Gutierrez's NFL predictions: Doesn't look good for Raiders


Gutierrez's NFL predictions: Doesn't look good for Raiders

With the regular season already one game old, it's time to make predictions for the 2012 season. Without further ado...


1) New England Patriots
2) Buffalo Bills
3) New York Jets
4) Miami Dolphins

1) Baltimore Ravens
2) Cincinnati Bengals (Wild Card)
3) Pittsburgh Steelers
4) Cleveland Browns

1) Houston Texans
2) Tennessee Titans
3) Indianapolis Colts
4) Jacksonville Jaguars

1) Kansas City Chiefs
2) Denver Broncos (Wild Card)
3) San Diego Chargers
4) Raiders

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Playoff teams: Patriots, Texans, Chiefs, Ravens, Broncos, Bengals

AFC Wildcard round
Broncos over Ravens, Chiefs over Bengals

AFC Divisional round
Patriots over Broncos, Texans over Chiefs

AFC Championship Game
Texans over Patriots


1) Philadelphia Eagles
2) Dallas Cowboys (Wild Card)
3) New York Giants
4) Washington

1) Green Bay Packers
2) Detroit Lions (Wild Card)
3) Chicago Bears
4) Minnesota Vikings

1) Atlanta Falcons
2) Carolina Panthers
3) New Orleans Saints
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1) 49ers
2) Seattle Seahawks
3) Arizona Cardinals
4) St. Louis Rams

Playoff teams: Packers, Eagles, 49ers, Falcons, Cowboys, Lions

Wildcard round
49ers over Lions, Cowboys over Falcons

Divisional round
Packers over Cowboys, Eagles over 49ers

NFC Championship Game
Packers over Eagles

Packers over Texans

MVP: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers
Yeah it was probably typical pure Jim Harbaugh bluster, but Rodgers actually might be playing quarterback "at the highest level in the history of the game." Even if Rodgers' 4,643 passing yards last season were "only" the 19th-most in league history. Think he's not motivated by Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and Eli Manning throwing for more yards than him last year? Sure, he could get complacent as the reigning MVP, but folding in the divisional round of the playoffs -- at home -- to the New York Giants will only serve as more motivation.

Offensive player of the year: Houston Texans running back Arian Foster
The former undrafted free agent is already considered the most interesting man in the NFL -- cue the Dos Equis guitar -- now he becomes the most feared offensive force in the NFL. All it takes is good health, not only from Foster, who rushed for 1,224 yards and 10 touchdowns while catching 53 passes for 617 yards and two more scores despite missing three games to injury, but from his quarterback Matt Schaub, who missed the Texans' last six games. Schaub being right allows a healthy Foster to dominate out of the backfield.

Defensive player of the year: 49ers defensive end Justin Smith
He doesn't have flashy stats -- his 7 12 sacks last year were only tied for 33rd most in the NFL -- and his 58 tackles were the third-fewest of his 11-year career. Yet, as a defensive end in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme, few, if any D-lineman dominate a game the way Smith can. He won't be able to sneak up on anyone this season. Then again, he won't need to. It's taken a decade for Smith to emerge as a modern-day Howie Long, of sorts, but Smith just goes about his job. Just watch tape of him chasing down Jeremy Maclin to force a fumble. He gits-er-done.

Offensive rookie of the year: Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III
There will be a big push for Indianapolis QB, and Stanford product, Andrew Luck here, as there should be. But while Luck will take his lickings on a very bad and rebuilding Colts team, RGIII is simply surrounded by better talent all around. Luck may have a more "impressive" campaign, but Griffin, in a more friendly system, will put up better stats in a supremely better division. It will be a battle reminiscent of last year's between Carolina's Cam Newton and Cincinnati's Andy Dalton.

Defensive rookie of the year: Seattle Seahawks defensive end Bruce Irvin
Who? You'll find out soon enough. True, at No. 15 overall, he was only the eighth defensive player drafted. But my does he fly to the ball. His speed was on full display in the Seahawks' final exhibition game against the Raiders and, while he was going against Oakland's backups, Irvin made them look like they were going in slow motion. An outside linebacker at West Virginia, Irvin is down on the line now and will flirt with leading not only the AFC, but the entire league in sacks.

Comeback player of the year: Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning
Just give the man the trophy now, what with his missing all of last year after not missing a single game the previous 13 seasons. Still, I do wonder how his surgically-repaired neck will react after his first full-speed blind-side hit. And how, after years of playing home games indoors his now 36-year-old body adjusts to playing in the elements of Denver in December. And how he'll like that leaky Broncos' offensive line that will get him hit with regularity. On second thought, nah, just give the man the trophy now.

Coach of the year: Kansas City Chiefs' Romeo Crennel
Wait, didn't this guy flame out in Cleveland after his star burned bright in the halcyon days of New England's early-century dynasty? True. But after taking over last year on an interim basis in Kansas City, the defensive-minded players coach, who was a welcome relief after the intense Todd Haley was shown the door, had the Chiefs a Richard Seymour-blocked field goal away from winning the division. The Chiefs have improved themselves the most in the AFC West and Crennel's feel-good ways should lead the way.

Ten questions as Raiders open training camp

Ten questions as Raiders open training camp

The Raiders are a good football team. Rosters of this caliber generally don’t carry much uncertainty even into training camp, but questions still remain heading into training camp. There are a few key position battles, some important rookies to watch and, of course, to figure out what’s going on at inside linebacker. Instead of asking and answering my own questions, fans put topics on the table by submitting questions on my Facebook page. I picked the 10 best questions heading into a training camp that should provide answers.

1. Who will be the starting linebackers in Week 1? (Johnny Carrasco)
Head coach Jack Del Rio told NFL Network this offseason that the Raiders didn’t adequately address their interior linebacker position. He was right. They don’t have much depth or experience at middle linebacker or weakside linebacker, positions vital in interior run defense and pass coverage.

Cory James and Tyrell Adams ran the first unit during the offseason, with fifth-round rookie Marquel Lee and free-agent signee Jelani Jenkins on the second unit. The Raiders will continue to evaluate talent currently on the roster, but it remains likely a veteran will be added to the group before summer’s out.

Last year’s starter Perry Riley remains on the open market. So does Ray Maualuga and Connor Orr. More guys will become available after roster cuts. Right now, starting spots at middle linebacker and weakside linebacker are as wide open as it gets.

2. I'm wondering who the last receiver on the active roster will be? I like Mickens and Holton and I know you like (KJ) Brent. Who wins? (Landon Weber)
There were several questions about the No. 3 receiver spot, but Seth Roberts will hold on to his position in the slot. Cordarrelle Patterson is the No. 4 guy, and could be involved more on offense than previous years in Minnesota.

Johnny Holton was the No. 5 guy last year, and his speed and special teams prowess could help keep the job. He’ll be pushed by first-year players Jaydon Mickens and K.J. Brent and some undrafted rookies. I do like Brent’s size and ability, but ultimately think Holton holds on to his roster spot.

3. Who will be the odd man out at safety (Nelson, Joseph, Obi)?? (Steve Guzman)
Reggie Nelson will play most every snap at free safety. Karl Joseph should do the same at strong safety. I still wouldn’t say there’s an odd man out. Second-round rookie Obi Melifonwu will have plenty to do as a rookie if he continues to develop this summer. The Raiders hope to use him in sub packages to cover tight ends or extra receivers in the slot. He has great size and coverage skills, and could be an asset especially with uncertainty at interior linebacker. All three guys should see significant snaps and play more to their strengths.

4. How many carriers per game are we expecting to see from Lynch? How much platooning should we expect in our backfield? (Joe Ram)
Marshawn Lynch has taken significant carries in seasons past, with at least 280 carries from 2011-14. He is now 31 and a year removed from football, so it’s unrealistic to think his carry county returns to previous levels.

The Raiders ran 434 times last year, with 195 carries given to lead back Latavius Murray. That total might be a target for Lynch, especially if Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington continue producing well. While his action should be limited in camp, the Raiders can adjust Lynch’s workload based upon health and effectiveness, with an eye on keeping him strong down the stretch.

5. I have (Shilique) Calhoun improving and having a bigger role on the D-line. Does anyone else look good in that group? (Alexander Duarte)
Calhoun wasn’t impactful as Bruce Irvin’s understudy, though he didn’t get many defensive snaps to show his stuff. He bulked up this offseason in hopes of fitting in better with this defense.

He’ll join a pass rush that finished last with 25 sacks last season and a supporting cast that must help Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin get to the quarterback. Mario Edwards Jr. will play a huge part in that. He’s an impactful interior pass rusher, and could fare well playing right next to one of the edge rushers. Rookie Eddie Vanderdoes could help right away on the inside, and coaches expect Jihad Ward to be more productive in his second season. The Raiders long to be impactful without blitzing, meaning the front must be consistently get penetration on their own.

6. What’s going on with Aldon Smith? Damn, the dude has served a long enough suspension. (Chris Pehrson)
Aldon Smith has stayed out of the public eye for the past few months, a positive from his perspective after run-ins with the law this spring. That included him being a passenger of a vehicle that hit an unmarked police car. The driver was arrested on suspicion of DUI and Smith didn’t seem right during interviews after the incident.

Bill Williamson of FanRag Sports reported Wednesday that Smith isn’t close to being reinstated to the league. The Raiders aren’t counting on Smith’s return soon. Also, as a note, Smith isn’t suspended. He has been banished from the NFL as a repeat offender of the league’s substance abuse policy, and commissioner Roger Goodell has complete authority on when and whether to review his application for reinstatement. There is no timetable to do so.

7. Do you think we can be a middle of the pack defense this season? (Peyman Bastani)
It’s certainly possible. If that’s the case, the Raiders should win a lot of games. Derek Carr’s offense is potent and should score a ton. Keeping teams down even a little might sap some drama from results and help the Raiders stack wins.

The pass defense must improve in order to do that, and the interior linebackers must provide consistent play against the run and pass. Can they do that? Time will tell.

8. How do you think the defensive backfield will work out, with rookies and depth? (Todd Sheehan)
Sean Smith and David Amerson should start at outside cornerback, with Gareon Conley in the slot. Reggie Nelson will be the free safety and Karl Joseph is the strong safety, with an ability to play both spots. Obi Melifonwu will help as a hybrid safety/linebacker in sub packages as well.

There will be some competition at cornerback. Conley could push for a full-time job, starting over Smith or Amerson in the base defense while moving inside in the nickel package. TJ Carrie is also in the mix, and can play inside and out.

9. Is (Marshall) Newhouse still leading the RT battle? (Cody Knudtson)
He is, even after missing work in the offseason program. The free agent signing has pole position right now, though Vadal Alexander will certainly push him throughout camp. Austin Howard is another factor, and will try to re-claim a starting spot he held most of the last two years. Should he come up short in that effort, he might end up on the chopping block in the interest of saving the Raiders some cash.

10. How much variation do you see from (assistant head coach – defense John Pagano)? Is he greasing the wheels or reinventing the secondary (Parker, via Twitter)
I would definitely choose option A. Pagano isn’t changing the Raiders defensive scheme. He’s working to improve its execution through better communication. He’ll spend significant time with the secondary on working better together and disguising coverage. He’ll also have input on the game plan – head coach Jack Del Rio also has significant say -- and how to use player strengths, but defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. remains the play caller.

Source: Raiders release one of their longest-tenured players


Source: Raiders release one of their longest-tenured players

Taiwan Jones was one of the longest tenured Raiders entering 2017, one of the few acquired by late owner Al Davis.

The Raiders released Jones on Thursday morning, a league source said, concluding his six-year run with the club.

The running back turned defensive back turned running back (again) carved a niche on special teams as a gunner and quality cover man.

He wasn’t an offensive asset, pushing him firmly on the roster bubble. It burst just before camp.

The San Francisco native and Antioch Deer Valley High alum was a popular locker room presence during his time in Oakland. His speed was always attractive, but durability and ball security issues dectracted from more positive traits.

Jones had just five offensive touches last season and just eight kickoff returns. Cordarrelle Patterson is an All-Pro returner and an excellent gunner. Johnny Holton also serves as a speedy cover man on special teams.

Releasing Jones now gives him a full preseason to latch on with another team.

Only long snapper Jon Condo and kicker Sebastian Janikowksi remain on the roster from the Al Davis era.

The Raiders now sit one player below the 90-man roster limit, a vacancy that should be filled soon.

ESPN first reported the news.