Offseason Momentum?

There is no media access until training camp, but by NFL standards, the Raiders have had a good offseason. By recent Raiders standards it was a great offseason.

If you had to guess what items were on Tom Cable’s checklist going into the offseason, it might look something like this:

1) Cut JaMarcus Russell – Check
2) Find a quality QB – Check (Jason Campbell)
3) Improve the run defense – Check, Check, Check (Rolando McClain, Lamarr Houston, John Henderson)
4) Fix the return game – Check (Jacoby Ford, Yamon Figurs, anyone not named Gary Russell)
5) Improve the offensive line – Check minus (Veldheer, Campbell, etc)

Grading this checklist today, Cable gets 90 percent and an A-.

Grading this checklist after training camp, it might look a little different.

Grading this checklist after eight games, it might look very different.

Grading this checklist after the season, it might look extremely different.

It is understandable that the fans are excited. Fans that have had so little to cheer for the past seven seasons.

Many fans make the mistake of over-confidence. The Raiders only won five games last season.

Realistic expectations are hard to find. Every team in the NFL feels like they are getting better. Ask 10 people about the Chiefs and eight will tell you they will be better. You will hear the same thing about the Browns, Lions, Bucs and any other team hoping to return to winning.

What is abundantly clear is that the Raiders are feeling more positive about this season. Even the media is jumping on board. You might have heard things from the local media calling the recent organized team activities the best since 2002.

The problem with all of this is over-confidence. The team, the media and the fans can all become too confident.

Allow us to play a little game of “what if.”

What if Jason Campbell throws three interceptions and no touchdowns in week one?

What if Chris Johnson runs all over the Raiders in week one?

What if the return game fumbles two returns in week one?

What if the offensive line gets Campbell injured in week one?

Would the confidence built during the offseason be lost? Wouldn’t the players, media and fans start to have doubts?

Surprised is a better feeling than crushed. It is like that Christmas when you were a kid when you wanted a bike and got clothes.

As adults we expect things that are more realistic. When was the last time you expected something more than you received?

People seem to fail to apply this same logic to sports.

What does history suggest is realistic win-loss record for a team who won five games the year prior?

From 2007 to 2008, of the sub .500 teams, just seven out of 26 improved by more than three games. Five did it from 2007 to 2008, two from 2008 to 2009.

In the past two seasons, only four teams went from five wins or less to have a winning record the following season. That is just a six percent chance. The New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, and Baltimore Ravens did it from 2007 to 2008 and the Cincinnati Bengals from 2008 to 2009.

The good news is 12 of the 16 teams with five wins or less from 2007 to 2009 improved the following season. That is 75 percent.

The Raiders chances of improving on five wins is good, but the chance the improvement is greater than three games is just six percent.

The reason this means something. It is a competitive league. Teams do get better and worse. Not everyone will be better from year to year.

Over the last three seasons seven teams are trending downward by more than three games and six teams are trending upwards more than three games.

Call it parity, but it just isn’t that common for teams to improve dramatically in one offseason.

So if you were to predict the Raiders 2010 regular season record, the safe bet would be between 6-10 and 8-8.

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