the charge of this run game, if they could work that one-two punch this team has it. Right now it just looks as if again the run is there to compensate for a still unproven Russell. What’s Matt Leinart doing these days? I'm sure he can prove something.

As for the receiving core I'm about as lost as you are. J. Walker is not hurt but holds a position behind Heyward-Bey and J. Lee Higgins who has a shoulder injury right now. All things being said JaMarcus didn't even hit a wide out against the Chargers until I can’t remember but seemed like around halftime. Which goes back to my point: until this passing game smoothes out, the Raiders are going to still have to fight hard to win, all blown touchdown calls aside (thanks a lot Ref!).

I am not afraid to think that this Raiders team can and will hit .500 or a maybe a little over. With the talent I saw, they definitely have the potential. Would love to go to the game, but the last day of my current employment ends the Saturday before. Will be watching on high def at home saving those ever-precious dollars in a sketchy economy. Chiefs games ain’t cheap.

Man I dunno what to say about the opening mohawk that (Russell and) Shawne Merriman displayed. Apparently if you choke your girlfriend it's acceptable to where a "bro-hawk." JaMarcus may have his issues on the field but off he seems to me to be solid character. My real prediction for this game is that both teams are claiming rights to prove why they should have won the last game. Looking at both teams after watching both games I'm fairly certain the Raiders have it in for the Chiefs. This, of course, depends on the health of Matt Cassel. I say Raiders by +10. What the over/under would be is out of my understanding. Both teams have WAY too much to prove. That is if I even understood this season’s officiating rules, which are getting pretty obscure.

B: Awesome. Well thank you, sir, once more, for your time. We'll see you Sunday. I'm calling for the home team by four.


Cecil said...

"I'm sooooo done with blaming Al Davis for this team. It might be a factor, but it still comes down to the field."

Wow wow wow.

I mean, on the one hand, Raiders fans crow about the dictatorial nature of their owner, and on the other absolve him of blame for the product. I used to live out there, and I know how good the weed is, but fuckin' A, that's some quality delusion.