AFC West: Eliot Wolf

If the No. 4 seed Denver Broncos beat visiting No. 5 seed Pittsburgh in a wild-card game Sunday, the Broncos will travel to No. 1 seed New England next Saturday. That potential matchup was set when No. 3 seed Houston beat No. 6 seed Cincinnati on Saturday.

Pittsburgh is a heavy favorite to beat Denver, which has lost three straight games. New England won in Week 15 in Denver, 41-23, in a game the Patriots came back from a nine-point deficit because Denver committed three fumbles in its territory in the second quarter.

In other AFC West news:

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Eliot Wolf will stay with the Packers. There was talk that Wolf could join new Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie in Oakland. Here’s another name to keep in mind if McKenzie fires Hue Jackson to hire his own coach: Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who could join Green Bay assistant Winston Moss as a candidate in Oakland if McKenzie makes that move. Philbin has interviewed with Kansas City and Miami.

With Romeo Crennel expected to become the permanent coach in Kansas City, NFL.com reports the Chiefs want to bring in a premier offensive coordinator to pair with the defensive-minded Crennel.
It’s not official, but it appears Green Bay executive Reggie McKenzie will be hired as the new general manager of the Oakland Raiders. McKenzie is the first new decision maker in Oakland after the October death of owner Al Davis.

UDPATE: As expected, the Raiders confirmed the hire. There will be a press conference Tuesday.

Here are some initial thoughts:
  • It’s no surprise. McKenzie emerged as the leading candidate shortly after Davis’ death. He clearly impressed the Raiders in his Wednesday interview. While they were expected to look at several other candidates, it was McKenzie all the way.
  • What about Hue Jackson? ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that how much power McKenzie will have will be determined. But remember McKenzie was in a good situation in Green Bay and he would have had other opportunities in the future. He would have likely taken this only if the Raiders gave him significant say in the organization.
  • Where will it leave Jackson? He had been the primary decision maker since October and there have been whispers that perhaps a new general manager would want to bring in his own coach. The fact that the Raiders moved quickly to hire McKenzie may stoke that talk. Will Jackson be replaced? The odds are against it, but crazier things have happened.
  • McKenzie has Raider blood. He was a Raider linebacker from 1985-1988. Davis selected him in the 10th round of the draft nearly 27 years ago. Davis never knew he was choosing his replacement.
  • Former Davis associates Ron Wolf and Ken Herock have some influence with Mark Davis. Herock and Wolf recommended McKenzie to Davis and they were clearly listened to.
  • Are the Raiders going to become Green Bay West? It’s not the worst thing that could happen to the franchise. There has been talk that McKenzie could bring the Ron Wolf's son, Eliot, with him.
  • Does this mean Darren Perry and Winston Moss, two Green Bay assistants, could be in the mix? They were mentioned as head coaching candidates last year. Maybe one of them emerges as a defensive coordinator candidate or as a head coach if a change is made. Green Bay’s key free agents are tight end Jermichael Finley, running back Ryan Grant and quarterback Matt Flynn. None of those players fill an immediate need for the Raiders.
  • When will he be able to start the job? Under league rules, McKenzie can’t be hired until after the Packers’ season. That may not be until February. However, the Packers can let McKenzie move on. I bet they will. He has been a good soldier and it’s not like they need him for next week’s game plan.

I’ve known McKenzie for several years. He is a friendly, quiet and laid back guy. Don’t expect him to be a swash buckler. He is a football man who will put in his work. He will not a be a headlines maker and he won’t make moves just to make moves. He will bring stability to the franchise and will do what it takes to improve the team.

Raiders regular-season wrap-up

January, 4, 2012
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NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 17
Preseason Power Ranking: 22

[+] EnlargeOakland's Denarius Moore
Kirby Lee/US PRESSWIREThe athleticism of Denarius Moore is a big reason why hopes will be high for Oakland's offense next season.
Biggest surprise: The Raiders’ young receivers emerged. The group is a bright spot of the team and will be a strong building block for the future. Quarterback Carson Palmer, 32, may have his flaws, but he still has a big arm and the Raiders can make some plays in the passing game. Darrius Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 overall pick in 2009, is one of the most improved players in the NFL. He had 64 catches for 975 yards this season. He had 35 catches in his first 26 NFL games. Add fabulous rookie Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy, and this is one of the best young receiving crews in the league.

Biggest disappointment: Poor defensive play. The Raiders have one of the more perplexing defenses in the NFL. The unit has plenty of talent, but they didn’t play well together. Oakland gave up way too many big plays on defense. It ranked near the bottom of the league in several defensive statistics and faltered down the stretch, including Sunday in a home loss to San Diego in a game in which the Raiders could have clinched the division title. It will not be a shock if defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan is sent packing. Oakland also could consider becoming a 3-4 defense.

Biggest need: There is a lot of talent on this team. There are areas where improvement is needed, including cornerback, linebacker and on the offensive line. I’d say a top cornerback would be the Raiders’ biggest need, although safety Michael Huff is reportedly moving to cornerback. They missed Nnamdi Asomugha, who signed with Philadelphia as a free agent. Stanford Routt is a nice player, but he’s not a top-flight No. 1 cornerback. If Huff does move, safety becomes a big need. The Raiders will likely have to address most of their needs through free agency, since they don’t have many draft picks.

Team MVP: Kicker Sebastian Janikowski. There were some nice performances by many Raiders this season, but Janikowski was dominant. He has the strongest leg in the league and he has become deadly accurate. He is a true weapon. Janikowski tied an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal in Week 1. He made 31 of 35 field goal attempts and made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 12-year career.

What will the future leadership look like?: Much of the offseason will be dedicated to regrouping the front office after the death of owner Al Davis. He died at the age of 82 on Oct. 8. Now that the season is over, Oakland can move on. There have been plenty of reports linking the Raiders to general manager candidates, including Reggie McKenzie and Eliot Wolf of Green Bay. Sunday, in an angry postgame press conference, Oakland coach Hue Jackson vowed to take a bigger role in the organization. That could turn off potential general managers. Jackson is expected to have his share of power, but some of the top front-office candidates may not be interested in sharing power with a young coach.

Early AFC West notes

January, 1, 2012
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NFL.com floats the name of Elliot Wolf as a possible candidate for the Oakland general manager job. Wolf is the son of former Green Bay and Oakland executive Ron Wolf. Also, Elliot Wolf works in Green Bay with another top Oakland candidate, Reggie McKenzie, a former Raiders linebacker. Expect the Raiders to begin the process of adding an executive after the season. That has been the plan since the Oct. 8 death of owner Al Davis.

The Chiefs put running back Jackie Battle on injured reserve and added Shaun Draughn from the practice squad. He is from North Carolina.

Norv Turner has the support of his players going into Sunday’s season finale at Oakland. Still, don’t expect the support to sway ownership. Turner is expected to be fired after the Chargers have failed to go to the playoffs for the past two seasons.

Perhaps a chain of events will prevent former Denver coach Josh McDaniels from being the offensive coordinator in Kansas City.

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