kluweraiders

Last year: 4-12, third place in AFC West

Acquisitions: Matt Flynn, Josh Cribbs, Charles Woodson, Tracy Porter, Chris Kluwe, D.J. Hayden

Departures: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Desmond Bryant, Aaron Curry, Matt Giordano, Michael Huff, Shane Lechler

Vegas win total over/under: 5 1/2 wins

Verdict: UNDER

(via Getty Image)

Five pronouncements from the Raiders PR department:

- Al Davis was good.

- Al Davis was great.

- We surrender our will.

- As of this date.

- [Fartnoise]

Fan forecast, by Zack Dennis.

A few Sundays ago I went out to the bi-mon-flea-market-con at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. In one of the spots on the back side of the stadium there’s a guy who has all kinds of Raiders jerseys for sale. He’s got about fifty #2 jerseys that are left over from the Jamarcus Russell era, and I can’t imagine a single one has sold in at least three years. To me, nothing captures the futility of being a Raiders fan better than this sad deluded jerk who keeps coming back to the same spot, week after week, desperately hoping somehow to unload one of these jerseys – which were probably a significant investment – at a price higher than the average Silver and Black fan would spend on a turpentine-soaked rag they can use to huff away the memories of the team’s 1-8 record down the stretch last season.

[The best thing that can be said about the Raiders performance last season is that their two-year reign as penalty champions of the NFL finally ended as they plummeted all the way to ninth place. Another bright spot for the team going forward is that the Raiders are finally free of the consequences of Hue Jackson's disastrous trade for Carson Palmer, where the patented Raider "mystique" was used to transmogrify a 1st and 2nd round pick into a 7th. I'm pretty sure the only insane reach that could give me more nightmares would be seeing Al Davis' withered claws bursting through the lid of his coffin and clutching at me so tightly it that even Stanford Routt would mutter and shake his head with shame. Sadly, if a zombie Al Davis *did* turn up at a Raiders practice he'd have to look elsewhere for sustenance; even with Kluwe joining the team the collective IQ of this squad is so low that two hundred Sally Field clones couldn't convince the state's public education system to classify them as "barely educable."]

Although the term “black hole” has traditionally been used to describe the dankest corner of the decrepit stadium in the country (any “rebuilding” of this franchise really needs to start here), it would also be a decent descriptor of the vortex of suck that exists at the Raiders’ quarterback position. If Matt Flynn still has the starting job by Week 4, I will literally swear off beer until he gets yanked in Week 6 and it becomes a game of hot potato between Tyler Wilson and Terrelle Pryor. What’s sad is that the Raiders might end up missing out on one of the top defensive prospects in ages (Jadeveon Clowney) in the 2014 draft because they’re so desperate for a quarterback that they’ll have to grab Terry Bridgewater or Tajh Boyd or God forbid Johnny Manziel just to fill the void.

On offense, with Darrius Heyward-Bey taking his juggling talents to Indianapolis, Denarius Moore and Rod Streater will really have to step up and bobble a lot of balls into the waiting arms of defensive backs if they’re going to pick up the slack. Last year it was far too easy for teams to key in on Elijah Price Darren McFadden because he was the obvious focal point of Oakland’s offense, but this year he’ll be supported by big-name talents like Rashad Jennings, Mike Goodson, and rookie Latavius Murray. With the running game, the Raiders will be able to mix things up and all of those carries that got stuffed for negative yardage last season will translate into carries for no gain this year.

On defense, if I had the Raiders’ starting front seven and a dozen scarecrows and I needed to defend both a gridiron and a cornfield, I’d be hard-pressed to decide which group to assign where. In a perfect world I’d get the game to be played out on the farm, because at least my crops would slow down the high-octane (and high-fructose) attacks of scheduled opponents like Houston, Philadelphia, and Denver (whose front office has really benefited from BIG CORN’s incessant lobbying for ethanol subsidies). In the secondary Tyvone Branch is solid, but with geriatric players like Charles Woodson and raw ones like D.J. Hayden (who is basically one big collision away from becoming the NFL’s answer to an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon), the Raiders will once again be fielding one of the league’s worst defenses.

On special teams, new addition Chris Kluwe is probably going to really enjoy his time with the Raider Nation, where every Sunday he’ll get to attend a LARPing adventure hosted by some of the Bay area’s most flamboyant costume designers outside of…well, it’s basically a tie with the Castro District. I’m sure he won’t be thrilled to have to constantly change out of his Gandalf costume to get on the field and punt, but the good news is that he’ll have plenty of chances to land his kicks inside the opponent’s twenty yard line. The bad news is that with the Raiders’ offensive woes he’s going to have to kick the ball about sixty yards in the air to do so.

I know it’s going to be a tough year for the Raiders, but I’m actually optimistic for the future. With Al Davis gone, the team can finally stop wheezing along with open sores on its face and actually bottom out. The Raiders certainly won’t be any good this year, and probably not next year either, but at least they can start accumulating the pieces they’ll need to become a respectable football franchise again.