By Ryan Leong
At this point of the season, the Oakland Raiders are looking up at not only the other three teams in the AFC West, but all of the NFL.
The Raiders are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for last place with the Chiefs at 1-3. Under head coach Dennis Allen, who was touted as the first defensive minded head coach since John Madden, the Silver and Black have allowed 125 points, the most through four games since the team’s third season in 1962. That team finished with a record of 1-13 and the worst winning percentage in the history of the defunct American Football League at 0.071. That also happened to be the last time the team was without legendary owner Al Davis, who joined the team as its coach in 1963.
They have the third-fewest points scored with 67 and the second-worst point differential at -58. The Philadelphia Eagles have scored only 66 points, yet they lead the NFC East with a record of 3-1.
The Chiefs have a quarterback controversy brewing. Matt Cassel was once a good backup to Tom Brady in New England, but now that he’s the main man in KC, fans are calling for Brady Quinn to take over. Cassel already has thrown seven interceptions and fumbled the ball four times.
It appears the AFC West is a two-team race between the 3-1 San Diego Chargers and the 2-2 Denver Broncos.
The Chargers are off to a good start at 3-1 to lead the division. They’re set to take on the 0-4 New Orleans Saints, but any team in the NFL is still a tough opponent. Despite “Bountygate” and the absence of head coach Sean Payton for his involvement in the scandal, the Saints still have MVP quarterback Drew Brees. This coming Sunday, Brees is set to become the all-time leader with a passing touchdown in 58 consecutive games, breaking the record of 57 held by the legendary Johnny Unitas. The league has granted Payton an exception to attend the game in person.
Denver got a big win over the Raiders last week to get the Broncos right back into the thick of the playoff chase. Peyton Manning proved he still has something left in the tank and it should be exciting to watch him with his new team taking on Tom Brady and the Patriots this coming Sunday.
Getting back to the Raiders, they have a plethora of problems to fix during this bye week. They must get better on third down conversions. Against the Broncos, they were a woeful 1-of-12 on third down. The Raiders’ offense has converted on just 14-of-51 third-downs. At 27.5 percent, that’s worse than all but two teams in the NFL.
On defense, the Raiders have allowed opponents to go 32-of-60 on third down, a whopping 53.3 percent. Because of the disparity, time of possession has worked against them, giving the Raiders an average of just 25:16 to 34:44 for their opponents
“The biggest area of improvement we have to make on offense, on defense, is third down improvement,” Allen said Wednesday. “That’s been a big focus for us this week. It will continue to be a big focus for us. We have to find ways to convert on third down and get off the field on third down defensively.”
Allen held practices on Tuesday and Wednesday. Because of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, the team will not reconvene until Monday.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.