Go ahead, crown ’em if you want. Balls will wait a few weeks, thank you, but it knows this much: The Raiders sure are an easy team to like right now, warts and all.
To watch the Raiders punch the reigning Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in the face on Sunday night was to think it was the 1970s all over again. Heck, they ran the ball to the left side so many times with so much success — 218 yards in all — Balls thought that Art Shell and Gene Upshaw had come out of retirement.
Bet the ol’ ballcoach John Madden appreciated the 30-20 mugging more than anyone.
Are the Raiders as good as their 7-2 record? Probably not. They’re short on defense, make a bunch of mistakes and give up a lot of big plays. Let’s not forget that the Broncos ranked 28th in yards gained in the league. And had a rookie out of Northwestern at quarterback.
Yet Derek Carr and company are so deep, so talented on offense that this team won’t need a stinkin’ defense most weeks. At a time when offense rules in the NFL, that alone can take a team a long way.
Yep, Las Vegas or Los Angeles or San Diego is gonna get a fun team pretty soon.
REST OF THE STORY: The Broncos, Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs have comparable schedules the rest of the way. So it’s quite possible that each will take a 10-5 or 11-4 record into Jan. 1, the final Sunday of the regular season. While the Raiders and Broncos square off in Denver on New Year’s Day, the Chiefs will meet the Chargers in San Diego.
In an NFL season that has been void of drama, the AFC West may give it some yet.
BUSINESS AS UNUSUAL: Meanwhile, Santa Clara coach Chip Kelly says he hasn’t lost sleep over his 1-7 record, doesn’t plan to fire any staff members, doesn’t even have designs on a line-up change(s).
Hey, if a boat is Chip-wrecked beyond repair, why bother to re-arrange deck chairs?
As Kelly knows, the best hope for his team is to run the table, finish with a 1-15 record and pray that the winless Cleveland Browns screw up at least once in their final seven games. That way, they might have their pick of any quarterback in the draft — here’s lookin’ at you, DeShaun Watson — and the season may turn out to be a successful disaster.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: Clueless Trent Baalke hasn’t been around to face the music lately but not without reason. Seems as though the Santa Clara general manger has been on an extended, well-timed road trip to scout the best punters around the country.
In the meantime, Balls refuses to believe the whispers that the organization intends on bringing back Baalke for another season of complete and utter mismanagement. CEO Jed York may be dumb and stupid, but he isn’t brain dead. Or the Faithless can only hope.
BIG, BAD CUBBIES: Chicago fans continue to party like it’s 1908, and they better milk their World Series victory for everything it’s worth. Because the cuddly Cubbies are no more.
For decades, the Cubs made a fortune off phony curses and alleged bad luck, which amounted to little more than than a cover-up for their own incompetence. That changed in Game 7 of the World Series. Hoo boy, did it ever.
Now that the Cubs have finally gotten it right, they’re no different than the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees. They’re the Big Blue Machine — another a big-market franchise with a bottomless pit of resources that’s easy for the have-nots to hate.
The Cubs are gonna be good for a while. Five of their starter are 25 or younger. (Giants, take note.) If they don’t win 90-plus games in a wimpy Central Division and advance to the World Series every year until further notice, they’ll be out of excuses.
Deal with it, Chicago.
YOUR TURN: “You’re right on about whiney Cubs fans. My brother is one of them. Now he’s mad that White Sox fans are not congratulating him for the World Series as he thinks they ought to do. At least he was terrified that the the Cubs were going to blow it in the 9th inning. The goat came to the party late, then left early!” — Gary Anderson, Columbus, Ohio
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE … Ben Zobrist?
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