Now that the Super Bowl is over, I look back on the Oakland Raiders season. I start with the special teams this week and my first post deals with this unit’s most valuable player.
The obvious choice is long snapper Jon Condo because we all remember what happened in Week 1 after he got hurt. However, I narrowed down the candidates to kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler. Both had excellent seasons, but there is one clear winner- Janikowski.
Lechler’s statistics were average for him in his career and did not match up favorably with other punters in the NFL. Janikowski had career-highs in multiple categories and hit some big kicks for the Raiders. He made more than 90 percent of his kicks for the first time in his career and was a perfect 25-for-25 from within 50 yards. He also had a career-high in touchbacks and a career-low in kicks returned.
However, the most important thing about Janikowski is the fact he singlehandedly won three of Oakland’s four games. It all started with the last second kick in Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the game 34-31. The 43-yard field goal gave the Raiders their first win and gave fans hope the season would not be so bad. Then came the 40-yard kick in overtime against the Jacksonville Jaguars to win Oakland’s second game. Finally, there was the debacle against the Kansas City Chiefs when Janikowski hit five field goals in a 15-0 win.
Janikowski is still one of the best kickers in this league and he proved it this season for a struggling team. When the Raiders needed him, Janikowski came up in the clutch and that is why he is the special teams’ MVP.