1. McFadden's health is key: Running back Darren McFadden is Oakland's best offensive player. The No. 4 overall pick in 2008 had a spectacular third NFL season. He developed into an inside threat as well as an outside threat. He will be a main reason Oakland has a chance to win a lot of games this season. But he has to stay healthy. The Raiders have a strong backup tailback in Michael Bush, but McFadden gives Oakland's offense a special dimension when he's on the field. If there is a ding on McFadden it is his durability. He has missed 10 games in three NFL seasons. He missed a large chunk of training camp this year with a broken orbital bone.
2. Boss will get his chances: Kevin Boss is not the player that former Oakland tight end Zach Miller is. Miller signed with Seattle this offseason. But Boss is a solid player who will get his chances to be featured in Oakland's offense. Jason Campbell loved throwing to tight end Chris Cooley in Washington and Miller was, by far, his favorite target last season. Expect Boss, who has 119 career catches in four NFL seasons, to get a chance to grab 45 to 50 catches this season.
3. Need to start fast: The bad news for Oakland is that its first two games are on the road. The good news is the roadies are at Denver (on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" on Sept. 12) and at Buffalo. The Raiders have a chance to start 2-0. They will need to. Their next two games are at home, but they are against the New York Jets and New England. If the Raiders stumble at Denver or Buffalo, they will put themselves in a tough spot.
4. Watch out for the D-line: The Raiders' defensive front has a chance to be among the best in the NFL. The group of Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston can be special. Seymour is still playing at an elite level. Kelly is a run-stuffer who had a great season in 2010, and Houston and Shaughnessy are potential future Pro Bowl players. This is a mean, nasty group that should set the tone for a lot of victories for Oakland.
5. Don't forget about Ford: Jacoby Ford may have missed much of the preseason with a broken hand, but don't think he won't be ready to contribute this season. The 2010 fourth-round sensation should be ready to play Denver. Expect him to be a lightning rod for this offense. Ford will be a slot receiver, at the very least, and he could start. And don't forget his return ability. He took three kickoffs to the house as a rookie.