First-half storyline: The goal coming out of training camp was easy to see -- build a bully on offense with a dominant running game in Darren McFadden and Michael Bush and take shots downfield with Jason Campbell and the speedy, young wideouts. For much of the first half of the season, the Raiders led the NFL in rushing, and with Campbell barely being touched thanks to an improved offensive line, he was managing the game with aplomb. Then came Scott Fujita to snap Campbell's collarbone. And the injury bug to take a bite out of McFadden's right foot. The trade to acquire Carson Palmer and the signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh may actually be necessary moves that have upgraded the roster, but they also might have upset the delicate locker room chemistry. Midway through the season, the Raiders are a team in transition, especially on offense. If it seems like the offense is going through camp again, that's because it is.
MVP: McFadden. Entering Week 7, McFadden was the NFL's leading rusher, with 610 yards. But after badly spraining his right foot on the Raiders' first series against Kansas City, sitting out the bye week and not playing against Denver, he ranks 11th. The Raiders have also dropped those two games in his absence. No disrespect to Bush, but Palmer not having the hybrid threat that is McFadden in his backfield limits his options and stalls his development in Oakland. Especially since McFadden has nine runs of 20 yards or longer -- he had 14 such bursts in 2010 -- and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry.Biggest surprise: Darrius Heyward-Bey was having a breakthrough year, leading the team in receiving with 27 catches for 434 yards and a touchdown. Both figures are already season highs for DHB. Still, he saw limited time against Denver and was targeted only once.Biggest disappointment: With McFadden and Bush already in the backfield, touches were going to be rare for Taiwan Jones so this might be unfair for the rookie. But he has not taken advantage of his limited opportunities to showcase his world-class speed to keep defenses honest.Best play: No disrespect to Campbell, but Palmer's 40-yard TD pass to Marcel Reece down the middle of the field late in the second quarter against Denver was a throw the former Raiders QB would not have made. Few NFL quarterbacks could have accomplished it, actually. Palmer threaded the needle with the throw, putting it where only Reece, with a linebacker draped all over him, could have caught it.Worst play: Having already given Kansas City a look at Michael Bush setting up in the Wildcat with an empty backfield on 4th-and-goal at the Chiefs' 1-yard line early in the second quarter, coach Hue Jackson stayed with the same play after calling a timeout. Bush was stuffed for no gain. So rather than pulling within 14-7 to potentially alter the rest of the game, Oakland endured a 28-0 shutout loss.Key to the second half: Palmer getting more comfortable with his receivers' tendencies, and the offensive line reclaiming the continuity that carried it through the first six games.