It doesn’t seem like all that long ago the lockout was in full effect and I took a step of faith to check in on all the teams the Lions on the Lions 2011 schedule. During that Q&A with Raiders blogger Chris Shellcroft of Just Blog Baby suggested that both the Lions and Raiders would be fighting for a playoff spot when time for the game finally arrived. Turns out he was right, you can read more of his thoughts on that here.
I had a chance to catch up with Chris for a new Q&A earlier this week and he was kind enough to answer my questions once again.
Here we go…
Zac Snyder: What is the current talk about the Raiders’ playoff chances? Are fans looking at this game against the Lions as a must win?
Chris Shellcroft: With Mile High Jesus winning more than Charlie Sheen every game is a must win for the Raiders. There is still plenty of hope for the Raiders to right the ship and get into the playoffs. Sure, there have been plenty of injuries to very key players but that is no excuse for poor effort. When the Raiders play their bullying brand of football they can compete with anybody. There is some definite fatigue setting in but overall the outlook is still positive. I mean, at some point the Tebow bubble has got to burst right? 9 wins could be enough to win the AFC West so Oakland’s hopes are real even if they are the type that come from winning an ugly pageant.
ZS: Carson Palmer hasn’t had the kind of impact the team was hoping for, is he still adjusting or do you think this is just what he is at this point in his career?
CS: Palmer has been a mixed bag. The dude makes throws that only a had full of men in the league can make then he turns around and makes decisions only a handful of unemployed quarterbacks would endorse. When his game is on Palmer makes Oakland’s offense electric. He still has yet to play with Darren McFadden so that nugget is dangling out there to give Raider Nation all kinds of hope. Still, you can’t ignore his inconsistent nature. Very few QBs change drastically at a late stage in their career. Generally they are what they are after five seasons. That being said there is a former Oakland QB that experienced a crazy career revival very late in his career. Not comparing Palmer to Rich Gannon but is has happened before…just ask Jim Plunkett.
ZS: How would you assess the Raiders’ season?
CS: I don’t like to take pride in improvement. The Raiders have had talent for couple of years now so as far as I’m concerned they should have been in the running for the weak AFC West the last three years. However this season is much different. Hue Jackson has brought back the Raiders Ways of yore. It has been refreshing to see the team play with a sense of pride. But if they can’t take that next step then this season will be a let down. Overall I’d say it has been a good season with occasional moments of brilliance and those unforgivable instances of insanity. Coach Jackson still has plenty of work to do. Tom Cable was fired to taking pride in finishing .500. For Jackson the expectation level is even higher.
ZS: What will happen to the Raiders now that Al Davis has passed away? Do you expect many chances in terms of organizational philosophy?
CS: This coming offseason will be vital in establishing the future of the franchise. Mark Davis is nothing like his father. He’s much more content to allow the men he hires to to the job they’re paid to do. Mark is much more hands off than Al. Depending on how the Raiders move forward with hiring a GM with greatly influence their philosophies. Though it should be noted Hue Jackson has stepped in and carried on many of Al’s ideology both on the field and in the front office. I don’t like the idea of Jackson being a GM and coach but he could have plenty of say so in a lot of team decisions no matter how the organization is restructured.
ZS: Give us your take on the game between the Lions and Raiders and what do you think will be the final score?
CS: I’ve got to tell you, this Sunday’s game best illustrates why the NFL is the king of all sports leagues in our country. It wasn’t that long ago the Raiders and Lions were nothing but punchlines. Yet here they are playing a highly anticipated game in late December. Truly amazing! I like the Raiders in a 33-30 thriller. Something tells me both teams will leave nothing in the tank in a highlight filled contest.