Early Super Bowl predictions | SierraSun.com

Early Super Bowl predictions

Keepin' Score, Matt Riddle

The Raiders are going to win the Super Bowl.

I desperately needed to spit that out. No fanciful words, no beating around the bush. The Raiders will take the Lombardi Trophy this year.

Any questions? Doubters?

I’ve been a lifelong Raiders fan and they’re going to hack up everyone in their paths. It’s about time.

Don’t believe me? Your unbelief will perish Jan. 26.

I’ve never been blatant about the Raiders. I’ve always remained uneasy and realistic every year they make a run in the playoffs. They have always been good, but lacked that extra punch that gets them through the playoffs and into the big game. There has always been someone better.

Until now.

Watch that offensive machine just splice through clumsy defenses. Rich Gannon commands the air, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, Jerry Porter and Charlie Garner just terrify defensive backs and their line could have blocked for the transports on the D-Day invasion in World War II.

The front four on the defense are solid, backed up by one of the fiercest linebacker corps in the NFL.

The defensive backs need help, however. Too many injuries to starters have left a gaping hole that teams will test without mercy. But the elder Woodson, Rod, has stepped it up and led an inexperienced and hobbled crew in some surprising performances.

So who’s going to stop them? No one in the AFC. No other playoff team comes close to their caliber. The other AFC playoff teams don’t have championship quality. Of those teams, Oakland beat Pittsburgh 30-17, Tennessee 52-25 and the New York Jets 26-20. That’s 108 to 62.

Of the other two AFC playoff teams, Cleveland is on a backup quarterback and a steam engine low on coal, shoveled by a team of scrappers. Then there is Indianapolis. They could pose a threat with the hookup of Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning. But of their similar opponents, Oakland beat all of them, while Indianapolis went 1-3.

In the NFC, Tampa Bay or Green Bay would make them earn the trophy. Philadelphia doesn’t have a quarterback since Donovan McNabb went down and won’t be able to survive the playoffs.

That means the Raiders have a clear shot to San Diego.

The AFC West is easily the most competitive division in the NFL. The only reason no wild card team came from it was because the other three teams- San Diego, Denver and Kansas City- spent a great deal of the season beating each other up. The AFC West’s competition level is widely known. Period.

One other thing they have going for them: Hunger. Only a handful of players on the oldest roster in the NFL have Super Bowl rings, but they’ve all been close many times.

The last time they made it to the AFC championship game was in 1991, the first year of Buffalo’s four-straight Super Bowl losses. The Bills won that contest 51-3.

I’ve always remembered that sting. Art Shell was coaching and Jay Schroeder was the quarterback. Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson shared backfield duties and Howie Long and Greg Townsend were on the defensive line.

But they couldn’t get the job done in Buffalo in January 1992.

That sting, the monkey on the backs of all Raider fans, hasn’t left. It’s faded with the past three years and the three-straight AFC West divisional championships, but we can all see it in the corner of our eyes.

But this is the year. Mark my word. I’m going out on a limb here, but I feel it’s pretty safe this time around to get into predictions.

They will win it. There will be no sting. Only a Lombardi trophy.

So, fans of Denver, Seattle, San Diego Kansas City eat your hearts out or lose them in the Black Hole. This is our season, our team, our Raider Nation, our Oakland.

Our Super Bowl.