Two weeks ago headed into the game against Miami the Raiders were leading the AFC West and coming off three straight victories. Two weeks later the season is on the line. Thanks to Timothy Tebow in Denver and two horrible losses in a row, the Raiders are in must-win mode. Unfortunately for the Raiders the opponent this week needs a win just as badly. The Lions look and play like a playoff team. The Raiders haven’t played like a playoff team in many weeks. What do the Raiders need to do to win? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
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When the Raiders have the ball:
The Lions are nearly as suspect against the run as the Raiders surrendering 5.1 yards per carry this season to the Raiders 5.2 and 5 yards less per game than the Raiders atrocious run defense. The Raiders will attempt to run on the Lions and keep Carson Palmer from hurting the Raiders with costly turnovers. The Lions secondary have proven themselves to be ball hawks and they will force Carson Palmer into a turnover if the Raiders can’t keep the Lions honest by running the ball.
Raiders OL vs. Lions DL
The Lions defensive line is much like the Raiders defensive line. It looks great on paper, but the production hasn’t matched the reputation. Khalif Barnes versus the Lions 9-sack defensive end Cliff Avril. If Barnes continues his streak of below average play Avril will harass Carson Palmer. If the Raiders intend to keep Palmer from making mistakes they need to keep the pressure out of his face. Jared Veldheer draws a match up against veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch and his 7 sacks. Vanden Bosch is the type of end that Veldheer has been struggling with. Vanden Bosch will combine power and a quick first step that Veldheer has been struggling to deal with. In the middle Cooper Carlisle draws a well rested Ndamukong Suh who served a two game suspension for stomping a Packers offensive lineman. That leaves Stefen Wisniewski and Samson Satele to block Corey Williams.
If the Raiders fall behind and the Lions are able to turn their defensive line loose on the Raiders offensive line things could get ugly. The Raiders offensive line needs to push around the Lions defensive front in the run game and get Michael Bush through cleanly and let him do his work the Lions linebackers and secondary.
Carson Palmer vs. Carson Palmer
Palmer needs to get back to basics. The Raiders are good enough and Palmer is good enough to score points when they aren’t turning the ball over. Palmer has made several inexplicable decisions over the past few weeks and has been making fundamental errors. IF Palmer can clean up his game and avoid making mistakes the Raiders should at least be able to stay in the game. Palmer will hope the Raiders ride Bush hard this week and that should open up things for Palmer in the passing game.
When the Lions have the ball:
Richard Seymour has disappeared from games for several weeks and it prompted a meeting with Hue Jackson this week. Expect Seymour to respond. The Raiders must pressure Matthew Stafford and force him to make mistakes. The Lions are a passing team, but become infinitely more potent offensively when Kevin Smith is slashing through defenses. The Lions have weapons all over the field. Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Titus Young and Brandon Pettigrew round out the group. The Raiders will need to pressure Stafford into mistakes, if he gets it into the hands of his playmakers the Raiders will be in trouble.
Richard Seymour vs. Stephen Peterman
The Raiders need big game from their defensive leader. Seymour ignites the rest of the defensive line and when he is getting pressure up the middle things up outside for Kamerion Wimbley. It’s a must for Seymour to physically dominate Peterman. The Lions offensive line is prone to giving up pressure and Peterman is the no exception.
Rolando McClain vs. Kevin Smith
Smith is a slasher that thrives on bouncing things outside and getting yards from draws and cutbacks. If Rolando McClain diagnoses plays quickly he can take the Lions rush out of the game. Stafford can catch fire if he has time and the rushing game will help his offensive line tremendously. The Raiders must limit Smith and McClain’s job is to make sure the Raiders have gap integrity, himself included.
Stanford Routt vs. Calvin Johnson
Routt has been playing relatively well. He’s limiting the opponents top receiving option and will need to do so again on Sunday. Forcing Stafford to consider his other option is a win for the Raiders defense and it will be on Routt to make sure Johnson isn’t getting into a groove with Stafford.
Raiders Win If…
1. Raiders give a total effort
2. Raiders protect the ball
3. Raiders force turnovers
4. Raiders stop the run
Raiders Lose If…
1. Raiders do not maintain gap integrity in the running game
2. Raiders turn the ball over more than once
3. Raiders fall behind early
4. Raiders commit more penalties than the Lions