2009 NFL Season: Week 1 Preview

After a mostly mild offseason for the Raiders, the last few weeks showed that a season could not start without controversy.

Staff infighting? Check. Head scratching trade? With a late arrival? Check and check.

And so the 2009 season officially begins with a bang for the Oakland Raiders. On prime time no less.

The last time the Raiders opened against the Chargers, it marked the beginning of the horrible 2nd campaign of Art Shell. Now, here we are, facing them again, looking down at the barrel of an 11 streak loss against the Chargers, the monkey of seasons with 5 or less wins since 2003 on our backs, and a pathetic 24-72 record over a span of 6 years.

It's bad, but the bottom might have been felt by Oakland too long.

They finished strong in '08, winning their last 2 games to close the season, and they seem primed to show the league just how much headway they've made.

The shaky preseason they've had shows they still have much to go, but the integral pieces are there.

QB JaMarcus Russell has the team in his hands, and he has shown significant growth from last season. The team will go as far as he takes them.

The running game is eager to get going with newly named, and rightfully starting RB Darren McFadden, who should explode this season. Plus Michael Bush & Justin Fargas for relief, the run game will be relied on heavily 'till Russell gets his feet under him.

Where the offense has major questions (besides Russell, of course) is along the line and the inexperience of the receiving core.

Do the new starters LT Mario Henderson and C Chris Morris and the rest of the OL have what it takes to go up against the fierce pass rush of the Chargers? If they can't hold up, it will surely be more of the same ass whoopin' we've been seeing and never been accustomed to.

The big disappointment out of the offseason was the injury to WR Chaz Schilens. Along with TE Zack Miller, the SDSU product looked to be the most comfortable receiver with Russell. Now, 2 rookies in Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy will be starting against an experienced and opportunistic San Diego secondary.

The offense surely has it's hands full against what should be a top tier defense on opening night, but the Oakland defense also is looking at an unfavorable matchup.

The penultimate Raider killer this decade in LaDanian Tomlinson is still running for the Chargers and has always posed a threat against the Raiders. Even as time catches up with Tomlinson, the Raiders have not had an answer against the RB, so hopefully the new DC in John Marshall does what Rob Ryan could never do and bottle up LaDanian.

What's scary is that the Chargers don't lean on Tomlinson anymore. Their offense revolves around young QB Philip Rivers who is arguably a candidate for league MVP. He has a plethora of weapons in budding star WR Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers, and not to forget Pro Bowler TE Antonio Gates. Shit, they even have RB Darren Sproles who is quick as hell. Other than Asomguha in the secondary, i see a mismatch all across the board. We will have to bring pressure, and it starts up front.

The pickup of DE Greg Ellis was a step in the right direction. Now, we pick up another stalwart up front in Richard Seymour and things might be interesting tonight. DTs Tommy Kelly & Gerrard Warren have been up and down with their play but maybe, just maybe, the addition of these 2 veterans will help them elevate their game. With a better front 4, LBs Kirk Morrision, Thomas Howard, and Ricky Brown should find ways to make plays. I hope.

All that hype, and i'm still iffy on this game. And i'm as close to a blind optimist with my team as Voltaire's Candide. The Chargers have had our number for quite some time, and that 3rd preseason dress rehearsal against New Orleans shook what minuscule confidence i was clinging on to.

But maybe this time it's different. Maybe we'll just win, baby.