How will the Raiders fare in 2012?


How will the Raiders fare in 2012?

Programming note: Tune in to Raiders Postgame Live tonight for complete reaction from the Raiders' Monday night opener against the Chargers -- 10:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California!

In 2010, after seven straight seasons of at least 11 defeats, the Raiders would buck the trend and, I predicted, go 8-8. They went 8-8.In 2011, after their first non-losing season since the Super Bowl year of 2002, the Raiders would go 9-7, I foretold, with Sebastian Janikowski making a record-long field goal during the year. They went 8-8 and SeaBass converted from 63 yards in Denver.So I'm going to predict the Raiders going 10-6 this year, right, with a 64-yarder from Janikowski? Eh.Truthfully, I can see the Raiders actually finishing anywhere from 6-10 to 10-6, from last in the division to first. No, I'm not hedging any bets. Yes, the AFC West is that wide open. And really, who knew picking the Raiders to finish fourth in a four-team division would upset so many fans?Here's the deal and go ahead, sign me up for The Chapelle Show's Player Hater's Ball if you must (hate, hate, hate, hate), or just read and, well, contemplate The Raiders are essentially an expansion franchisewith much better players. But there are so many moving parts and variables with this team and, already, injuries. Not to mention a lack of depth that was exposed in the Raiders' preseason finale at Seattle. The offense is new. The defense is new. The special teams return games are nonexistent at the moment. And what do the Raiders do ifwhen Darren McFadden goes down to injury?On the other hand, if the stars align, if the defense is as successful as it is active, if the West Coast offense becomes Carson Palmer, if McFadden plays 14 games -- something he has yet to accomplish in his four-year NFL career -- then sure, the Raiders could win the division and be a very dangerous out in the Super Bowl tournament. Besides, Kansas City still has Matt Cassel under center, Denver has Peyton Manning, but his neck is a question, and San Diego still has Norv Turner as its coach.So yeah, the Raiders could be the story of the NFL and win the West this year, but so many things have to turn out just right for them and that's just a lot to ask of a team still trying to find its identity on the eve of the season opener. Indeed, it is shaping up like a team that's taken two steps back to take one step forwardnext year.As such, I went into Nostra-Gutierrez mode again, just before the Raiders' 2012 season opener against the Chargers. Following then, one man's look ahead:The game: vs. San Diego Chargers
The prediction: Win (1-0)
The reasoning: The Raiders had more questions than answers in the preseason -- hybrid talent fullback Marcel Reece did not have a single touch, for example -- but in an emotional opener, they win a shootout with the Chargers as they keep Philip Rivers off balance when it counts most. Matt Shaughnessy has a field day at the expense of UDFA rookie LT Mike Harris.RELATED: Raiders-Chargers matchups to watch: Shaughnessy vs. Harris
The game: at Miami Dolphins
The prediction: Lose (1-1)
The reasoning: Too soon for a trap game? Consider: A short week and a cross-country flight coupled with the Raiders' well-known struggles in South Florida of late portend for trouble for the emotionally flat Raiders.The game: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The prediction: Lose (1-2)
The reasoning: The Raiders are up for this one and give it a game effort on another emotional afternoon against one of their most epic and historical rivals. The Steelers, though, have just enough to win the turnover battle and hold off Oakland.The game: at Denver Broncos
The prediction: Lose (1-3)
The reasoning: If Peyton Manning is right, he figures to gas the Raiders defense and test its depth with the no-huddle offense at elevation. It could get ugly for the Raiders, who limp into their bye week needing the break.The game: at Atlanta Falcons
The prediction: Lose (1-4)
The reasoning: Not even two weeks off can help the Raiders slow the Falcons' high-octane offense indoors and on artificial turf. The Raiders, who have not won in more than a month, desperately need a gimme.The game: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The prediction: Win (2-4)
The reasoning: Fans and critics alike are calling for Carson Palmer to be benched and replaced by Terrelle Pryor, but this is the gimme the Raiders need and Palmer responds, leading Oakland to a feel-good victory that many still see as fool's gold.The game: at Kansas City Chiefs
The prediction: Lose (2-5)
The reasoning: In a nip-and-tuck affair, Palmer has a field day targeting Chiefs cornerback Stanford Routt and is driving the Raiders toward a game-winning field goaluntil Jacoby Ford slips on a route and Palmer's pass hits Routt in the chest for a game-sealing interception. Sound familiar?The game: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The prediction: Win (3-5)
The reasoning: Has it really been 10 years since the Buccaneers took apart the Raiders in the Super Bowl? At least Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski get to revel in the Raiders' blowout, albeit, 10 years too late.The game: at Baltimore Ravens
The prediction: Lose (3-6)
The reasoning: Another East Coast trip, another ugly showing against the hard-hitting Ravens. Because even if Ray Lewis has lost a step, it's a step most NFL players never had in the first place.The game: vs. New Orleans Saints
The prediction: Lose (3-7)
The reasoning: These are not the same Saints, not with coach Sean Payton out. And Raiders rookie coach Dennis Allen has a unique insight, having coached New Orleans' DBs as recently as two yeas ago, to keep things interesting. But the Saints simply have too much firepower.The game: at Cincinnati Bengals
The prediction: Win (4-7)
The reasoning: Is Darren McFadden still healthy? If so, this is the game the Raiders pull out in which they have no business winning. Long trip. Cold. Season in danger of spinning out of control. But Palmer has something to prove and, oh yeah, Hue Jackson is on the Bengals' coaching staff. See how many Raiders pay their respects to him.The game: vs. Cleveland Browns
The prediction: Win (5-7)
The reasoning: The schedule-makers are a finicky bunch and suddenly, the Raiders look like they can play with any team in the NFL. Over-confidence might seep in a bit, but Janikowski wins it for the Raiders late.The game: vs. Denver Broncos
The prediction: Win (6-7)
The reasoning: Remember the beatdown Manning put on the Raiders in Denver back in September? Neither do the Raiders, who are flying high after a pair of wins. Manning is beat up now, feeling the effects of his comeback season and the Raiders have devised a plan to slow his no-huddle.The game: vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The prediction: Win (7-7)
The reasoning: Wait, what? A four-game winning streak? It would be the first for the Raiders since 2002 and suddenly they are back in the division race. Routt and Kevin Boss get a special welcome-home treatment from the Black Hole and special teams, a soft spot early in the season for Oakland, guts this one out for the Raiders, who are suddenly believing in themselvesagainand the home portion of their schedule is done.The game: at Carolina Panthers
The prediction: Lose (7-8)
The reasoning: And just as suddenly, the winning streak comes to an end at the feet of Cam Newton, who runs wild on the Raiders' suddenly impotent run defense.The game: at San Diego Chargers
The prediction: Lose (7-9)
The reasoning: So much has changed since these two teams met in the season opener. What has not changed, though, is the intense dislike between the two. The season ends on a down note for the Raiders but, under new general manager Reggie McKenzie and Allen, they are healthier as a franchise than they have been in a decade. And while only one game and, really, one play, separated all four AFC West teams last year, the division remains fairly even this season, as the winner could only be 9-7.

Norton looks at his Seahawks days to slow down Brady: 'I have a good feel'


Norton looks at his Seahawks days to slow down Brady: 'I have a good feel'

ALAMEDA – Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. has a good feel for Tom Brady. He faced New England’s legendary quarterback three times as Seattle’s linebackers coach, with some positive results. The Seahawks won two regular-season games and lost the Super Bowl at the last second.

He knows what worked then, and believes that should help prepare the Raiders defense for what’s coming Sunday in Mexico City.

“I played Brady a couple years ago in the Super Bowl with Seattle. We played very well against him,” Norton said Thursday afternoon. “I’ve had some success against him so I have a good feel for what can be done and what cannot be done. It’s just a matter of having the right emphasis and the ability to make the plays.

“Having a guy like (Brady) on the team who’s capable at any point of throwing a deep ball, capable at any point of getting it to the right players at the right time. He understands who is around him. He understands how to get the ball to the guys. He’s got a long resume of doing it well.”

Having success against Brady, however, is a relative term. He still produced against a loaded Seattle defense far better than this year’s Raiders unit. He will produce again Sunday, even if most goes right. Limitation, however, if key.

Norton believes certain things are essential when facing a Patriots team. Sure tackling. Impacting the quarterback.

The first is vital, something the Raiders have done well save a Week 9 win over Miami. The Raiders have to limit explosives and keep the ball in front of them, especially with the way Brady likes to play.

“The Patriots do a really good job of underneath coverage,” Norton said. “They have guys that catch and run really well. The backs, the tight ends, the matchups underneath, they catch and make people miss. They try to match up with your linebackers and safeties. They feel like their guys are pretty good. Tackling is something we’ve been really outstanding with all year but this last game against Miami we didn’t do so well and it kind of stands out, especially when it’s something we’ve taken a lot of pride in.

“I really feel like our emphasis and what we do well matches up well with that they try to do.”

There are some problem spots. One is limiting deep shots, something Brady has unleashed with startling efficiency. He’s 19-for47 for 410 yards and four touchdowns on passes of 20-plus yards, with speedsters Brandin Cooks and Phillip Dorsett able to haul them in. The Raiders have proven vulnerable to track-star receivers. 

Impacting Brady is mandatory, but also difficult given his excellent pocket presence. He’s especially good at feeling pressure off the edge, where reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack typically lines up opposite Bruce Irvin.

Brady has proven vulnerable to interior pressure, which is why Mario Edwards Jr. will be an X-factor on passing downs. He has four sacks this season and needs to break free in the backfield to force difficult decisions or, at the very lest, disrupt New England’s timing.

Brady gets rid of the ball fast at times. Raiders rushers can’t get frustrated by that, especially Mack.

“If the quarterback is going to throw the ball in less than two seconds, it’s going to be tough to get there,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “So when the quarterback is throwing the ball quick like that, we’ve got to tackle and have their punt team come out. They’ll get tired of punting or turning the ball over and they’ll sit and hold the ball a little bit and Khalil can get there. If they’re throwing the ball in two seconds or less, it’s going to be hard to get sacks.”

The Raiders only have 13 sacks this season, second worst in the NFL. Getting a few could swing a tight game. Norton’s Raiders believe they have a solid plan to mitigate somewhat the Patriots ferocious attack, that features versatile tight ends allowing them to do different things from one personnel package.

Don’t expect a shutout, or anything close. The Raiders understand that, but believe they can mitigate some damage.

“If you go back to the New England Patriots five, six, eight years ago they’re doing similar things,” Norton said. “They do what they do really well. They’re a fine-tuned machine. Everybody knows exactly what their role is. Guys know exactly what’s expected of them. Obviously the quarterback is the heart and soul and the one that makes that train run. Really, really good players that really understand what their role is and play well against leverage, run after catch, tough and they make plays.”

Khalil Mack wants to be Raider for life: 'That’s a no-brainer for me'


Khalil Mack wants to be Raider for life: 'That’s a no-brainer for me'

The Raiders gave quarterback Derek Carr a massive contract extension last June. Right guard Gabe Jackson got paid later that month.

Khalil Mack’s big deal is coming, likely this offseason. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie anticipates a deal getting done, and hopes Mack’s agent feels the same way.

Mack’s rep and Raiders contract folks will work out details of a massive contract extension. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year doesn’t have interest in all that. He has one preference above all.

Mack doesn’t want to go anywhere. He wants to stay with the Raiders long term.

“Of course. That’s not even a question,” Mack said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Fallon Smith, which airs in this week's episode of "Raiders Central." “That’s a no-brainer for me, especially when you think about coming into this organization and try to build something special, that’s something you want to be a part of for a lifetime”

Mack has plenty of money, top-5 overall draft picks often do. The No. 5 selection in 2014 considered that first deal life-changing money, enough to help his family.

“That has been a treat for me so far,” Mack said.

He doesn’t daydream about signing a nine-figure contract. He doesn’t long to be the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player (although that might be in the cards, anyway).

“I’m not really even thinking about that,” Mack said. “I’m thinking about the Patriots, that’s just my focus that’s just my mindset – anybody who talked to me about that matter, whether it be my best friend, my mom, my dad, I tell them the same thing. I’m thinking about the Patriots and sacking Tom Brady.”

That, unlike signing a record contract, was a career a goal. Mack said in a post-draft press conference he wanted to sack legends. Peyton Manning and Brady topped the list.

Manning retired before Mack could check his box. Mack will have a second chance at Brady Sunday when the Raiders play New England in Mexico City. He had eight tackles and two quarterback hits against Brady’s Patriots in 2014, but didn’t bring the quarterback down.

Mack considered his third regular season game a welcome-to-the-NFL moment.

The University of Buffalo alum has accomplished a ton since then, with 34.5 sacks and last year’s top defensive honor to his credit. He’ll need a Herculean performance against the Patriots to help the Raiders win a pivotal game. A sack would certainly help, but Mack isn’t calling his shot.

“Yeah, I’m not one to talk,” Mack said. “I’ll express that when I get on the field, but I can’t wait, I can’t wait to play against him.”