ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Though the revelation of Wes Welker's suspension closed out a headline-filled day in the NFL -- Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was suspended by commissioner Roger Goodell, Michael Sam planned a visit with the Dallas Cowboys and J.J. Watt discussed a $100 million contract -- it's clear now the Denver Broncos have been preparing for Welker's four-game absence for some time.

After he suffered two concussions last season, on Nov. 17 and Dec. 8, the Broncos were already in a position to consider what they would do if Welker missed time with the injury in the future. So the suspension was simply another issue for the Broncos to consider with Welker's availability.

Early on in their offseason planning, the threat of another concussion for Welker was a big enough issue, as well as Eric Decker's departure in free agency, that the Broncos considered Emmanuel Sanders their top target on offense in the open market. Executive vice president and general manager John Elway has called Sanders "our No. 1 guy at the position we wanted to bring in. He fits what we do and what we wanted."

The Broncos then used a second-round draft pick on wide receiver Cody Latimer because they considered him a tough, fast, physical receiver who could play immediately in the team's red zone packages and steadily earn more playing time as he grew into the offense. Latimer then sped the development along with plenty of extra sessions with quarterback Peyton Manning and was already poised for premium snaps even before Tuesday's Welker announcement.

[+] EnlargeEmmanuel Sanders
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsJohn Elway has called Emmanuel Sanders "our No. 1 guy at the position we wanted to bring in. He fits what we do and what we wanted."
As they moved through their offseason work and Welker's flagged test in the performance-enhancing drug policy became an issue, the Broncos made plans. They knew he could miss time, whether that missed time would be caused another possible concussion -- which Welker suffered Aug. 23 against the Houston Texans -- or the threat of a suspension.

So when they cut the roster to 53, a team that wanted to keep five wide receivers kept six.

Granted rookie Isaiah Burse was kept largely for his potential as a returner, the coaches had said all along any player kept as a returner would have to show enough to contribute at another position as well. And just after the Broncos made the cuts, Elway said of Burse: "He's a bright kid. He's a kid that can play all positions, too. When it comes to that, he's a guy that can come in and help us on the offensive side, too."

The Broncos also kept two more wide receivers on the practice squad -- Bennie Fowler and Nathan Palmer -- who had been through training camp and know the offense. Palmer also spent time on the Broncos' practice squad during the 2013 season.

The Broncos had also worked a heavy rotation in training camp, giving a variety of receivers at least some snaps with the first- and second-team offenses.

Welker was excused from practice Aug. 20-21 for his appeal hearing, and that offers a glimpse into the timetable the Broncos and Welker were looking at when it comes to the suspension. When a player is notified of a suspension -- a written "notice of discipline" -- he has five days to request an appeal hearing, according to the league policy on PEDs.

That appeal hearing is to take place within 20 days of the request for it, excluding extenuating circumstances for either league officials or the player. Within two days of the scheduled hearing, the two sides exchange documents and/or any evidence that will be presented.

The policy states a decision on the appeal will then be rendered within "five calendar days" of the hearing, so it is likely the Broncos and Welker were well aware of the potential of a suspension all through training camp as players reported July 23.

When asked about Welker's absence from practice last month, Broncos head coach John Fox said, "We need to get him back and see what state of mind he's in and where he is in our game plan and just go from there."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For the second time in less than a week the Denver Broncos have a starter facing league discipline to open the season. A team that had coveted a quiet summer has had anything but that as the regular-season opener approaches.

Tuesday, it was revealed Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker is facing a four-game suspension for violation of the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy, according to my sources and sources for ESPN's Adam Schefter. Last week Broncos kicker Matt Prater was suspended four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Unlike the substance abuse policy, which requires multiple tests to reach the level of a four-game suspension, the league's policy on PEDs goes immediately to the four-game suspension on the first positive test if the player's appeal is not successful.

Welker's appeal was heard by league officials Aug. 20-21 when Welker was excused from practice for what the team publicly described as "personal reasons." The Broncos were practicing against the Houston Texans on both of those days and Welker suffered a concussion in the Aug. 23 preseason game against the Texans. But for a team that wanted what cornerback Chris Harris Jr. called "the no news approach" preseason after the DUI arrests of two front-office executives and linebacker Von Miller's six-game suspension for violating the substance abuse policy overwhelmed the conversation a year ago, the team is now back to dealing-with-adversity swirl it thought it had escaped.

[+] EnlargeWes Welker
AP Photo/Jack DempseyWes Welker, who caught 73 passes for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, is facing a four-game suspension.
On the field the Broncos had been optimistic Welker, who has had three concussions in the last 10 months, would be available for at least partial duty in Sunday night's regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts. Welker returned to practice, on a limited basis, Monday for the first time since his injury and the Broncos were hoping he would clear enough benchmarks in the league's concussion protocol to be cleared for full participation by the end of the week.

The Broncos were preparing for the Colts with the possibility Welker would be in the lineup. Welker's suspension means the Broncos will implement the plan they had been developing had he been sidelined because of the concussion.

And, now a team that has touted its single-minded focus of getting back to the Super Bowl -- to as John Elway said, "win that last game of the year and get that world championship" -- has had two veteran starters disciplined by the league in a week's time.

To that end, they can go a little bigger and line up in a two tight end look where Jacob Tamme is essentially a slot receiver. In Manning's first season with the Broncos, the year before Welker was signed, Tamme was the third-most targeted receiver on the team (85 targets), behind only Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.

Given Emmanuel Sanders' ability to line up in the slot, as well as tight end Julius Thomas', they can create matchup issues in the middle of the field, even if they surrendered some speed overall.

They can also maintain their proclivity to keep things three wide as they did almost 75 percent of the time last season, a total that hovered near 90 percent of the time in the postseason.

And that's why Sanders was signed, why Cody Latimer was selected in the second round of the draft and why Andre Caldwell was the first player the team re-signed, just before free agency opened this past March.

Against the Colts, the Broncos could mix and match more with this group of receivers than they would have last season when Welker missed the final three games of the regular season. In those three games Decker was targeted 27 times, Demaryius Thomas was targeted 24 times, Julius Thomas was targeted 21 times and Caldwell 10 times.

In the three games Welker missed, Tamme played nine, 52 and 49 snaps (two of the three games he played more than 30 snaps all season), but was targeted by Manning two, three and four times.

In the end, a team Elway has said is built to face "the bumps in the road that will come our way, and you're always going to have bumps in the road," will now have to prove it once again.
SAN DIEGO -- He played during the height of the best pass-rushers in the game, a list that includes Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Chris Doleman, Kevin Greene and Lawrence Taylor, so it's fitting that former San Diego Chargers defensive end Leslie O'Neal will be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame.

"To play alongside some of those great guys, and my stats compare to some of those, it's just amazing," O'Neal said.

[+] EnlargeSan Diego's Leslie O'Neal
Photo by Andy Hayt/Getty ImagesLeslie O'Neal is tied for 10th on the NFL's all-time sacks list with Lawrence Taylor.
O'Neal, who finished as the Chargers' all-time leader in sacks with 105.5, becomes the 37th person inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame. O'Neal is tied with Taylor for 10th on the league's all-time sack list with 132.5.

He joins fellow teammates in the Chargers Hall of Fame that include Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow Sr. and Junior Seau, along with Don Coryell and Bobby Ross, both coaches he played for while with the Chargers.

"I remember my rookie year, the great Dan Fouts called me aside and said, ‘Rookie, don't ever knock down any of my passes in practice,'" O'Neal said, smiling. "And that was one of the first conversations I had. But he's in the Hall of Fame, and I guess he needed to work on his stuff and I was getting in the way."

O'Neal was honored during a ceremony at Chargers Park on Tuesday. He'll be inducted officially into the Chargers Hall of Fame on Oct. 19 at halftime of the Kansas City game. The ceremony included a highlight tape of the Oklahoma State product wreaking havoc on quarterbacks during his time with the Chargers.

"Watching those highlights, I guess I was pretty good, huh?" joked O'Neal afterward, coaxing a few chuckles from the crowd."

An All-American at Oklahoma State, O'Neal was selected No. 8 overall in the 1986 draft by the Chargers. He earned defensive rookie of the year honors after finishing with 12.5 sacks, including a team-record five against the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 16. However, O'Neal's rookie season ended early with a serious knee injury the forced him to miss almost two seasons.

O'Neal worked his way back to the field on Oct. 16, 1988, but returned to his dominating self the following season, starting all 16 games and earning his first of six Pro Bowl selections with another 12.5-sack season.

That performance earned O'Neal NFL Comeback Player of the Year by NFL Films in 1989.

"Most of my career -- basically all of it -- was after I tore my knee up," O'Neal said. "A lot of people thought I would never play the game again. So all of this is post injury. And it's just a great honor that I was able to play at a level that everyone around felt like I deserved to be in your Hall of Fame."

O'Neal finished his career in San Diego in 1995 with 105.5 career sacks, 595 tackles and 18 forced fumbles. He was the Chargers' single-season sacks leader every year from 1990-95. He played his final four NFL seasons in St. Louis and Kansas City.

Amongst the highlights of his career, O'Neal points to holding up the AFC championship trophy and reaching the Super Bowl at the culmination of the 1994 season, and notching his 100th sack against NFL legend Joe Montana.

O'Neal, 50, spends his time between San Diego and his native Arkansas. He has three kids and just had his first grandson, who he hopes will someday follow in his footsteps and play football. O'Neal said he spends his spare time on the golf course.
To take their minds off cut-down day, Kansas City Chiefs rookie safety Daniel Sorensen and his wife, Whitney, decided to go to temple on Saturday afternoon. They stowed their cellphones in the car and spent the next two hours worshiping at a service off Interstate 435. Whitney was more nervous and eager than her husband -- "She likes to know," Sorensen said -- and they planned it perfectly when the service ended around 3 p.m. CT, the deadline for cuts. By then, Sorensen, a rookie safety from BYU, would know.

What they didn't anticipate was what a hot summer day in Kansas City weather does to an iPhone in a car. Sorensen's phone overheated, so they spent the next 10 minutes holding it next to the air-conditioner vents while driving on the freeway.

When it finally worked, Sorensen got the news -- or lack thereof -- that he'd hoped for. He made the 53-man Chiefs roster, a feat that seemed improbable four months ago, when he was undrafted out of BYU.

Sorensen started in all four of the Chiefs' preseason games, filling in for Eric Berry, who's been sidelined with a heel injury. He has impressed coaches with his instincts and ball skills, and his work on special teams made him more valuable.

"This whole experience is kind of a roller coaster," Sorensen said. "There's some days where you feel really confident, and some days you don't. There's never really a point where you're sure about what's going to happen."

The weekend wasn't exactly perfect for the Sorensen family, though. On Friday, Sorensen's brother, Brad, was cut from the San Diego Chargers. Brad Sorensen, a quarterback, was a seventh-round pick for the Chargers in 2013. In three years at Southern Utah, he threw for more than 9,000 yards.

All four of the Sorensen brothers played college sports. Brad, 26, and Daniel, 24, are close. Upon hearing that Daniel made the Chiefs, Brad left him a voicemail. He congratulated him, told him it wasn't easy to make an NFL roster and he deserved it because he worked hard.

Daniel didn't know what to say.

"He's always been the older brother," Daniel said, "and kind of an example to me. He's always been the one who's kind of given me advice in difficult situations.

"It was kind of strange. I didn't feel like there was any advice I could tell him. He's been at this a little longer than me. We just talked and shared our thoughts and feelings about what's going on."
Well,’s first in-season Power Rankings are out, and the reviews are not good for the Oakland Raiders.

The Power Rankings results have the Raiders ranked No 32. Yes, I vote. No, I didn’t place the Raiders 32nd. I think that ranking is a bit low. I have a difficult time thinking there aren't four or five teams in worse shape than the Raiders as we start this season.

I think the Raiders have better depth on both sides of the ball and better overall talent. I can see Oakland getting better as the season continues, especially if rookie quarterback Derek Carr excels early. We will follow the rankings throughout the season, but I’d be surprised if the Raiders stay at the bottom of the rankings for the long haul.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- ESPN Insider Mike Sando spent time this spring at Jon Gruden’s famous pre-draft quarterback camp.

Tuesday, after the Oakland Raiders named rookie Derek Carr their starting quarterback -- he’s the first of this rookie class to be named the starter -- Sando recalled some of his notes from the experience. Here’s what he remembered Insider from Carr’s time with Gruden:

The college and pro athletes who participated in workouts at the Gruden camps raved about Carr's physical gifts as a passer. None of the other QBs created the same on-field buzz at the Gruden camps this year.

A talent evaluator briefed on Carr's performance there said Carr would still struggle in the NFL unless he demonstrated a willingness to hang tough in the pocket. Carr will get that opportunity in Week 1 against the New York Jets' dominating defensive front. That atmosphere will be a far cry from the practice fields in Orlando.

Here are Gruden’s thoughts Insider on his time with Carr.
video San Diego Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.

Week 1: at Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have a handful of new starters on defense. Two of Arizona's best players on that side of the ball definitely will not play in linebacker Daryl Washington (suspension) and defensive end Darnell Dockett (injury). San Diego appears to be catching the Cardinals at the right time. Prediction: Win

Week 2: Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks' 41-14 manhandling of San Diego a month ago during preseason play at CenturyLink Field was not a good showing for the Chargers. The starters for both teams will play in this one, and the game is at Qualcomm Stadium. However, the Seahawks will have 10 days of rest after the team's season opener against Green Bay, while the Chargers are playing on a short week after a Monday night game in Arizona. Prediction: Loss

Week 3: at Buffalo Bills

The Bills are improved, with one of the better defensive front sevens in the NFL. They have a nice 1-2 punch at running back in C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson and a human highlight film in receiver Sammy Watkins. But EJ Manuel remains inconsistent at quarterback. Prediction: Win

Week 4: Jacksonville Jaguars

This game could be the first start for rookie quarterback Blake Bortles if Chad Henne struggles early. The Chargers haven't lost to the Jaguars at Qualcomm, but Jacksonville's defense should be better with the addition of defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. The Jaguars also get after the football defensively. Prediction: Win

Week 5: New York Jets

Will Michael Vick be the starting quarterback for the Jets instead of Geno Smith by Week 5? No matter the signal-caller, Rex Ryan will lean on the run game -- his Jets were one of 12 teams to rush for at least 2,000 yards in 2013. The Jets averaged just 15 points a game on the road in 2013. Prediction: Win

Week 6: at Oakland Raiders

The Chargers lost 27-17 on the road against an awful Oakland team last year. San Diego will be ready and bring more effort this time. However, the Raiders do have a bye before this game, so they will be rested. Prediction: Win

Week 7: Kansas City Chiefs

San Diego has not lost to Kansas City at Qualcomm Stadium since 2007. That streak should continue, although the Chargers can't rely on a Ryan Succop missed field goal to bail them out again. Prediction: Win

Week 8: at Denver Broncos

A nationally televised game against the best team in the AFC last year will be a good, midseason test of where this team stands. San Diego traditionally plays the Broncos tough in Denver -- the Chargers are 6-3 against the Broncos in Denver, including the playoffs, since 2006. Prediction: Loss

Week 9: at Miami Dolphins

The Chargers let one slip away at Miami last year. The Chargers haven't won a regular-season game in Miami since 1980. Prediction: Loss

Week 11: Oakland Raiders

San Diego players should be well-rested for the Raiders coming off of a bye week. Since 2003, the Chargers are 9-2 at Qualcomm Stadium against Oakland. Prediction: Win

Week 12: St. Louis Rams

The Rams have one of the most dominant defensive fronts in the NFL, but Shaun Hill does not instill fear in the hearts of NFL defenders. Prediction: Win

Week 13: at Baltimore Ravens

This game is the beginning of a brutal stretch of games to finish the season. San Diego has never defeated the Ravens in Baltimore. Prediction: Loss

Week 14: New England Patriots

New England runs the football, has an improved defense and one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. And that Bill Belichick is a pretty good coach. Prediction: Loss

Week 15: Denver Broncos

This game is a late-season AFC West battle that the Chargers likely will need to win in order to stay in playoff contention. Expect San Diego to play with urgency in this one. Prediction: Win

Week 16: at San Francisco 49ers

You can't discount how San Diego's defense handled San Francisco's offense in the preseason matchup between these two teams. But Jim Harbaugh should have his team playing much better by December. Prediction: Loss

Week 17: at Kansas City Chiefs

For a second straight season, the Chargers finish against the Chiefs, but this time on the road. Since 2004, San Diego is 6-4 at Kansas City. Prediction: Win

Predicted Record: 10-6

Kansas City Chiefs game predictions

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
video Kansas City Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.

Week 1: Tennessee Titans

Although it's ridiculous to label any season opener a must win, this is probably as close as it gets. The Chiefs face a minefield over the next five games, so they need to take care of business in this one. Prediction: Win

Week 2: at Denver Broncos

The Chiefs haven't beaten the Broncos since Denver was quarterbacked by Tim Tebow. They are 0-4 against Peyton Manning's Broncos, and this doesn't look like the game in which they will bust through. Prediction: Loss

Week 3: at Miami Dolphins

It's not unreasonable to suggest the Chiefs' ability to stay in the playoff hunt hinges on this game. They could get buried if they lose to the Dolphins. Prediction: Win

Week 4: New England Patriots

This would be only the third game Tom Brady has played at Arrowhead Stadium. The joint will be jumping for this Monday night matchup. Prediction: Loss

Week 5: at San Francisco 49ers

A taxing stretch of schedule, a short week and travel to the West Coast are too much for the Chiefs to overcome. Alex Smith will play well but not well enough to beat his former team. Prediction: Loss

Week 7: at San Diego Chargers

The Chiefs are due for a win in San Diego. They haven't brought one home from Qualcomm Stadium since 2007 -- until now. Prediction: Win

Week 8: St. Louis Rams

The Chiefs have won all five of their games against the Rams since the Rams moved to St. Louis. They will continue to own the state of Missouri. Prediction: Win

Week 9: New York Jets

If the Chiefs' schedule has a flat stretch, the Jets are right in the middle of it. It's hard to see them having meaningful games down the stretch if they don't win this one -- but they will. Prediction: Win

Week 10: at Buffalo Bills

Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium had been a haunted house for the Chiefs until they busted through with a victory there this past year. But they won't be able to sustain the momentum. Prediction: Loss

Week 11: Seattle Seahawks

The Chiefs will put up a strong fight in front of a raucous home crowd. But they won't have quite enough to beat the defending Super Bowl champions. Prediction: Loss

Week 12: at Oakland Raiders

Another tough West Coast assignment for the Chiefs, again on a short week. But this time they rise to the challenge. Prediction: Win

Week 13: Denver Broncos

The Broncos can't be looking forward to coming to Arrowhead for a Sunday night game. Again, the Chiefs will make things difficult for one of last year's Super Bowl participants, but they won't quite pull off the victory. Prediction: Loss

Week 14: at Arizona Cardinals

The Chiefs' playoff hopes take a fatal hit in the desert. This loss guarantees the Chiefs won't be making a repeat trip here for the Super Bowl. Prediction: Loss

Week 15: Oakland Raiders

The Chiefs take out their frustrations on the Raiders. In the process, they will get a second straight season sweep of their longtime rivals. Prediction: Win

Week 16: at Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh has been another place where the Chiefs have traditionally found it difficult to win. This game extends a losing streak that goes back to 1986. Prediction: Loss

Week 17: San Diego Chargers

The Chiefs haven't swept a season series from the Chargers since 2003. They get the job done this time against an opponent that will make the playoffs. Prediction: Win

Predicted Record: 8-8

Denver Broncos game predictions

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
video Denver Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.

Week 1: Indianapolis Colts

The Broncos have opened at home, in prime time, the previous two seasons and scored 31 and 49 points, respectively. In last year's opener, quarterback Peyton Manning threw seven touchdown passes and this year's offense is primed for another big year. Prediction: Win

Week 2: Kansas City Chiefs

Personnel executives around the league said throughout the preseason the Chiefs have some unresolved issues in the secondary and that's not a good place to have unresolved issues against the Broncos. Manning threw six touchdowns in two meetings against the Chiefs in '13. Prediction: Win

Week 3: at Seattle Seahawks

For months the Broncos have listened to and, no matter what they've said publicly, heard every word of criticism they were too soft, too intimidated to handle the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. A potential early-season classic. Prediction: Win

Week 5: Arizona Cardinals

The Broncos will be just a quarter of the way through the season and they will already be two games into their NFC West trek. The Cardinals were a 10-win team in '13 that didn't make the playoffs, but their defense will sorely miss the injured Darnell Dockett. Prediction: Win

Week 6: at New York Jets

The Broncos didn't like much of what happened the last time they played in MetLife Stadium and Rex Ryan will have some defensive surprises waiting. But if the Broncos beat their body clocks in this one -- kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. MT -- they'll get another win. Prediction: Win

Week 7: San Francisco 49ers

The Broncos haven't made it through a home schedule undefeated since an 8-0 run in 2005. The teams that will offer the biggest tests will be the teams that can pound the ball on offense and pressure Manning with a four-man rush. The 49ers can do both. Prediction: Loss

Week 8: San Diego Chargers

These two teams took decidedly different approaches in the offseason. The Broncos were active in the free-agency market, showering contracts on several new arrivals, whereas the Chargers took a far more measured approach. San Diego will see the new guys have made a difference. Prediction: Win

Week 9: at New England Patriots

Since the start of the 2006 season the Broncos have played five games in Gillette Stadium, including a playoff game to close out the 2011 season to go with the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons. Prediction: Loss

Week 10: at Oakland Raiders

In the past five meetings with the Raiders, the Broncos have scored 34, 37, 26, 37 and 38 points. There is no reason to believe the Broncos won't add another 30-something output to the pile. Prediction: Win

Week 11: at St. Louis Rams

From a personnel standpoint the Rams, with quarterback Sam Bradford out for the season, aren't quite ready for prime time all the time just yet. But at some point, an early Week 4 bye and a stretch of six road games in eight weeks will kick in for the Broncos and they will lose one they shouldn't. Prediction: Loss

Week 12: Miami Dolphins

It will be the Dolphins' first trip to Denver since 2008 -- Mike Shanahan's final season as coach. Miami, in a bit of a roster makeover, will find things have changed. Prediction: Win

Week 13: at Kansas City Chiefs

Last season the Broncos scored a single-season record 606 points and still couldn't run the table in their AFC West games, losing to the Chargers in Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Trouble spots this time around figure to be this game or the one in San Diego two weeks later. Prediction: Win

Week 14: Buffalo Bills

From all of the offensive struggles the Bills had in the preseason, things figure to be more than a little frayed by the time they get to this point in the season. The Broncos will be pointing toward postseason seeding. Prediction: Win

Week 15: at San Diego Chargers

No matter the time of the year, no matter the rosters on either side, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has usually played well against the Broncos and put the Chargers in position to win the game. But this is the point of the schedule when the Broncos' new look on defense needs to look playoff ready.
Prediction: Win

Week 16: at Cincinnati Bengals

Finally, right here, the Broncos conclude the long, difficult trek through the road games that dominate the second half of their schedule. The Bengals, if still healthy on defense by this point, can rush the passer in the middle of the field and can create matchup problems on offense. Prediction: Loss

Week 17: Oakland Raiders

The Broncos nailed down home-field advantage with a win over the Raiders to close out the 2013 season. If all goes well for the Broncos, and a potential loss in New England would sting too badly, they should be in position to do that again in this one. Prediction: Win

Predicted Record: 12-4

Oakland Raiders game predictions

September, 2, 2014
Sep 2
AM ET Oakland Raiders reporter Bill Williamson makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.

Week 1: at New York Jets

The Raiders traditionally don't play well on the East Coast. Plus, Rex Ryan's team will be tough to score on. I see a low-scoring defeat. Prediction: Loss

Week 2: Houston Texans

I think the Raiders slug out a win here. Houston has a tough defense, but I think the Raiders defense comes up big and they win a similarly low-scoring game. Houston will be questioned for passing on quarterback Derek Carr. Prediction: Win

Week 3: at New England Patriots

This, on paper, is one of the Raiders' toughest tasks and I think it will play out that way. Tom Brady is just too tough to beat at home. Prediction: Loss

Week 4: Miami Dolphins

I think the Raiders are going to rise up to being the home team in London. The Dolphins have given the Raiders trouble, but I think the Raiders win in England. Prediction: Win

Week 6: San Diego Chargers

The Raiders have had success against the Chargers at home, and while the Chargers are improved, I like this matchup for the Raiders on both lines. Prediction: Win

Week 7: Arizona Cardinals

Raider Nation will want to see Carson Palmer fail in Oakland -- they've seen it plenty of times. But I think the Cardinals are too tough on defense for the Raiders in a critical midseason game. Prediction: Loss

Week 8: at Cleveland Browns

Maybe the Raiders will be facing Johnny Football or maybe not. Either way, I think the Browns will be a mess and the Raiders will win a rare game in the Eastern Time Zone. Prediction: Win

Week 9: at Seattle Seahawks

This is where the season toughens -- in a big way. An Oakland win in Seattle would be one of the upsets of the season. Don't see it. Prediction: Loss

Week 10: Denver Broncos

Here's another tough task. Peyton Manning will be just too much -- as usual. Prediction: Loss

Week 11: at San Diego Chargers

While I like the Oakland matchup against the Chargers, I think San Diego will find its stride and win a pivotal game. Prediction: Loss

Week 12: Kansas City Chiefs

I think the Chiefs will be up and down this season. This will be a down week. Prediction: Win

Week 13: at St. Louis Rams

The Rams are good and they may be playing for something at home. Tough spot for the Raiders. Prediction: Loss

Week 14: San Francisco 49ers

This will be a Super Bowl atmosphere for Raider Nation. But the 49ers will be hitting their stride in December. Prediction: Loss

Week 15: at Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs were down in Oakland and I think they will be up at home as they try to keep their wild-card hopes alive. Prediction: Loss

Week 16: Buffalo Bills

I'm not sure either team will be playing for much, but I think the Raiders give the home crowd a good showing to say goodbye to the season. Prediction: Win

Week 17: at Denver Broncos

Let's just say the Broncos will need to win this game. I don't like the Raiders' chances in that scenario. Prediction: Loss

Predicted Record: 6-10

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- It appears the Oakland Raiders will have two rookies starting on offense when they open the season at the New York Jets on Sunday.

Oakland coach Dennis Allen said that Khalif Barnes remains at right tackle and third-round pick Gabe Jackson will replace him at left guard Sunday as Menelik Watson continues to work his way through a hip issue. This is the same lineup the Raiders had in their last preseason game.

Jackson, out of Mississippi State, has been commended for his power in the preseason by the coaching staff. The Raiders, who kept their entire eight-man draft class, are poised to have Derek Carr, Jackson and the No. 5 overall pick, linebacker Khalil Mack, in the starting lineup in Week 1.

“I think that’s a testament to our scouting department and what (general manager) Reggie [McKenzie] has been able to do in the offseason,” Oakland coach Dennis Allen said. “Throw ‘Jelly’ [defensive tackle Justin Ellis] in that mix too -- [he] is a guy that we feel like is going to have an opportunity to really contribute, and guys like TJ Carrie. So there are a lot of young guys.”

In other Raiders notes:
  • As expected, tight end David Ausberry is back to practice after being out for several weeks. He is the team’s No. 2 tight end. Tight end might be the Raiders’ thinnest spot, so Auberry has a big role.
  • Linebacker Sio Moore seemed more active in practice Monday than he was last Tuesday. He suffered a neck strain at Green Bay on Aug. 22.
  • Linebacker Nick Roach suffered a concussion in the Packers’ game and is still not practicing. He has to be cleared before playing Sunday.
  • Cornerbacks Chimdi Chewka and Taiwan Jones are still not practicing. They have been dealing with lingering issues.
  • Former Oakland defensive back Chance Casey signed to the 49ers’ practice squad.
  • Kaelin Burnett cleared waivers and was placed on the injured reserve.
  • Defensive end LaMarr Woodley has switched his number from 57 to 58.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- This is the second consecutive Labor Day that the Oakland Raiders have replaced a starting quarterback with a youngster.

The Raiders hope their decision to make rookie Derek Carr the starter -- the team's first rookie quarterback to start a season and the 18th starter since Rich Gannon left nearly 10 years ago -- ends the quarterback turnstile in Oakland.

While the process hasn't been smooth, I think the decision to go with Carr, a smart, polished second-round pick from Fresno State, is the right one.

The Raiders are a rebuilding team. Matt Schaub, even at his very best, would be a short-term solution. The Raiders are not going to take the next step as an organization until they find stability at quarterback. Nothing builds a winner like a quality young quarterback. The Raiders have to see what they have in Carr, the first quarterback from this NFL draft class to be named the starter.

There are no guarantees it will work, but we won't find out until he plays.

There were glimpses of brilliance from Carr in the preseason finale against Seattle when he completed 11 of 13 passes for three touchdowns, including two one-play touchdown drives. Yes, it was the preseason, but what sticks out was how comfortable Carr was and how energized the entire unit was because of Carr.

“The game is not too big for him,” Oakland right tackle Khalif Barnes said. “He is smart beyond his years. The kid has it.”

Those are tremendous skills a young quarterback can possess. Carr has a chance to be special. Again, nothing is for sure, but the Raiders have to see what he has.

They know what Schaub has --not much. He is just a fringe guy. So like last year when the Raiders replaced Matt Flynn with Terrelle Pryor, the Raiders are giving up on a player whom they invested in. The Raiders gave Houston a sixth-round pick for Schaub and are paying him $8 million. The cost is a bigger deal than the trade compensation.

But no one is going to worry about Schaub's effect on the salary cap if Carr is an instant hit. It will mean the Raiders will finally have their answer at quarterback. That will be all that matters.
Cairo Santos learned the rules of football by watching "Madden" on his Xbox. He went undrafted in May, is so youthful that he looks closer to 14 than 22, and on Sunday, he will replace the most accurate kicker in Kansas City history when the Kansas City Chiefs open the season against Tennessee.

When Santos made the team this past weekend, his holder, Dustin Colquitt, figured those were the least of their concerns.

"The biggest thing I was worried about," Colquitt said, "was trying to find a jersey and helmet that could fit him.

"Kyle (Crumbaugh, the Chiefs' assistant equipment manager) did a great job getting that thing hemmed up, and he’s going to look tight on game day."

When the microphone was lowered to accommodate his 5-foot-8, 175-pound body during a post-practice interview session Monday, Santos played along. "Got a stool?" he cracked. Santos is so excited to make the 53-man roster that he doesn’t care what anyone calls him.

He beat out five-year veteran Ryan Succop for the job after a heated training-camp competition in which both were perfect, nailing each of their field goal and extra-point attempts in the preseason. Chiefs coach Andy Reid said the competition was so close that Santos just beat Succop "by a hair." But Santos has the stronger leg, and is considerably cheaper, as Succop was to make $2 million this season, and Santos will earn $422,000.

So the rookie apparently becomes the first Brazilian-born player to crack an NFL active roster, at least that is what he believes. (Brazilian Damian Vaughn was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1998 but doesn’t appear to have played in a game). Santos said his hometown of Sao Paulo was "freaking out" over the news of him making the roster.

He took a long road to Kansas City. He came to the United States in high school as a foreign exchange student, and didn’t know anything about football when he arrived in St. Augustine, Florida. That is where Madden came in, and he studied kickers such as Mason Crosby and Mike Nugent. Santos was wide-eyed when he played against both of them in the preseason.

But he has yet to be intimidated. The 2012 Lou Groza winner from Tulane drilled a 44-yarder in a preseason game at Carolina, and Colquitt has marveled over the hang time on his kickoffs.

This isn’t Reid’s first time gambling with a rookie kicker. In 2011 in Philadelphia, he made rookie Alex Henery his starter, and Henery went on to set an NFL record for accuracy as a rookie. Henery was also part of the weekend purge of kickers.

For the Chiefs, saying goodbye to Succop was emotional. He had worked with Colquitt for five years, and they had become extremely tight. Their wives were good friends. Santos also developed a strong bond with the veteran. He said Succop mentored him, teaching him how to read the wind at Arrowhead Stadium, knowing that if Santos succeeded, it could very well cost him his job.

"Not only is he a great dude," Santos said. "I feel like I became close friends with him. Having that great friendship here kind of made the process easy."

Both Santos and Colquitt were confident Succop would land on his feet, and by Monday afternoon, Succop appeared to find a home. With Tennessee, the Chiefs' opponent on Sunday.
SAN DIEGO -- In need of depth along the defensive line, the San Diego Chargers announced the signing of defensive tackle Ricardo Mathews on Monday.

At 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, Mathews was among the final roster cuts for the Houston Texans.

Mathews was a seventh-round selection by the Indianapolis Colts when Telesco worked in that team’s personnel department in 2010, and spent his first four seasons in the NFL in Indianapolis.

Although Telesco has some familiarity with Mathews, he said the team brought Mathews in because the athletic defensive lineman is a movement guy who can play all of the interior defensive line positions.

Mathews also has some scheme familiarity from playing for Chuck Pagano’s defensive in Indianapolis, the older brother of Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano. Mathews replaces running back Marion Grice on the 53-man roster. Grice was waived by San Diego on Monday.

The Chargers now have seven defensive linemen on the active roster -- Corey Liuget, Kendell Reyes, Sean Lissemore, Lawrence Guy, Ryan Carrethers, Tenny Palepoi and Mathews.

Telesco said the Chargers made a tough decision in letting Grice go, but ultimately the team would like to bring him back on the practice squad. The Chargers have an open spot on the practice squad, should Grice clear waivers.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Alex Smith tried to put up a brave front as the summer dragged along without a contract extension with the Kansas City Chiefs. Smith steadfastly maintained he was focused on preparing for the upcoming season and not on the negotiations.

Smith did an admirable sales job there, but still nobody believed him. And on Monday, less than 24 hours after putting his name on a four-year contract extension, Smith acknowledged his unsettled long-term situation had, in his word, “clutter’’ on his mind.

"I was really hoping it would get done before [the season],’’ Smith said. "I didn’t want to go into the regular season with that. As much as you don’t think about those types of things consciously, subconsciously you can’t help it. It sits in the back of your head that you’re playing for a contract. Sometimes it can be just an added distraction.’’

So it isn’t just a good move on the part of the Chiefs to lock up their quarterback for another four seasons after the end of this one. The timing works well, too.

Smith is getting paid well enough this year at $8 million to overlook any hassles he might have with his team over contract negotiations. Yet Smith made some uncharacteristic plays in his most recent preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, forcing two passes in the red zone, each winding up as an interception.

Maybe his contract situation was weighing on him there. Maybe he was just having a bad day. But if the Chiefs have put his mind at ease and he can be a better player for it this season, so much the better.

"It’s nice that it was a two-way street,’’ Smith said. "I wanted to be here and to have that reciprocated and to put it on paper ... it’s great.

"That kind of clutter is gone from your head and you can focus in and get ready for this week 1.’’