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Oakland Head Coach Hue Jackson (Dorsey High School) looks like he may be the man to finally turn around the Raiders. Photo by Jeff Lewis By Jason LewisSentinel Sports Editor
Raiders are on the verge of turning the corner A season ago the Raiders posted their first non-losing season since 2002, when they made it to the Super Bowl. This year, they look like they can finally have their first winning season since that Super Bowl year. This past Sunday’s game could be one that defines their season. Sitting at 2-2, and having to travel to the Houston Texans after a loss to the New England Patriots, another loss in a tough game would have shown that they were not a team that can compete for a playoff spot. Good teams win the tough games, while the mediocre teams find a way not to win. The 25-20 victory by the Raiders over the Texans was not pretty, as the Raiders were out gained 473 yards to 278, and the Texans had 21 first downs to the Raiders 11. But good teams find a way to win, especially on the road. Raiders teams in the past would have easily found a way to lose this game, and in dramatic fashion. But instead they won in dramatic fashion. This victory was extremely important because it allows them to keep pace with the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West race, and it keeps them above .500. The Raiders have the Cleveland Browns, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Denver Broncos, all at home, over the next three games, so they should be sitting at 6-2 before they travel to the Chargers. Eagles are done; Bears, Falcons and Jets are not far behind The Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, and New York Jets were all playoff teams last season, three of them in the conference title games, and they were all supposed to be contenders this year. But that’s not happening at this point. Stick a fork in the Eagles, because they are done with a 1-4 record. They can’t stop the run, they turn the ball over too much, and they are 1-6 in quarterback Michael Vick’s last seven starts. In the Eagles Week 1 victory over the St. Louis Rams, who are 0-4, they looked impressive on both sides of the ball, as they put up 31 points and only gave up 13. Since then they have given up 29.7 points per game, and while Vick is putting up a lot of passing yards, he is also throwing a lot of interceptions. This past Sunday he was picked off four times by the Buffalo Bills. To make matters worse, the Eagles are finding ways to lose ball games. All the turnovers against the Bills hurt, but with a chance to get the ball back late in the game on a 4th and one play, everybody in the stadium and fans all across the nation knew that Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was not going to actually snap the ball. That he was just trying to lure the Eagles defenders off sides. When no Eagles defenders jumped after numerous “hut” calls, it was obvious that Fitzpatrick was going to call timeout and that the Bills were going to punt the ball. But one final “hut” call got Eagles defensive end Jugua Parker to jump, giving the Bills an automatic first down and ending the game. What was Parker thinking? If the Bills were going to run a play it was most likely going to be a quarterback sneak, or a dive up the middle. Parker was playing right defensive end. The Bills were not about to run a sweep or off tackle, so it really did not matter if he got a good jump on the ball. The play would not have come his way. It just goes to show that bad teams make silly mistakes to lose games, and the Eagles are a bad team.The Falcons, Bears, and Jets are not much better, all sitting at 2-3. Being only a game under .500, they are not toast, but a loss this Sunday could put any of those teams in serious trouble. All three of those teams have a “get right” opponent on Sunday. The Jets host the Miami Dolphins, the Bears host the Minnesota Vikings, and the Falcons host the Carolina Panthers. None of those teams have more than one victory, so the Jets, Falcons, and Bears better get right this Sunday. The team nobody is talking about The Green Bay Packers are the champs and they are undefeated, so they are getting their praise. The Detroit Lions are also undefeated and they are the surprise of the league, so they are getting their pub as well. But one team that has been balling this year who is just flying under the radar is the Baltimore Ravens. They are sitting at 3-1, and they are doing it unlike most other teams. That’s with great defense. In this offensive friendly league, most teams are just trying to run up the score, but the Ravens are doing it the old fashion way, as they are one of the few teams that is keeping the opponent from scoring. The Ravens are only allowing 14.3 points per game, best in the league. They have the No. 3 overall defense, and they are No. 1 against the run. They are second in the league in takeaways with 14, and they do not give the ball away much. That is the recipe for a winning team. The team nobody is really talking about Most people probably haven’t noticed, but the San Francisco 49ers are 4-1 and are in first place in the NFC West. Yes, you read that right. Lets forget for a minute that they play in the worst division in the NFL, because only one of their victories has come against an NFC West opponent. The 49ers knocked off the Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were both supposed to be playoff contenders. If they had not blown their game against Cowboys, they’d be sitting at 5-0 right now. So how are they doing it? Well, it’s not smoke and mirrors. They are actually doing what winning teams do. They are not turning the ball over while they are forcing turnovers. They are tied for second in the league with the Ravens with 14 takeaways, and they have turned the ball over only four times, which is tied for best in the league. They have a turnover ratio of +10, which is second best in the league. One major reason for the lack of turnovers is that quarterback Alex Smith stopped throwing interceptions. In 11 games last season, Smith threw 10 interceptions. So far this year he has only been picked off once. And he is completing 65 percent of his passes, by far the best of his career. It looks like whatever 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh did for Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, he’s doing for Smith. It also helps that running back Frank Gore continues to run through defenses. He is on pace for over 1,300 yards this season. It also helps that the 49ers are only giving up 15.6 points per game, second to only the Ravens. There really is nothing special about the 49ers, they are just an all around sound football team. Those types of teams usually win. And half of their remanding schedule is against NFC West opponents. The Tebow era begins in Denver Broncos fans are saying that it is about time. The Broncos wasted nearly five games playing quarterback Kyle Orton. The thought that he gives them the best chance of winning was just silly, because he gives the team no chance of winning. But Tim Tebow was inserted into their game this past Sunday against the Chargers. A game in which Orton and the offense had only produced three points. Well Tebow quickly put two touchdowns on the board, and the Broncos nearly pulled off the comeback. Tebow looks a little wacky in the pocket, but he moves the ball and puts points on the board. That’s something that Orton could not do. Big games this week At the beginning of the season you would have been laughed at if you said that the 49ers traveling to the Lions in Week 6 would be a big game, but the two teams are a combined 9-1. The Texans are in first place in the AFC South, and they will be looking to avoid a two game losing streak. Too bad they are traveling to Baltimore. Good luck with that. The Cowboys and Patriots are two of the most popular teams in the NFL, and they will face off in the afternoon game. Look for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to have another total meltdown while Patriots quarterback Tom Brady makes it look easy.
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