Saturday, September 26, 2009

49ers Will Need Hill To Beat Vikings

The 49ers will face their toughest challenge of the year, offensively, as they travel to Minnesota to take on a 2-0 Vikings squad that hasn't surrendered a 100-yard rusher since November 11th 2007 when Ryan Grant racked up 116 yards against them.

This is going to be especially challenging to the 49ers because so much of their game plan revolves around Frank Gore and their rushing attack. I still expect the 49ers to be aggressive running the football, but they're going to have to establish their passing game early on and put that in the minds of Viking defenders. After Gore's explosion for 207 yards last week, the Vikings will be zeroing in on #21 and Shaun Hill will have to beat them through the air. Now, Hill is a capable quarterback, don't get me wrong, but in the first two games of this season, he hasn't been asked to necessarily win the football game, and he may have to do just that if the 49ers are going to upset the Vikes' at home. He's only thrown for 353 yards and a score in the two games so far and hasn't really been under any pressure to move the ball down field through the air yet, but he will on Sunday. I'd really like to see Vernon Davis utilized more in the passing game, starting on Sunday. With Michael Crabtree's arrival still uncertain, Davis is probably the most explosive wr/te on this offense, and he needs to be touching the ball more than just the 2 times he did last Sunday vs. the Seahawks. The Vikings have had some issues with athletic, pass-catching tight-ends and Vernon Davis could have a field day on them if he's handles the ball 6-8 times.

Not only will the Niners have to get their passing game going while figuring out a way to open up room for Gore, but they're going to have themselves a nice challenge on defense as well. They'll be going against the NFL's leading rusher, and one the leagues all-time great quarterbacks, who knows exactly how to expose defensive shortcomings. They're not going to fully shut down Adrian Peterson, but they're going to have to figure out a way to contain him. The 49ers actually have a vastly improving defense though, and they're strength their speed at the linebacker position and that should help slow the run. In fact, the Niners have allowed just 106 yards on the ground through the first two weeks of the season, and if they could hold Peterson to 100 yards or less, they should win this game. Brett Favre is still very much a threat, even at age 40, but I'm not sure he's got the weapons to beat a tough Niner secondary without getting a big game from Peterson. Anyway, it's setting up to be a very good game between these teams, and I can't wait to see these star RB's duke it out. I love what the Niners are doing and the direction they're headed, but I still see the Vikings edging them in this contest by the score of 24-17.

Raiders Preview: The Raiders will host the Broncos in Oakland on Sunday, in a game that should be a low scoring match-up of two of the leagues' lesser offenses. The Raiders barely mustered any offense last week in Kansas City, as they only netted 166 yards of total offense, but still won the game with their stingy defense. They're going to need to put up a little more O on Sunday, but it should be another relatively low scoring game. The Broncos have their own issues on offense with their new QB Kyle Orton, and without a clear-cut #1 running back. If the Raiders can keep the defensive pressure up, and get something resembling any kind of offensive rhythm, they should win this football game. Denver just isn't that good, and the Raiders are catching them at the right time, so if they play a good all-around game, they'll probably pull this one off and improve to 2-1.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Niners Improve to 2-0

The 49ers haven't looked this good to start a season in years, and it's got bay area football fans buzzing. The Niners improved to 2-0 after ripping the Seahawks apart in Seattle on Sunday, 23-10.

Everyone wants to talk about Frank Gore after Sunday's game, and rightfully so after he rushed for 207 yards and a couple of scores, but what's really carried the Niners through the first two weeks of the season has been a much improved team defense. Outside of Patrick Willis, Nate Clements and maybe Parys Haralson, the Niners don't have a bunch of individual stars on their defense, but they're playing hard and Greg Manusky and Mike Singletary have really installed a good scheme to get the most out of the players they have on defense. We saw it in the opening week when the Niners had Kurt Warner on the move and under pressure all game long, and then on Sunday when they knocked Matt Hasselbeck out of the game in the second quarter. For years, the Niners have struggled to get consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback, but in the first two weeks this season, they've had no such problem. They've also gotten solid play out of their secondary, another spot which has notoriously given them problems since the turn of the century.

Offensively, it was really all about Gore and the Niners offensive line leading the way for him. Gore broke off both 79 and 80 yard td runs and the 49ers collected 256 yards as a team on the ground. It was Gore's first 100+ yard rushing since November 16th 2008 and should put him right back on track after a sub-par performance vs. the Cardinals in week 1. Shaun Hill and the passing game didn't do too much, but they really didn't have to. Hill ended up connecting on 19 of 26 attempts for 144 yards and no turnovers while getting sacked 4 times. And what makes these two wins to start the year the most impressive, is that they've been over the two teams picked by most NFL experts to win the division. These victories have not been fluke wins either. The Niners thoroughly outplayed both the Cards and the Hawks and really looked like the better team in each game. Now they're set to get their toughest assignment on the young season, but I don't think they could be more ready. They travel to Minnesotta on Sunday to take on the Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson and the 2-0 Vikings in what will be a match-up of two of the leagues' best pure rushing backs.

Crabtree Update
: The latest in the never-ending Michael Crabtree/49ers saga has the Niners accusing the Jets of tampering with their first round pick. Other than that, the Niners are continuing to stand their ground with their contract offer, although it's been mentioned a few times that the Niners would increase it a bit in order to get the receiver signed. I still think this deal will get done and Crabtree will be on the field for the Niners sooner than later. I'm just not sure what to expect from him when he does finally sign. He's missed so much practice time as a rookie that it's hard to see him making much of an impact at all in the 2009 season, but we'll see what happens.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

49ers/Raiders Preview

The 49ers are coming fresh off an upset in the desert in which they beat the reigning NFC Champion Cardinals, and head into Sunday's tilt with the Seahawks with some pretty strong momentum. The Seahawks are also coming off of an impressive victory themselves, as they shut out the St. Louis Rams last Sunday, to the tune of 28-0. In order for the Niners to win their second consecutive game, their going to have to contain former pro-bowl quarterback Matt Hasselback. After struggling through injury and ineffectiveness last season, Hasselback put up a nice 279 yard, 3 TD performance vs. the Rams and looked much more like the pre-2008 version of himself. Seattle doesn't have a rushing attack that will put fear in an opposing defense, but Julius Jones is also coming off a nice week in which he rushed for 117 yards and a score. Still though, the main focus on defense for the Niners has to be on Hasselback and the passing game, much like it was with Warner and the Cards passing attack last weekend. If they can put the pressure on Hasselback the same way they did Warner, they will have the edge in the game.

Offensively, the 49ers need to control the football. If they win the time of possession battle, they will likely win the ballgame. In order to do that, they'll need Frank Gore to rebound from his 20 carry, 30 yard outing vs. the Cardinals. I'd also like to see the 49ers design some more plays for Vernon Davis. The 25 year-old beast of a tight-end had 5 catches for 40 yards on Sunday, but most of his looks were short passes in the flat and nothing really down field. Davis is one of the fastest tight-ends in the NFL and the Niners need to start taking advantage of that. He's had two full years to learn the league a bit and he looks like he's ready to break out, but he's going to need the game plan to include him a bit more. The dude has the kind of speed and play-making ability to turn any catch he makes into a big gain, and he should be getting at least 7-8 looks per game. Davis had one catch or less in 10 games last year, and this guy has the tools to be one of the most explosive ends in all the NFL. Get him the ball!

Raiders Quick Take: The Raiders have a game Sunday in which they actually should win. They take on the Chiefs in Kansas City, who will likely be without quarterback Matt Cassel for the second straight week. The Raiders are also coming off a game vs. the Chargers in which they didn't quite pull off, but did play a pretty good ballgame. The Raiders are going to have to get their running game going early with their two headed-monster of McFadden and Bush, a tandem that I think could become one of the leagues best. I'd also like to see the Raiders offense use more intermediate and short passing plays in order to get JaMarcus Russel going early. He's going to have to put up better completion ratio's than the 12-30 he threw up vs. the Chargers, and the key to that will be the 3-step drop quick passes. The last thing the Raiders will need to do to win the ballgame is win the turnover battle. The Raiders lost the turnover battle to the Chargers by one, and ended up losing the game by 4 points, so it makes you wonder what the outcome would have been if they won the T.O. battle, or at least tied?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Raiders Just Miss the Upset

The Raiders outplayed their Southern California nemeses for most of the game on Monday night, but they couldn't buckle down on defense when it mattered the most.

When JaMarcus Russel hit Louis Murphy on that 57 yard connection for a go-ahead TD with just over 2 minutes left in the game, I think Raiders fans were feeling pretty good about their teams' odds of pulling out the game. However, Phillip Rivers and the Charger offense (minus Ladanian Tomlinson) got the ball back and marched down the field with ease, with Darren Sproles breaking off a 5 yard TD run with just 18 seconds left to give the Chargers back the lead and ultimately the game. There were plenty of positives to take from this game for the Silver and Black, especially defensively, but it was a little disturbing to see Rivers attack the Raiders with such ease when the game was in the balance. Rivers went 6-7 for 79 yards in the final 2 minutes of play while leading the Chargers back from a near defeat. When Darren Sprolles failed to give the Chargers very good field position on the kick return, I thought the Raiders could actually pull this thing off, but Rivers just had his way with their secondary in those final minutes and that's what cost the Raiders this ballgame.

Again though, there were plenty of positives to take from this contest for coach Cable and the Raiders. Before that final drive, the Raiders held Rivers in check for most the night, as he was just 18-29 with 179 yards before that drive. The Raiders put pretty good pressure on him throughout the night, sacking him 3 times, including 2 by the newest Raider, Richard Seymour. They also held the Charger running attack in check, something that they've struggled mightily to do over the last couple of years. The Chargers impressive duo of LT and Darren Sproles manages just 78 yards on 22 carries and that's what almost won them the game. I said in the preview post that the Raiders had to control the ball and they did end up winning the time of possession battle. Offensively, the Raiders had a nice balanced running attack going led by Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. Those two backs rushed for 123 yards combined and a score while McFadden also contributed 25 receiving yards. Russel didn't have his best game, going just 12 for 30 with 208 yards, but he stepped up and made the throw when he absolutely needed to, and played a little better than his box score showed. His receivers didn't do a great job getting open, as Louis Murphy was the only wideout to catch a pass from Russel ( the rest were to running backs and tight-ends) and that is something that needs to improve asap if the Raiders are going to get a consistent passing attack going.

All in all, I'd have to give Oakland a B- for the game. Their defense did enough, despite the meltdown at the end of the game, for the Raiders to pull-out the win, and Russel did his part late in the game in order to give the Raiders the chance to win. Their key for improving for next week will be to get the receivers involved some more, and maybe get Russel going with some more intermediate and short routes in order to get his completion percentage and confidence up a bit. One area which I really like for Oakland going forward though is that rushing duo of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. Those guys are a perfect blend of speed and power and should keep the Raiders rushing attack solid all year long.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Niners Upset Arizona in the Desert

Nobody outside of the 49ers locker room really expected the 49ers to beat the reigning NFC champs in their own backyard, but Mike Singletary's bunch came to play on Sunday, and really caused havoc on Cardinals high-powered passing attack.

If you would have told me before the game that Frank Gore would rush for just 30 yards and the Niners would pull off the upset, I would have called you crazy, but they did just that. Shaun Hill didn't even have a game to write home about, going just 18 of 31 for 209 yards and a score, but he did just enough, and really limited not just his mistakes, but all mistakes on the offensive side of the ball. Issac Bruce and Vernon Davis were both prominent in the passing game, as Bruce had 4 catches for 74 yards and Davis grabbed 5 for 40 yards. In fact, the who 49ers offense very mediocre, but they didn't turn the ball over and they moved the ball when they absolutely had to. I do like how Singletary and OC Jimmy Raye called the game offensively. They stuck with the run even though the Cards were piling 8-9 guys up in the box, and even though Gore didn't run wild, it did set-up perfectly the game winning TD for the Niners, in which the Cards brought the house expecting a run on 3rd and goal from the 3, but Hill play-faked to Gore then found Gore wide open in the flat for an easy touchdown. The Cards were clearly expecting a run and were not prepared for the play action pass, and it was mix-ups like that that allowed the Niners to prevail offensively.

The Offense wasn't spectacular by any stretch Sunday, they did what they had to do to win, but it was really the defense that put the Niners in the position to win the ballgame. One of the keys to the game for the Niners defense was to put pressure on Kurt Warner and contain that passing attack, and they ended up doing just that. Niners defenders got to Warner for a hit 8 different times, and sacked him 3 three times. Parys Haralson, Justin Smith and Ray McDonald all got credited with sacks on the afternoon and I think the pressure on Warner was what enable the 49ers to keep that passing attack at bey. They also picked Warner off twice, and deflected 8 passes, which indicates how well their defensive secondary was playing throughout the day. Nate Clements and Patrick Willis, arguably the Niners two best defenders, each had interceptions and each played terrifically. Willis had 11 tackles along with his int and one pass deflection, while Clements had 4 tackes, to deflections and once again held Larry Fitzgerald contained. Fitzgerald did score on a 6 yard pass from Warner as the Cardinals only TD of the game, but the superstar wideout had just 71 yards receiving on the afternoon, about 20 yards shy of his game average over the past 2 seasons.

That is the style the 49ers are going to have to play and that's how they're going to have to beat teams if they want to accumulate a winning record in the 2009. They don't have an abundance of talent on either side of the ball, but they do have enough to win if they play the game correctly and limit their mistakes as they did on Sunday. I know the Cardinals have gone through some change and aren't quite the same squad that went to the Super Bowl last February, but they still were heavily favored in this game and got thoroughly outplayed by Niners all afternoon... We'll have more on this game and the Niners throughout the week here as we prepare for next weeks home opener vs. the Seahawks in what should be a very good game and could give us an idea on who the team to beat will be in the division this year.

Raiders Preview: Also, the Raiders kick off their season tonight in San Diego, and we'll be breaking down tonight's game in the coming days here as well. The Chargers are also heavily favored in this match-up, one that the Raiders haven't won in a long, long time (0-11 over last couple of years vs. the Chargers). If they're going to beat SD, they're going to have to control the ball and keep the Charger offense off the field. Phillip Rivers is primed for another big season with all these weapons at his disposal, so the Silver and Black have to keep the ball out of his and LT's hand if they want to win this thing. They're also going to need to get some offensive competence going. This is the year people want to start seeing why JaMarcus Russel was the #1 pick a few years back, and he has to have a good season in order to let everyone know that he indeed is the QB of the future here!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

NFL Award Predictions

The 2009 NFL season officially kicks on Thursday night, with the Titans squaring off against the 2008 world champion Pittsburgh Steelers. The 49ers and Raiders kick off their season on Sunday, as does most of the rest of the NFL, and we'll preview those games this weekend, but today we're going to give our predictions as to who will receive awards at the end of the season.

NFL MVP: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: The NFL's best pure rusher should have gotten more votes for last years award, but this season, with Favre in the backfield with him, it should be open season for the 24 year-old beast. I'm expecting 1800+ yards (he's targeting 2000) and 15+ touchdowns on the ground while he and the ancient one lead the Vikings to the playoffs.
Runners Up: RB Matt Forte Chi., QB Drew Brees N.O., WR Randy Moss N.E.

Offensive P.O.Y
: Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jacksonville Jaguars: I don't think the Jags have enough talent all-around to make a run at the postseason this year, but Mo Jo should run wild with the job all to himself for the first time in his career. I'm expecting 2000 combined yards from scrimmage and a ton of scores from the focal point of the Jacksonville offense.
Runners Up: RB DeAngelo Williams Car., WR Larry Fizgerald Ari., WR Calvin Johnson Det.

Defensive P.O.Y.: DeMarcus Ware, LB, Dallas Cowboys: Probably should have won last year after a 20 sack, 6 forced fumble season. I'm expecting another big season out of Ware and if he leads the league in sacks and fumbles again, it'll be a shame if he doesn't win it.
Runners Up: SS Troy Polamalu Pitt., LB Joey Porter Mia., LB Patrick Willis SF

Rookie of the Year: Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets: Sanchez is being handed the keys to the Jets offense in his first year in the NFL, and he looked pretty decent in the preseason. He's smart and athletic and should provide the Jets with a young Chad Pennington type with a little more athleticism, arm strength and hopefully better health.
Runners Up: QB Matthew Stafford Det., DE Tyson Jackson KC, WR Michael Crabtree SF

Comeback P.O.Y.: Tom Brady, QB, New England: It's kind of tough to give Brady this award, just because he has such high expectations and is so accomplished at the NFL level. However, he did miss all of last season and more than qualifies in this category. I'm not quite expecting the Tom Brady of 2007 (50 TD's, 4800 yards passing) but he'll still be a top-5 quarterback by the end of the year if he stays healthy.
Runners Up: QB Carson Palmer Cin., QB Matt Hasselbeck Sea., RB Laurence Maroney N.E.

Coach of the Year: Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans: The Texans are primed for a breakout year after years and years of mediocrity. Kubiak and Co. have put together a nice offensive unit and they have enough playmakers on defense to really be a force this season. Look for the Texans to make their first ever postseason appearance this year, with Kubiak pushing the right buttons in Houston.
Runners Up: Tony Sparano Mia., Ken Whisenhunt Ari., Mike Singletary SF

Sunday, September 6, 2009

NFL Playoff Picture Predictions

We originally wanted to do a full NFL preview on all 32 teams before the season started here, but there's been a lot of local stuff to talk about lately and we kind of ran out of time as far as being able to do a full preview of all teams. So instead, we're going to go ahead and pick how we believe the NFL playoff picture will look come January.


1. New England Patriots- With a healthy Brady returning, and all those offensive weapons still in-tact, the Pats should once again be the elite team in the AFC.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers- The reigning Super Bowl champs are in pretty good position to repeat, led by Roethlisberger and Ward on offense and Polamalu and James Harrison on defense.

3. San Diego Chargers-
LT is aging, but Darren Sproles is ready to help keep him fresh and Phil Rivers is primed for another breakout, 35+ TD, 4500 yard season. They also have a hungry defense that puts pressure on the QB.

4. Indianapolis Colts- Everyone is expecting Indy to slip a little this season, but they still have Peyton and Reggie Wayne, and a speedy, aggressive defense and should again win 10+ games in '09.

*5. Houston Texans- My pick for the surprise team in the AFC, the Texans are primed for a breakout year, and I expect Matt Shaub to be a Pro-bowler com February. They have the running attack and aerial game to keep up with anyone. They also have a pretty soft schedule most of the way.

*6. Miami Dolphins: If Tony Sporano smartens up and gives the ball to Ronnie Brown 25 times a week, he'll probably be a top-3 back. I like all the offensive weapons and mis-matches they throw at you and that defense should be one of the leagues better ones.

Wild Card Round: Dolphins over Chargers, Texans over Colts

Divisional Round:
Patriots over Dolphins, Texans over Steelers

AFC Championship: Patriots over Texans

NFC Playoff Picture

1. New York Giants: Even though they don't have the deepest receiving corps in the league, they have an improving quarterback and a dominant running game to go along with their NFC-best defense.

2. Chicago Bears: Led by new QB Jay Cutler, the Bears should turn an offense that was purely run-driven for most of the decade, into one that should be a perfectly balanced attack. Matt Forte is one of the leagues best all-around running backs, and Greg Olsen could emerge as a pro-bowl caliber tight-end this year. Oh yeah, they always seem to figure out a way to carry a stingy defense as well.

3. Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons added Tony Gonzalez to an already potent offensive unit this spring, and he should help Matt Ryan expand on his impressive rookie campaign. Atlanta also features the NFC's second leading rusher from 2008 in Michael Turner and a defense which improved this offseason.

4. Arizona Cardinals: The NFC West is really a division that is up for grabs, as either the Cardinals, Seahawks, or an improved 49ers team could have a shot in. I think the Cards will ultimately take the division, led by that incredible passing attack, but I doubt Kurt Warner plays up to the level he did last year.

*5. Minnesota Vikings: Sure, the addition of Bret Favre makes them a playoff hopeful, but they were on the right track even before luring the soon to be 40 year-old out of retirement. Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the NFL and they have some bright young receivers (Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin) who should thrive with Favre at the helm.

*6. Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys lost a big play receiver in Terrell Owens, but Roy Williams should help ease that loss in his first full year in Dallas. I really like the duo of Marion Barber and Felix Jones, along with the duo of Jason Whitten and Martellus Bennett at tight end. On Defense, Demarcus Were is a savage along with Bradie James as those guys could combine for 30 sacks in 2009.

NFC Wild Card Round:
Falcons over Cowboys, Vikings over Cardinals

NFC Divisional Round:
Vikings over Giants, Bears over Falcons

NFC Championship:
Bears over Vikings


New England Patriots over Chicago Bears, 27-19

* denotes wild card teams

Friday, September 4, 2009

12th Ranked Cal Set To Open Season

The College Football season officially kicks off on Saturday, as most the teams in the nation will play their first game of the 2009 season. The California Golden Bears will host the Maryland Terps' in a game the Bears are heavily favored in.

Coming into the season, most of the talk around campus has been about Cal's Jr. phenom halfback, Jahvid Best. The 5'10" 200 pound speedster is coming off an impressive 2008 campaign in which he rushed for 1580 yards on just 194 carries, good for a 8.1 ypc average. He also found paydirt 15 times on the ground an once through the air. A lot of experts around the nation feel that Best is one of, if not the most explosive back in the college football this year, and there are a lot of expectations surrounding the youngster. The Terps' are going to have to stop him and the rest of the Bears rushing attack if they're serious about pulling off the upset in Berkley. Another key offensive player for Cal is their quarterback Kevin Riley. The Junior quarterback has been heavily involved in the Bears offensive game plan over the last 2 seasons, but this is the first year in which he'll enter the season as the clear cut QB 1 and there isn't anyone else close to threatening that spot. No longer will he have Nate Longshore to share snaps with or compete against for PT, so it should be interesting to see how he does being in this situation for the first time. The Bears are obviously more of a smash-mouth, running offense as is, but I'm still expecting a big season out of Riley, and I'd consider it a disappointment if he fails to reach 2,500 yards through the air and at least 20 touchdowns. The Bears don't have the most stacked receiving corps this year, but they do have returning wideouts Nyan Boateng and Veran Tucker, along with yet-to-be used sophomore Marvin Jones, who the Coach Tedford has high hopes for.

Defensively, the Cal is always pretty solid and this year should be no different as many expect them to be the teams strength. They're returning 8 of the 11 starters from last year, and last years bunch was one of the best defenses in the nation as far as creating turnovers. Defensive end Tyson Alualu and defensive backs Syd'Quan Thompson and Marcus Ezuff should all stand out defensively and lead the charge for the Bears. The only way I see the Bears having any trouble controlling the game vs. Maryland is if the Terps somehow figure out how to shut down Best (they did last season, holding him to a career low 25 rushing yards) and get into the face of Kevin Riley, but I highly doubt they'll do enough of that to disrupt Jeff Tedford's game plan.

The Stanford Cardinal also officially start their 2009 season off on Saturday, as they travel up to Washington State. The Cardinal are hoping for big things from their star running back Toby Gerhart, who's having visions of a 2,000 yard season. They're also starting a freshman quarterback in Andrew Luck, who they're hoping can take that job and keep it for the next couple of seasons. The Cardinal will have their work cut out for them on the road in a tough environment in Washington, but they're facing a team in which they absolutely slaughtered last year (58-0) and I fully expect the Cardinal to leave Washington with a record of 1-0.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Raiders Fantasy Preview

Last week, we previewed some of the 49ers players who could be of value for your fantasy team this season, and today we're going to take a look at some of the Raiders top fantasy options.

The Raiders have even less fantasy impact options than the Niners, but they still do have a couple of guys that could pay some dividends for your team in 2009. Darren McFadden is their featured offensive fantasy option, and the young back should improve drastically on his 2008 rookie season in which he totaled just 784 yards from scrimmage and four scores. He did split time in the backfield with Justin Fargas though, and also missed 3 games with injuries, so he it's not like he was getting the full-time load. This year, he's going to be sharing some carries with Fargas again, and Michael Bush figures to get into the mix as well, but I'm still expecting McFadden to get around 1200 yards from scrimmage and should find paydirt at least 6 times in 2009. Justin Fargas, the other running back who figures to have some fantasy value, at least early in the year, will likely see his work load decrease a little bit in 2009. Fargas has rushed for 1862 yards over the last 2 seasons for Oakland, but was pretty inconsistent last year, and averaged just 3.9 ypc. I'd steer clear from Fargas, as I doubt he'll get more than 10-12 touches per week in the crowded Oakland backfield.

As far as other players who you should keep an eye on during your draft, there really aren't many. I really like Zach Miller, and JaMarcus Russel seems to be really comfortable going to Miller. The only downside with the Raiders tight-end, is that he's playing on a sub par offense and doesn't get many opportunities in the red zone (56 catches w/ 1 TD in '08). I still think he'll find pay dirt a few more times in '09 with an improved Russel at the helm and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Miller turn in 900+ yard season with 5 scores. Speaking of Russel, he could have some value as a QB2 in deeper leagues, as he'll likely continue to develop and improve upon his 2008 totals, but the Raiders still lack big time talent in their receiving corps. Derrius Heyward-Bey is penciled in as the teams #1 wideout, with Javon Walker and Chaz Shillens (when he gets healthy) right behind him on the depth chart, but I don't see any being a real legit fantasy option right off the bat. Defensively, the Raiders could be used in favorable match-ups, like vs. Denver in week 3, but I wouldn't keep them as my main fantasy defense. Also, I'd steer clear of Sebastien Janikowski. The Raiders don't have a good offense, and he's just been very mediocre over the last couple of years.