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Friday, September 11, 2009
AFC West: Final Word

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson


Five nuggets of knowledge about this weekend’s games:

Raiders hope to be streak busters: The Oakland Raiders are taking on two major demons of their six years of misery. It’s well documented that the Raiders are 24-72 during the past six seasons (new Raider Richard Seymour won 77 games in that span with the Patriots), but there are some sidebars to add to the doldrums. Oakland has lost 11 straight games to the Chargers. The Raiders open the season Monday night at home against San Diego. That transitions to another Oakland issue of late. This will be Oakland’s third Monday night home game to start the season in four seasons. The Raiders have been beaten by a total of 68-14 in the two games, courtesy of the Chargers and Broncos.

 
 Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
 Denver's coaches are expecting Eddie Royal to have the same impact in Josh McDaniels' offense as Wes Welker did in New England.
Can the Chiefs keep the quarterback upright? Matt Cassel is going to try to play Sunday at Baltimore in his Kansas City debut despite suffering a sprained knee Aug. 29 in a preseason game. If he can't go, Brodie Croyle probably will play. The question is, can Kansas City’s offensive line keep whatever quarterback plays upright against the Ravens? This line is in shambles. The Ravens have a nasty defense, so this one may get ugly. If Cassel isn’t at his full mobility, he may be better served sitting and waiting to debut as a Chief at home in Week 2 against Oakland. If Croyle plays Sunday, he could be in trouble. He was injured twice last season and has proven to be very fragile. It could be a tough day for Kansas City’s quarterbacks Sunday.

Expect a more active Rivers: Monday night’s opener in Oakland will be an anniversary of sorts for Chargers star quarterback Philip Rivers. Rivers made his starting debut at Oakland in a Monday night game in 2006. The Chargers won, 27-0. Rivers was very efficient, but unspectacular on his maiden voyage. He completed 8 of 11 passes for 108 yards. Don’t expect the same shy Rivers Monday night. He will be spraying the ball around as the Chargers will try to jump on the Raiders.

Can Eddie be a Royal pain? Denver receiver Eddie Royal jumped into the national spotlight last season on opening night when he scorched Oakland cornerback DeAngelo Hall on "Monday Night Football." The second-round pick from Virginia Tech had nine catches for 146 yards in a Denver rout. The Broncos hope Royal, who had 91 catches last season, starts his second season with another big game. New Denver coach Josh McDaniels envisions Royal having the same type of impact that Wes Welker had for McDaniels in New England. So, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Royal has another big day.

Curtain opens for three coaches: This will be a big weekend for the AFC West after a busy and tumultuous offseason. Three coaches -- McDaniels, Todd Haley in Kansas City and Tom Cable in Oakland -- are making their permanent debuts with their new clubs. Cable was the interim coach last season. McDaniels and Haley come to the AFC West as hotshot offensive minds and Cable promises stability in Oakland. Will it work? Well, there have been plenty of bumps in the road (especially in Denver and Oakland) to start these coaches' careers, but it all starts counting this weekend as they begin to roam the sideline as the head coach.