This Part I of a two part post
Part II will be available tomorrow, Wednesday morning at 8:00 AM
Today we cover the Fear Factors for the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers
Tomorrow we’ll look at the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs Fear Factors
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Job one has always been to win the AFC West. Six games with the division foes tell a huge story about how the Chiefs have done in any given season. We writers here at AA spend a lot of our time focusing on the Chiefs so, let’s take a moment and talk about the strengths of the three other AFC West foes or what you could call the AFC West Fear Factors.
Bill Williamson, who covers the AFC West for ESPN, recently published his own list of the top 40 players in the division. Interestingly, according to Bill, the Chiefs have 9 of the top 18 players in the AFC West. However, the top two belong to the Broncos. Winning the division may come down to which team has the greatest number of players to be feared. So, let’s take a look at who the Chiefs should be preparing for… and which players are sooo good, they represent some Fear Factors of their own.
What would Ali be without his Frazier? What would the L.A. Dodgers be without their S.F. Giants? Magic without his Bird? You have to first appreciate who the Raiders are to the Chiefs in the history of the game to fully appreciate the significance of each contest. Unfortunately, neither the Raiders or the Chiefs have been very good lately so it’s hard to say that what’s is going on between them is a “hotly contested rivalry.” That said, most fans within the Chiefs terra firma would probably say that the real “job one” is yanking the chains around the necks of the Oakland Raiders each year, no matter what each team’s record is.
The Raiders current roster almost begs the question: where’s the beef… or in this case of course.. the Fear Factors?
The Raiders traded for Matt Flynn to be their starting QB this off season. ESPN’s Ron Jaworski has rated Flynn the 32nd best QB in the league, out of 32. The Raiders wideouts include Denarius Moore (51 receptions), Rod Streater (39 receptions) and newly acquired Josh Cribbs. While Cribbs may be listed as a WR, he hasn’t produced big numbers from the WR spot so far in his career. He had 518 yards receiving in 2011, which was his high water mark and he hasn’t gained half that much in any other year during his 8 years in Cleveland.
However, Josh Cribbs is still a dangerous man when returning punts and kickoffs. An improved Chiefs special teams should be able to handle Cribbs, who’s only had one P/K TD return since the 2009 season. Still he is to be respected, which is what you can bet the Chiefs special teams will do so, he will tally at least a ½ a Raiders Fear Factor (FF).
The Raiders player who may strike fear into the hearts of opponents, if he could return to form, is Darren McFadden. When McFadden came out of Arkansas in 2008 he was thought to be an Adrian Peterson clone. Peterson entered the league in 2007 and gained 1,341 yards his rookie season. McFadden gained 499 yards his rookie season. Then, McFadden gained 1,157 yards in 2010 but otherwise, has not been close to 1,000 yards nor lived up to expectations.
You probably won’t need to read this article called “Do the Oakland Raiders Really Have the Worst Roster in the NFL?” at The Bleacher Report to understand that in the process of Oakland dumping huge salaries, they’ve also dumped a ton of talent, including offensive line talent. With the Raiders still in the midst of a salary purge and the second year of a rebuilding process for new GM Reggie McKenzie, don’t count on their offensive linemen to be opening any gaping holes this season. Unless McFadden is doing it purely on his own, fear not Run-DMC. Instead, think of him more as… Un-DMC.
On the defensive side of the black hole you’ll only find… well… more black holes. Lamar Houston is perhaps their best defensive lineman and he had just 4 sacks (playing DE in a 4-3 alignment).
In the defensive backfield, the Raiders drafted CB D.J. Hayden who has been one of the only feel-good stories of this NFL offseason. After a chance collision on the practice field in college, he was near death and could have died. Hayden not only survived and flourished, he will now try to make his comeback complete with the Raiders.
The Raiders defensive backfield has enough questions that Hayden may well be the best DB they have come September. CB Mike Jenkins came over from the Cowboys but he had no INTs last year and Dallas was willing to let him walk. Dallas rejects used to be pretty good players but that’s not the case these days. Charles Woodson will help track down balls from the Safety position but will also turn 37 in October. Tyvon Branch is the Raiders best DB left from last year and had 94 tackles and one INT. Not much to fear here.
Ex-Raider punter Shane Lechler is now with the Houston Texans or else I may have awarded him some Fear Factors. Punters rarely deserve Fear Factors… but Lechler was that good.
Probably the most feared player on the Raiders roster is… their kicker… Sebastian Janikowski. “The Polish Cannon” is tied with several other kickers for the longest field goal in NFL history at 63 yards. If the Chiefs offense falters in any contest with the Raiders and it comes down to a game of field goals, don’t bet against Janikowski. He is one of the most consistent kickers in the history of the NFL and he’s also one of the most fearless kickers. When Janikowski was selected with the 17th pick in the 2000 NFL draft, most people thought Al Davis was crazy. Janikowski has turned out to be everything he was advertised to be but I still say Al was crazy for that move. I mean, come on man, you could have had Sylvester Morris who was taken four picks later by the Chiefs. Monstrous kickoffs and incredibly accurate field goals: Janikowski is the only one who has any Fear Factors for other teams to worry about. Then again… he is… just a kicker.
The Oakland Raiders have 1½ FEAR FACTORS in 2013
If you’d like to take a more in depth look into the Raiders rise to mediocrity… go to the FanSided site called, JustBlogBaby.
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San Diego Chargers
The Chargers have perennially become, “The Little Engine That Couldn’t.” Oh, they’ve had the firepower and plenty of Fear Factors, which have surfaced now and then but, with far too much inconsistency. As recently as two years ago nearly everyone was holding the Chargers’ roster up as the best in the league. After an 8-8 season followed by a 7-9 record, they obviously haven’t lived up to their billing. Consequently, they administratively cleared house, much like the Chiefs, and Tom Telesco is now the GM while Mike McCoy became head coach apparently because he helped transform Peyton Manning into the great QB everyone knew he could one day become, if he just had the right coaching.
Phillip River is to be feared. Not always, but, if Mike McCoy can get Rivers back on track he should be able to take advantage of a good, not great, but good, crop of receivers who include, 6-5 Malcom Floyd, 6-5 Danario Alexander and of course, the 6-4, future hall of famer, Antonio Gates.
Rivers was much better when he had a consistent threat at running back and while Ryan Mathews has talent he has not been that unwavering force that LaDainian Tomlinson once was (of course, how many RBs ever are). Gates should still be able to get separation from 75% of the DBs or LBs who will be assigned to him but, I’m not sure about whether Rivers will be more “in fear” behind this offensive line or “creating fear” for the defenses he faces. Rivers gets only half the Fear Factors he once had but, Gates still registers plenty of FFs and there are plenty of DBs in the league who would rather swallow a jar full of worms than face Mr. Gates. Offense: 1 ½ FFs.
On the defensive side of the blue bolt is top notch Safety Eric Weddle. He has been called the best DB in the AFC West although Eric Berry would get my vote. Nevertheless, Weddle calls plays, reads offensive alignments, covers well and hits like a truck. Yes, he’s to be feared, and planned for. He gets one of the Chargers FFs.
The defensive line has a couple of young, up and coming defensive ends in Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes. The blue bolts have a solid group of linebackers and added Manti Teo through the draft and 33 year old Dwight Freeney in free agency. The front 7 is formidable, deserves recognition and has some Fear Factors to it. This group embodies at least one of the team’s FFs.
While the Chiefs need to beat the Raiders, they must “compete” with the Chargers to have any chance at all of making the playoffs. If one or the other of these teams (Chiefs or Chargers) wins both games this year, it will go a long way in determining who will be in the playoffs.
The San Diego Chargers have 3½ FEAR FACTORS in 2013
- D’s Front 7
If you’d like to catch up a bit on your Chargers bedtime reading… go to the FanSided site called, BoltBlue.
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Well Addicts, do you think there is anyone who should be “feared” that I didn’t mention?