The questions in the Freeman family in the last couple of days have been "Are the Raiders that much better? Or are the Packers that much worse?" We went to a couple of Raider games last year, including the Packer pre-season game, and believe me, this was one bad team. They had no heart whatsoever, and with the exception of a couple of games, they just seemed to quit when they would get behind in a game. Losing to the 1997 Raiders would definitely not be taken as a good sign.
Well, it is beginning to look as if the Raiders are a much improved team. Jon Gruden may actually do some good things for this team, at least until Al Davis starts to meddle with him. So maybe it isn't quite so horrible to lose to the Raiders as one might expect.
Seriously, I am not too concerned about this loss, for a couple of reasons. In the first place, any time the offense spots the other team 17 points on turnovers, it can be a bit difficult to catch up. A pass bounces off of my namesake's hands, and is returned for a touchdown. TWO fumbles on the center-quarterback exchange. Interceptions like that just happen once in a while, and fumbled snaps are not going to happen very often in the regular season, because one way or the other, the QB and the center will at least be used to working with one another.
The other thing is something I have heard out here, even from Raider fans. The idea is that you have some teams, like Green Bay, and San Francisco, and Denver, who know what they are doing, are very good teams, and have continuity with the team from last year. They would like to win the pre-season game, but they are more interested in seeing how their players perform, and they don't really care. And then there are teams like the Raiders, who were awful last year despite a lot of talent, and who have a new coach, new coordinators, and really desperately want to win the game to make a statement. In other words, I guess, "they wanted it more." I don't completely buy this idea, but I suppose that there is something to it.
Now if you carry out the "they wanted it more" theory to the next game, you would predict that the Packers will beat the Broncos next Monday night in Mile High Stadium, basically because they have a score to settle. Certainly, Mike Holmgren will be all over the team this week because of the poor performance against the Raiders, and they should not need a lot of extra motivation to take things out on the Broncos. And if the Packers really are a better team than they showed in the Super Bowl in January, then with all of these factors working, they should win the game.
OK. Write it down. The Packers will beat the Broncos, and we will all feel a lot better.