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Dr. Z's Forecast

Oct. 28, 2002
Oct. 28, 2002

Table of Contents
Oct. 28, 2002

NBA Preview 2002-03

Dr. Z's Forecast

Al Davis used to hate teams like the 2002 Raiders. The Oakland
boss once walked into an offensive meeting just in time to hear
his coach say, "We're going to take what they give us."

This is an article from the Oct. 28, 2002 issue

Davis interrupted the session. "Don't ever let me hear you say
that again," he said. "We don't take what they give us. We make
them take what we give them."

What Davis gave them in the old days was Raider Football. The
deep strike, the thrust into the heart. Cliff Branch, Warren
Wells, remember them? Wells never averaged less than 21.5 yards
a catch in each of his four years with Oakland, and one year the
number was 26.8. The Raiders softened up the enemy with power
running--big, hard-smacking bangers like Clemon Daniels, Mark
Van Eeghen and Hewritt (Hewie the Freight) Dixon, a one-man
train wreck. On defense Oakland collapsed the pocket, crumbling
the quarterback under unbearable pressure that was backed up by
corners tough enough to play bump-and-run.

Now the Raiders' passing game is diddly-dink, their running game
is becoming a memory. When the mood seizes them, Oakland
defenders will go after the passer with extreme pressure. They
did that to the Chargers' Drew Brees on Sunday, but not until
they had been awakened by a 79-yard drive that opened the second
half and gave San Diego a two-touchdown lead. Worst of all, on
that drive the Raiders played a soft zone and didn't blitz. The
old Davis would not have liked what he saw on Sunday.

O.K., the all-throw, no-run approach did get Oakland back into
the game and forced the overtime, but the Raiders still lost
their second straight. People are saying that they ran up their
4-0 record against softies and that teams that smash them in the
mouth will beat them. Jerry Rice and Tim Brown are crafty guys,
but the only speed in the wideout corps belongs to Jerry Porter,
which is why Oakland is in a three-wide set most of the time.
Defenses can sit on Rice and Brown and defy Rich Gannon to go
deep.

Which brings us to Kansas City on Sunday. The Chiefs have a
potent offense (an NFL-high 239 points scored). So does every
team that faces their defense (a league-high 230 points
allowed). In its last two games K.C. blew 10- and 14-point
fourth-quarter leads. The Chiefs' problems run deeper than
Oakland's. The Raiders win it, but their defense had better be
ready.

--There's no logical reason to pick Seattle over Dallas as my
upset special. I mean, what better time for Emmitt Smith to get
the yards he needs to pass Walter Payton than at home against
the NFL's worst rushing defense? But I get a feeling that the
Seahawks will rise to the challenge and turn in one of their
best outings of the season.

--The Jets have figured out a way to get their much maligned
linebackers making plays again. Their young quarterback, Chad
Pennington, is piling up lots of yards. So let's give the Jets
their second win in a row, over the Browns.

--After that slugfest against the Bucs, the Eagles are due for a
letdown, but it won't happen on Monday night against a division
rival that always plays them tough. Philly will beat the Giants.
New England has had two weeks to patch the leaky ship. I'll go
with the hunch and give the Patriots the win over Denver. The
Bears will take a close one at Minnesota. The Steelers like to
play in Baltimore. They've won their last five there. This will
be number 6.

--Tampa Bay faces Carolina in a battle of ailing quarterbacks.
The Bucs take a low-scoring affair. The Colts haven't won in
Washington since 1967; they were flying the Baltimore banner in
those days, and this was a neighborhood showdown. Everything has
changed, of course, but I still like the Redskins at home.
--Paul Zimmerman

COLOR PHOTO: PAUL SAKUMA/AP The Chiefs will have to contain Porter, Oakland's one fleet wideout.