Second-year head coach Steve Spagnuolo has the St. Louis Rams on the right path. With Sam Bradford the highest paid rookie quarterback ever leading the way.
The team formerly from Los Angeles takes on the other team formerly from Los Angeles on Sunday, with more than just a win on the line.
Both teams had offseasons of hope. The Rams selecting its quarterback of the future, the Raiders cutting its quarterback once thought to be of the future. Both teams have new quarterbacks desperate for their first win.
One of these teams will go into week three with a 0-2 record; the other with 1-1.
If the Raiders lose this game, Tom Cable’s seat is going to heat up dramatically.
This game couldn’t look better for the Raiders to earn their first win. The Rams have a rookie quarterback making his first road start and are 6-43 since the start of 2007. Three years of futility even the Raiders can’t match and the Raiders are coming off a disappointing loss in Tennessee, so they aren’t likely to look past a weaker opponent.
The schedule makers handed the Raiders a win. All they must do is reach out and take it.
How do rookie quarterbacks fair in their first road starts?
16 for 27
QB rating: 27.4
Result: 27-45 loss
18 for 31
QB rating: 84.3
Result: 24-7 win
16 for 28
1 lost fumble
QB rating: 75.9
Result: 23-25 Loss
21 for 33
1 lost fumble
QB rating: 51.1
Result: 6-29 Loss
A word of caution. Mark Sanchez came into Oakland as a rookie in 2009, completed 9 of 16 passes, had 1 touchdown passing and 1 rushing. He left the game early with a 107.0 QB rating, ate a few hot dogs and the Jets finished off the Raiders, 0-38. One of the worst home losses in Raiders history.
If it wasn’t for solid play from Darren McFadden the offense would have been a total disaster.
The offensive line is again under the microscope and this time will be missing the best of the bunch. Robert Gallery is listed as doubtful due to a hamstring injury. Daniel Loper will fill in for Gallery along the offensive line.
Jared Veldheer’s status as a surprise starter at center is in jeopardy. The Raiders did not announce the starter and it could be Veldheer or 2009 starter Samson Satele.
The Rams have speed off the edge with Chris Long matching up with the bigger slower Langston Walker and this defense was able to force four turnovers against Arizona in week one. Look for Erik Pears to enter the game if Walker struggles.
OJ Atogwe, James Laurinaitis and Chris Long are major players the Raiders must be concerned with, but the Rams otherwise lack impact players. One player flying under the radar is defensive tackle Fred Robbins, who could give the Raiders problems up front. Especially is Cooper Carlisle continues regress.
The Rams defense is improving, but if the Raiders can give Jason Campbell enough time, he should be able to easily pick apart the Rams poor secondary.
Michael Bush is questionable with a thumb injury and the Raiders may decide to hold him out another week or two if McFadden can continue to produce like he did in Tennessee. One factor that could come into play is McFadden’s suspect ball security with the potential for rain during the game.
Darrius Heyward-Bey was targeted only a couple of times last week. He made a tough catch on the only pass that made it to him. Look for Heyward-Bey to get involved early in the passing game with a few early designed plays.
Matchup to watch: Langston Walker vs Chris Long
The Raiders defense improved at stopping the run, but ended up not having much to show for it.
Thanks to the mistakes by rookie Rolando McClain and Tyvon Branch, 91 yards and 2 touchdowns went against the total allowed. Otherwise it would have been a good day for the Raiders rush defense.
Steven Jackson is the next back to challenge the Raiders run defense, but will do so on a sore knee. He is listed at probable. The Raiders don’t have the blazing speed of Chris Johnson to worry about, instead it is the Jackson’s ability to bust arm tackles and pancake cornerbacks.
This test may be taken without Richard Seymour. The best Raiders defensive player last week is listed as questionable due to a hamstring injury. A huge blow, but thankfully veteran run-stopper John Henderson will step into the starter role.
Unfortunately, the Raiders pass rush wasn’t up the level the Raiders are typically accustomed in week one. Perhaps the defense had to respect the running ability of Chris Johnson and the scrambling ability of Vince Young, but the Raiders never were able to bring consistent pressure in Tennessee.
Sam Bradford wasn’t really pressured last week at home against Arizona. The Rams were cutting the field in half for Bradford by rolling him out of the pocket. This bought Bradford extra time to make simple reads or check it down.
Extra time for Bradford means the Raiders coverage units can’t let players get loose deep in the secondary and they can’t afford to bite on play action. Tyvon Branch was twice victimized by the play action last week to the tune of 14 points. He must not only do better this week, but come up with a few big plays for redemption.
Matchup to watch: Rolando McClain vs Steven Jackson.
The Raiders were much better covering kicks in Tennessee than during the preseason, but a troubling new hiccup emerged in Sebastian Janikowski’s kicking accuracy.
Janikowksi appears to have been a little shaky kicking the ball in the season opener. He will now have to compete with a 60% chance of rain and a dirt infield on Sunday.
The Rams have nice return men in Mardy Gilyard and Danny Amendola and the Raiders will have to keep them contained and the Rams backed up in their own territory.
The Raiders waived Yamon Figurs after a one week experiment. Rookie Jacoby Ford will return kicks and Johnnie Lee Higgins punts. Both men have what is takes to do the job and the Raiders even cited Jacoby Ford’s emergence as reason enough to cut the fumble-prone Figurs. With a wet one possible, the return men need to secure the ball.
Matchup to watch: Kickers vs the elements.
Winds: 9 mph out of the west
Cloud Cover: 84%
Chance of Precipitation: 60%