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Thursday 23rd Mar 2017

I was informed--during yesterday's CBS broadcast of the Raiders/Steelers game--by Rich Gannon, that last year, Oakland beat the Steelers 34-31 on a last play field goal by Sebastian Janikowski in Week 3.

Now, as a self-confessed life long (since 1961, anyway) Raiders fan, and one who has truly, and as well documented, spent the bulk of time since 1983 in a self-imposed exile from the team, the hit and miss success of the Raiders since the days of Jim Plunkett have pretty much eluded me, aside from perhaps I checked out the game box at the end of the day's play last September.

However, as a Raider follower who still feels the pain of the immaculate reception, and after watching their last two weeks, first beating the Chargers, then losing to the Chiefs before their Week 7 bye, I was actually interested in watching the entire Raiders/Steelers game of yesterday.

That is because this year, for the first time in what seems to be a millenium, Oakland actually seems to have the makings of a team that may not only be good in the near future, but a bit beyond that.

I did feel secure enough in the team's emerging defense to grab them out of the free agent pool in the North American Internet Fantasy Football League, where my mainstay Bears were having the week off, and the "Men in Black" responded with a solid enough 15 points, helping my team win their fifth straight game in that competition. 

In fact, their performance was strong enough, that bearing in mind their softer schedule, I will probably keep them for at least a bit (starting them against Philadelphia next week seems to be a no-brianer).

So, as I settled in for the afternoon retinue of games, what I got to start was exciting QB Terrelle Pryor running for 93 yards and a score on the first play from scrimmage, setting both a Raider team record for runs from the line, as well as an NFL mark for such plays by a signal caller.

The Raiders dominated the Steelers over the first half, and while Pittsburgh did make a late charge with 15 unchallenged fourth quarter points (interestingly, on the way to their win last year, Oakland notched 13 unanswered points in the final period), the Raiders managed sacks and turnovers at the right time, exiting the O.co Coliseum with a win, and a chance to hit the half-way point of the season at 4-4, something of a miracle.

Most of all, unlike any Raiders team I paid marginal interest to over the past 30 years of dismal play, Oakland seems like a team, with a path forward, as opposed to a random set of parts based upon luck, voodoo, and Al Davis' once brilliant, now antiquated set of principles on how to assemble a team.

Now, I do understand that Oakland does indeed have a ways to go to really compete with the top teams in the NFL.

Pryor is undeniably talented, but he can use a little polish and experience. But, he is similarly exciting, and full of potential. 

The same can probably be said of Oakland's defense, and of course, as I have written before this season, the team can indeed use a healthy running back and a tight end.

But, aside from that, for the first time in eons and light years, I am looking forward to watching the Raiders next week, and through the rest of the season, as hopefully they are indeed on the verge of respectability and contention.

For, no matter what the franchise, there is little to me more fun than watching a team successfully rebuild. 

It is just even better, I find, when I am attached to the team.

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