Bess Shapiro

Raiders Can Be Better Within AFC West

Created on Jul. 11, 2013 11:33 PM EST

On the way to a 4-12 record last season, the Oakland Raiders received a shellacking in their own division – one that is universally considered weak. The Raiders were swept by the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos. Of those teams, the Broncos had the strongest offense, and the Raiders allowed their second game against the Chargers to slip away by three points.

If the Raiders hope to avoid a losing season, they need to beat their AFC West rivals with a few fundamentals:

Contain the opposing quarterbacks. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning might be getting older, but he can still throw a rocket. Last season he threw for 648 total yards against the Raiders. San Diego played poorly against Oakland and finished the season with a losing record (7-9). But Philip Rivers still managed more yards per pass in both games and no interceptions. The Raiders need to find their pass rush -- which was second-worst in the league last year -- and push Rivers and Manning back on their heels. The defensive line is shaky, but ends Lamarr Houston and Andre Carter should come up big. A hurried Manning or Rivers is less likely to complete an accurate or long pass, which would result in more third-and-long situations.

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