The easy thing to do is assume that the Oakland Raiders are still a bunch of pushovers on D, like usual.
In their first four games, they were. They yielded nearly 300 yards passing and more than 125 yards rushing per game. They recorded only three turnovers (none of them interceptions) and three sacks. Opponents scored a total of 125 points against them. They had, quite possibly, the worst defense in the league, statistically.
Then they muted the Atlanta Falcons' fantasy studs.
Huff and puff and blow up your O?
OK, Roddy White (six catches, 72 yards, one TD) turned in a respectable showing this past Sunday. But Matt Ryan (249 yards, one TD, three INTs, one sack), Julio Jones (4 receptions, 63 yards), Tony Gonzalez (four catches, 42 yards) and Michael Turner (11 attempts, 33 yards) definitely disappointed.
Damn. Andre Carter is quite the difference-maker, eh?
Vic Tafur reported that Oakland's first-year DC, Jason Tarver, and defensive linemen attributed a lot of their success in Week 6 to a significant increase in communication. That's apparently where much of the concentration went during their Week 5 bye, when few of the team's players took the time off.
And the effort may be a sign of things to come.
Two weeks ago, a couple of team leaders on defense sounded as if they belonged in the psych ward when they expressed optimism about and belief in what their squad was doing on D. Two weeks later, Richard Seymour and Michael Huff have a date to cite as evidence of the reasons for their faith.
Tarver, who's been dubbed the Mad Chemist, has learned under an array of gurus of garrison. He's installed a scheme that his personnel accept. He's making changes (like Miles Burris supplanting Rolando McClain). They've finally seen some regular-season results.
If it's not already - it's understandable that you'd be skeptical - the Raiders' defense could be pretty good a month from now. Carter should aid the unit's pass rush. By then, physical and underrated corner Ron Bartell (shoulder injury) and his fellow starter, Shawntae Spencer (foot sprain), should be back. Huff won't have to play out of position.
Every team gets lucky every now and then, doesn't it? Perhaps that's all we saw in Week 6: a team, well-prepared because they had that extra week, making a superior opponent work much harder than expected to get a victory. A trap game, a letdown performance, something like that. It sounds better.
But these are no longer Al Davis' Raiduhs. The organization has possessed some serious talent on this side of the ball for a few years. Under Tarver and defensive-minded head coach Dennis Allen, they may actually be putting it to use effectively. Football Outsiders rates their D-line as the league's 12th-best, through six weeks.
By the end of this season, we may not know Oakland as the soft spot on our fantasy players' schedules anymore. Tarver's design, in fact, is to create turnovers, eventually. Hell, by the end of this season, we may even want to use the Raiders as our team defense.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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