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Rookie linebacker Rolando McClain will have to play like a savvy veteran if the Raiders defense is to improve. (Dean Coppola/Staff)

A glance at the schedule shows a football bakery, with enough Sunday cupcakes for the Raiders to get fat and happy.

A look at Jason Campbell reveals the Oakland offense has a legitimate NFL quarterback.

To consider the preseason highlights of the defense is to come away hopeful that opposing quarterbacks are in trouble.

Hearts are light this week among citizens of the Raider Nation. With a new season approaching, there is a sense of optimism and even a measure of faith. Those Raiders fans who have remained through seven dog years really want to believe their loyalty awaits reward.

And it might.

Oakland has a chance for a special season. It's a fraction of a chance, yes, but a chance nonetheless. The NFL is not what it used to be, and the AFC West, for crying out loud, is a ghost of what it once was.

And the Raiders have had their faces and spirits lifted. Campbell is a better passer, a better runner and a vastly superior leader to the departed JaMarcus Russell. With the right coaching and supporting cast, Campbell can be a 10-win quarterback.

That's only if he thrives as a passer and if the wide receivers climb from the bottom of the NFL pile to the middle of the pack and if the running backs, particularly Darren McFadden, are productive and the mediocre offensive line overachieves. Campbell and the Raiders need, above all, new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to be an impact coach.

Beyond that, Oakland needs its run defense to show dramatic improvement and its pass rush to get its hands on opponents. It needs rookie linebacker Rolando McClain to play like a veteran and defensive coaches who can take advantage of the creative opportunities afforded by the presence of Nnamdi Asomugha at cornerback.

Get all that and the Raiders could manage their first 10-win season since 2002.

Is all that possible? Yes. Is it realistic? No. It's not likely each of these factors will be optimized. But as long as Oakland is 0-0, as it is today, it has a chance. Until the Raiders take a seventh loss, 10-6 is not impossible.

Truth being the spoiler of many dreams, there are so many more scenarios under which the Raiders fail to reach the 10-win level. Indeed, a 10-loss season is more likely.

That's because Campbell has to stay healthy behind a line featuring Mario "QB Killa" Henderson at left tackle. Bruce Gradkowski is a terrific backup by NFL standards, but Campbell was acquired to be the horse. And he's behind an ordinary line.

It's not unfair to suggest that head coach Tom Cable, an accomplished O-line coach, can help save his job by tapping into his area of expertise.

But even that might not be enough to save the offense. The Raiders lack a legitimate No. 1 wideout. Michael Bush, the team's best running back, enters the season with his left hand in a wrap. McFadden is proving to be better suited for a utility role (think Reggie Bush or Steve Slaton) than that of a high-volume ball-carrier.

Even if Campbell is solid and tight end Zach Miller stays consistent, there is no indication this offense will light up scoreboards. The QB Problem was addressed, but there was little appreciable change beyond that.

In a league where scoring is everything, this is your red flag.

So it's up to the defense, which underwent a much more significant makeover, to keep this team from another losing season. It's up to veterans such as Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly and Asomugha, new acquisitions such as Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves, as well as rookies Lamarr Houston and McClain.

However, kids, this is a process. Let's face it. This team has spent the better part of a decade being irrational and irresponsible, yakking about winning while sabotaging itself. We saw conflict between team and coach (roster vs. Bill Callahan), player and organization (Randy Moss vs. Raiders culture), coach and executive (Art Shell vs. Mike Lombardi) and owner and coach (Al Davis vs. Lane Kiffin).

The Raiders were using the piñata approach, blindfolding themselves, grabbing sticks and swinging. That's how a once-prosperous franchise loses three of every four games -- for seven years -- and winds up with empty slogans and empty seats.

It appears the Raiders have removed the blindfold. Their vision seems clear. They're swinging with a more visible purpose.

Now that the fan base feels the sweet encouragement of early September, let's see if this team can hit anything.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.