Let's play a little Jeopardy. The category is 2006 Oakland Raiders.
By Robert Ferringo
For $100, Alex
Question: What is the amount of games that the Raiders have won since their 2002 Super Bowl loss? That's the Super Bowl Hangover if ever we've seen it. That's the type of hangover you earn from hammering bad tequila in the dark, dank corners of a grim Tijuana dive bar. The kind you never forget.
For $200, Alex.
Question: How many turnovers did Aaron Brooks commit in five years as a starter in New Orleans? He managed 122 total touchdowns while his teams went 35-45. Kerry Collins committed 97 turnovers to go with 92 touchdowns and a 30-50 record in that span. So I suppose Brooks is an improvement.
For $300, Alex.
Answer: "We let him down."
Question: What did Al Davis say about firing Art Shell back in 1994? Davis has admitted that he was mistaken in his treatment of Shell during his first stint as head of Raider Nation. Shell posted a 54-38 record with just one losing (7-9) season. He was brought back to restore order and glory to the now floundering franchise.
For $400, Alex.
Answer: Working at a bed-and-breakfast in Idaho
Question: What was new Raiders offensive coordinator Tom Walsh doing when Shell called him to join Oakland's staff? Walsh has been out of pro football for 11 years, yet takes over an offense with one of the most explosive players of our time (Randy Moss), an accident waiting to happen at quarterback (Aaron Brooks), and an offensive line among the least stable in the league.
For $500, Alex.
Answer: Danny Clark, Kirk Morrison and Sam Williams.
Question: Who are Oakland's projected starters at linebacker? You recognize any of those names? Me neither. These are the guys at the heart of one of the league's worst defenses. Oakland has ditched all of the "big names" on its unit, and is trying to get by with drifters, gypsies, and blue-collar grinders. Besides Warren Sapp and Bobby Hamilton the nine other starters boast 23 years of service between them.
Here's Doc's Sports Oakland Raiders preview:
2005 Record: 4-12 (2-6 home, 2-6 road)
2005 Rankings: 21st offense (9th pass, 29th run); 27th defense (18th pass, 25th run)
2005 Against the Spread: 5-11 (2-6 home, 3-5 road); 6-9-1 vs. total (4-4 h, 2-5-1 r)
2006 Odds: 100/1 to win Super Bowl, 45/1 to win AFC, 15/1 to win AFC East, 6.5 wins O/U
2006 Strength of Schedule: 13th (.516 opp. win %)
Returning starters: 18 (9 offense, 9 defense)
Key stat: The Raiders are 6-18 against the spread (9-15 straight-up) at home since the start of the 2003 season.
Key acquisitions: Aaron Brooks, QB (from N.O.); Michael Huff, S (draft); Duane Starks, CB (from N.E.).
Key departures: Kerry Collins, QB; Ted Washington, NT; Ed Jasper, DT; Charles Woodson, CB; Renaldo Hill, DB; Reggie Tongue, S.
Offense: The offensive line surrendered three sacks per game and was 29th in rushing. Clearly, they couldn't block for the pass or the run. They will have three new starters, but I still expect them to be shaky. That means Brooks will have to make plays on his own - good luck with that. Moss is hoping to bounce back from his injury-riddled season with the big year. But once the losses start to mount, it's a given that he checks out.
Defense: The four starters in the secondary have a combined six years professional experience between them. So don't expect much pass defense. Oh, and they lost Ed Jasper and Ted Washington, their only two run-stuffers on the D-line. So don't expect much run defense. That's going to be big problems since they're in the same division with LT, LJ and the Broncos. X-factor: God. That's the only thing that will guide them into the playoffs: a miracle from God.
Outlook: The Raiders should once again be a team to fade. You still want to play against them in the Black Hole against any decent competition. But over the last two years this team has been a bunch of quitters. They get behind, and then they stop playing in the second half. That's why they've been so bad ATS. I think Shell will succeed in instilling some spirit and discipline in them, meaning they'll at least fight to the bell.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at email@example.com.