Are the Raiders finally getting their act together? Based on last year's results and the early returns from the 2011 season, it certainly looks that way. They won eight games last year. They're 1-0 in the division this season and they have an impressive win over the New York Jets. Running back Darren McFadden has punished the opposition -- including the Jets' stout defense -- and looks every bit the phenom he was hyped to be when he was drafted out of Arkansas (Oakland leads the league in rushing yards). Perhaps more surprising, lightly-regarded quarterback Jason Campbell has proven a competent steward of the offense.
But are the Raiders ready to make a giant leap forward and win the AFC West? Raiders head coach Hue Jackson thinks so.
In an interview with Paul Gutierrez of CSNBayArea.com, Jackson said that he expected to be undefeated at this point and then went on to predict a division title.
"We're not backing down from what the expectation is here by no stretch of the imagination. It's not going to change. We're going to win the AFC West," he said. "We're going to do everything we can to get in the playoffs and go challenge for a Super Bowl. I am not backing down from that."
Okay. Before analysts and fans jump on this and start criticizing Jackson for his prediction after just four games, just remember that this happens all the time. Hell, Jets coach Rex Ryan predicts a Super Bowl victory every year. Before the season even started, Washington Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman said he believes his team will win the NFC East (D.C. is currently in first place at 3-1).
However, as Shutdown Corner points out, this Oakland squad still boasts plenty of flaws. The defense is the worst in the league against the run, surrendering 5.9 yards per carry, and while also being ranked 29th in the league in total yards given up.
The key thing Jackson and the Raiders have going for them is that they play in the meek AFC West. The situation in Kansas City appears dire now that star running back Jamaal Charles is out for the season. Denver is uneven from week to week and continually bothered by the quarterback controversy that seems inevitable if Tim Tebow is on your sideline. Even the Chargers, who sit atop the division at 3-1, have done little to distinguish themselves. The teams they have beaten have a combined record of 1-11.
If the Raiders can come close to duplicating their intra-division success from last season then they should have shot to make Jackson look quite prescient by the end of the season.