For the 2017 Raiders, there is no longer a clear path to triumph


For the 2017 Raiders, there is no longer a clear path to triumph

The good news for the Oakland Raiders in their quest to be considered a worthy rival to the New England Patriots is that the Patriots showed all their vulnerabilities Thursday night. In fact, they looked a lot like we think the Raiders will – long on points, almost as long (or worse) on points allowed.

But the bad news for the Oakland Raiders is who did it to them, and how. The Kansas City Chiefs and their allegedly-soon-to-be-past-it quarterback Alex D. Smith are suddenly a more intrepid team and decidedly more difficult to defend. Smith managed Thursday’s 42-27 win in Foxborough in a way he has rarely managed a game, and the result was a performance that not only diminishes the Patriots but elevates the Chiefs.

In other words, the hard part of the Raiders’ journey just got about 1,500 miles closer to home.

True, there is much to be determined between now and throat-cutting time. The Chiefs will have their befuddling moments, and so will the Raiders and Steelers and Broncos and Ravens and whatever hot mess comes out of the AFC South. But all that means is that there is no longer a clear path to triumph. Every game just got harder because the teams who have legitimate aspirations to dethrone New England have a greater sense of belief, as in “The Chiefs were trying to lose their quarterback for something newer, and it turns out he could be a badass after all.”

And any team with a quarterback is by definition a contender.

So it’s happy days in Oakland (and Pittsburgh and Denver and Baltimore and, of course, Kansas City). Now the Swords Through The Head set out for the scary new American frontier, Nashville – the edge of the war with a new and far more vengeful weather that has decided to wreak its “Ain’t No Global Warming, Eh” wrath.

Either way, strap in, lads. Your pursuit of the crown just got easier, and harder, all in one night.

Aldon Smith back in custody after police say he violated restraining order


Aldon Smith back in custody after police say he violated restraining order

SAN FRANCISCO — Former Oakland Raiders player Aldon Smith surrendered to police Friday on charges he violated a domestic violence restraining order.

San Francisco police said the 28-year-old Smith turned himself and was booked on three misdemeanor charges of violating a court order to stay away from a domestic violence victim.

Earlier this month, Smith pleaded not guilty to domestic violence and other charges and a judge issued a protective order prohibiting him from contacting the victim.

Police said Smith violated the restraining order earlier this week.

Smith’s attorney, Joshua Bentley, did not return a voicemail message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The Raiders released the linebacker days after his arrest on the domestic violence charges.

He had been on the suspended list since late 2015 for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse.

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”