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Gutierrez: Predicting the Raiders' 2011 win total

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Gutierrez: Predicting the Raiders' 2011 win total

Sept. 12, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVE
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Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.comA year ago, I peered into my dusty Silver & Black crystal ball and went through the Raiders' season, game by game, and predicted each one's outcome. No, Nostra-Gutierrez did not predict each game correctly, but when the dust settled, I did have the Raiders going 8-8. So I had that going for me, which was nice.As such, I went into soothsayer mode again on the eve of the Raiders' 2011 season opener at Denver on Monday Night Football. Following then, one man's look ahead:The game: at Denver BroncosThe prediction: Win (1-0)The reasoning: The Raiders didn't look like much in the preseason, but injuries to skill positions kept the gameplan vanilla. Expect some "rocky road," then in a nip-and-tuck opener, won by a late, and very long, Sebastian Janikowski field goal in the Mile High air.The game: at Buffalo BillsThe prediction: Lose (1-1)The reasoning: The quintessential trap game. A short week, coupled with a cross-country flight and an improved Bills team all spell trouble. Maybe the Raiders should have considered flying to Buffalo after the Monday night opener in Denver to get better acclimated.
The game: vs. New York JetsThe prediction: Win (2-1)The reasoning: No, no one is going to slip Mark Sanchez a bad hot dog on the sidelines this time around. But it's the Raiders' home opener and from the Jets' perspective, this is their early-season trap game.The game: vs. New England PatriotsThe prediction: Lose (2-2)The reasoning: In the 10-year anniversary season of the infamous Tuck Rule, the Patriots will not need it this time around. Not with Tom Brady having his way with a thin secondary and picking it apart.The game: at Houston TexansThe prediction: Lose (2-3)The reasoning: Matt Schaub takes a gander at Brady's week-old blueprint and puts his own spin on things as it gets ugly in Houston for the Raiders, who make it through the brutal five-game stretch to open the season battle-scarred and in need of a gimme.The game: vs. Cleveland BrownsThe prediction: Win (3-3)The reasoning: Did I say the Raiders needed a gimme? Indeed, the Browns come to the Black Hole and the Raiders hit on all cylinders against the underachieving Clevelanders. But it's far from a cakewalk. Rookie QB Terrelle Pryor adds a new dimension as he is used in a few gimmick plays with his suspension ending.The game: vs. Kansas City ChiefsThe prediction: Win (4-3)The reasoning: The Raiders run their AFC West division winning streak to nine straight, dating to 2009, in a wild shootout heading into their bye week. The Chiefs, no longer able to hold things together with smoke, mirrors and duct tape as they did in winning the division in 2010, are in a spiral, while the Raiders are feeling good about themselves.The game: vs. Denver BroncosThe prediction: Win (5-3)The reasoning: Coming out of the bye with a winning record for the second season in a row, confidence is sky high and the Raiders win their 10th straight division game. It's a sluggish affair but Oakland is becoming a distinct home-field advantage again.The game: at San Diego Chargers The prediction: Lose (5-4)The reasoning: There's a fine line between between confident and cocky and overconfidence becomes the Raiders' worst enemy this week. The streaking Chargers put it to the Raiders in San Diego on national television on a Thursday night tilt.The game: at Minnesota VikingsThe prediction: Lose (5-5)The reasoning: The Raiders take a page from their 2009 defeat of Philadelphia by blitzing Donovan McNabb with aplomb. But while Oakland has improved its "Stop, stop, boom" run defense, Adrian Peterson pops just enough for the Vikings to run away and hide.The game: vs. Chicago BearsThe prediction: Lose (5-6)The reasoning: The Bears defense stymies the Raiders offense and injuries become a problem. Every year the Raiders lose a game they have no business losing. This might be the one. Panic starts to set in as the Raiders are suddenly riding a three-game losing streak that could grow to five in a row if they're not careful.The game: at Miami DolphinsThe prediction: Win (6-6)The reasoning: Another cross-country trip works in the Raiders' favor this time as they are able to just get away and focus on the task at hand. Every year, they win a game they should not. This is that game.The game: at Green Bay PackersThe prediction: Lose (6-7)The reasoning: The defending champs. In December. On the frozen tundra. 'Nuff said.The game: vs. Detroit LionsThe prediction: Win (7-7)The reasoning: Gut-check time for the Raiders, against one of the most improved teams in the NFL. The Lions' ferocious defensive front seven gives the Raiders offense fits. Paging SeaBass, who just might set a new record for longest field goal to win this game. Unless he's already set it in the opener at Denver.The game: at Kansas City ChiefsThe prediction: Win (8-7)The reasoning: The Chiefs are simply playing out the string while the Raiders are trying to run the table to finish with a winning record. Simply put, the Raiders are more talented than Kansas City. Even if Oakland's playoff chances are slim and none now. They need a lot of help in the season's finale week.The game: vs. San Diego ChargersThe prediction: Win (9-7)The reasoning: Remember how the Chiefs basically sat all of their starters after the first half of their 2010 regular season finale against the Raiders in anticipation of the playoffs? The Chargers do the same. The Raiders take advantage and do their part but the rest of the AFC does not cooperate as Oakland has its first winning season since 2002, but just misses the playoffs for the ninth straight season. Coach Hue Jackson tweaks Tom Cable's parting thought by saying, "We not a .500 team anymore." Al Davis is not impressed.

Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

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Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Raiders are remarkably healthy heading into Sunday night’s game against the Washington football club.

The entire 53-man roster practiced fully on Friday, before heading to the nation’s capital.

That includes veteran cornerback Sean Smith, who missed the previous game with a neck injury. A shoulder ailment cropped up during the week, which prompted the Raiders to label him questionable heading into Week 3. Smith’s the only Raider on the injury report, and even he’s in decent shape.

“I mean we put it on there because there’s still a little bit of a question,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “You don’t have probable’s anymore. Given the choices, I just left him that way.”

That means the Raiders are going to have some healthy scratches a week after Smith was the only injured player sitting out.

Washington has some impact players on the mend. That included tight end Jordan Reed, who is questionable with a rib/sternum injury. He stands 6-foot-2, 246 pounds and is the type of receiving tight end that gives the Raiders fits. He has 1,638 yards 17 touchdowns the last two seasons, using good hands and a large frame to create mismatches in the secondary.

It’ll be key for the Raiders to defend him well if he’s active, with Nicholas Morrow as a primary coverage option.

“We’re prepared to face him,” Del Rio said. “We think he’s a good player. We’ll approach it that way and adjust if he doesn’t go.”

Washington also lists starting inside linebacker Mason Foster and running back Rob Kelley as questionable.

Raiders Injury Report
Questionable
CB Sean Smith (neck/shoulder)

Washington Injury Report
Questionable

TE Jordan Reed (rib/sternum), LB Mason Foster (shoulder), RB Rob Kelley (rib), S Monate Nicholson (shoulder), CB Josh Norman (shoulder)

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Raiders safety Karl Joseph notched his first career forced fumble in Week 2’s blowout victory over the New York Jets. It came on his first sack, where he bent around a tackle into the pocket and devoured his pray.

Joseph recovered the ball, and the Raiders quickly scored a touchdown. The second-year pro enjoyed that moment, but left the game with regrets.

"I should have definitely had more sacks than I did,” Joseph said. “I feel like I should have had three.”

Joseph had quarterback Josh McCown in the crosshairs three times, and feels like he should’ve finished each one. The game plan provided opportunity. Joseph blitzed six times – fellow safety Reggie Nelson attacked thrice – and pressured the quarterback four times.

It was a relatively new responsibility, considering he blitzed nine times all last year. Joseph will be first to say he was a different player then. He was less explosive, more tentative and a smidge less confident, lingering effects from an ACL tear during his final college season. Joseph was cleared to play as a rookie but wasn’t all the way back, doubly hampered by missing an offseason program where rookies grow quick.

"I wasn’t completely myself,” Joseph said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California. “I feel a lot more like myself this year. I obviously feel better physically, and the year of experience in the system has definitely helped. So has adjusting to the NFL life. That’s been an easier transition for me.”

Joseph is playing more like his highlight reel from West Virginia, where he proved a heavy hitter and a solid cover man worthy of last year’s No. 14 overall draft pick. The Jets game isn’t the only evidence of that.

Joseph had an excellent training camp, flashing an aggressive style and solid timing making plays in practice. That translated to the regular-season opener at Tennessee, when he saved a touchdown on consecutive plays. The first came on an open-field tackle. The second was a leaping pass breakup in the end zone, proof positive that Joseph was ready to make a big impact.

"He’s really good close to the line of scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. "He’s a really good tackler in the open field. He also plays well on the back end. I think his development is right on time right now.”

The Raiders recognize that, and are using him like a queen on the chessboard. He can move back or forward, as an attacker or the last line of defense. He’s a rover at times, with an ability to create havoc at all levels of the defense.

Joseph is an excellent fit for the defensive scheme, bring a tone-setting physicality to the secondary. He is learning, as part of his development, that the nuclear option isn’t always best. There are times when it is, and Joseph enters those scenarios without fear.

"You can’t play worried about getting hurt. That’s not the way I play,” Joseph said. “It’s about being smart. I had to adjust my game coming into the NFL. Every hit can’t be a big hit. Sometimes you have to be smart and just wrap people up, but you can’t ever play scared.”

He isn’t afraid to take risks or attack when asked, and is already making a major impact on this year’s defense. That isn’t a surprise. It’s expected of first-round picks.

"That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s supposed to make plays,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a guy we selected because we thought he’d be a guy that could come in and impact on our defense. In the first two games of this year he’s played well. There are still things, like I tell you all the time, that have cleaning up to do, work to do, things to improve on, but he’s off to a good start and obviously it follows up from a good offseason. Healthy, a lot of good work and confidence that he’s gaining as we go.”