PAT LONGOBARDI — Sports Writer
For the first time in a while, the Oakland Raiders are playing as a contender and are seeking to make the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2002 when they lost in Super Bowl XXXVII.
With a new vibe under head coach Hue Jackson, the addition of some key players and the media attention, the Raiders are in a position to surprise many people if they keep up this run after starting off with a 4-2 record.
When owner Al Davis died, many thought it was just another blow to this team. However, this might have sparked them into becoming a reasonable threat this season and in the future.
In two weeks, they gain two big pieces on both sides of the ball in two trades that should go a long way for the franchise.
First, linebacker Aaron Curry, the former No. 4 pick in the 2009 draft, was traded from Seattle to Oakland to hopefully help a team low on a defensive presence and help a guy who just did not work out.
Then last week, after losing their starting quarterback Jason Campbell to injury, the Raiders received a gift from above when they acquired disgruntled quarterback, Carson Palmer, from Cincinnati just before the trade deadline.
This is a huge boost to possibly getting a big time quarterback who will be the eventual starter. After the way things went in Cincinnati with Palmer refusing to play for the Bengals, Palmer will get another opportunity for an elite franchise and an extremely dedicated fan base that will want Palmer to change his attitude and go out and produce.
With the emergence of running back Darren McFadden and now Palmer to replace a hot Campbell, all they need is an elite receiver. Maybe Darrius Heyward-Bey, the No. 9 pick in 2009, has finally found his calling and will become the receiver fans had hoped for after a solid start.
The trade helped both teams as the Raiders got a much needed star in Palmer, while the Bengals got possibly high draft picks for a guy that wanted a new start.
Palmer was the No.1 pick the last time Oakland sniffed the playoffs and will return to the neck of the woods where he was born (Fresno, Calif.) and where he went to college and won a national championship and a Heisman Trophy at USC.
The last time the Raiders made a trade for a quarterback, it was Jim Plunkett, who by the way, happened to win two Super Bowls for the Raiders.
After a surprising start, the Raiders are hanging around in the AFC West, which usually goes to the favorite, the San Diego Chargers. To make a run, the Raiders will need to probably win their division with the depth of good teams in the conference. However, with so many teams not exactly running away this season, the silver and black nation has their chance right now to show what they are made of.