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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
Rolando McClain vs. Matt Forte
Before Cutler’s injury, Forte carried the Bears offense with nearly 1,400 yards from scrimmage. 926 of those yards come on the ground. With continued success and Cutler’s injury, Forte can be an MVP candidate. McClain needs to show leadership and consistent playmaking ability to limit Forte’s production. Stopping Chicago’s offense starts with containing Forte.
Tommy Kelly vs. Roberto Garza
With Seymour’s injury, Kelly becomes the Raiders best defensive tackle. Garza, the Bears’ center, anchors the Bears offensive line. The winner of this matchup will go a long way in showing what team will control the tempo and what team will control the line of scrimmage.
Chuck Bresnahan vs. Caleb Hanie
With very limited tape of Hannie, Bresnahan is going to test the young quarterback. Watch for Hanie’s mobility to play a key part as Bresnahan mixes coverages and blitz packages.
Giordano is not great at tacking in the open field but he is great at reading young quarterback’s eyes and making game-changing interceptions.
Michael Bush vs. Brian Urlacher
Urlacher is a perennial pro-bowler and a potential Hall of Famer, there are only a few linebackers that compare to him. Urlacher is the heart and soul of the Chicago Bears. Bush will need to fight through the linebackers to get the secondary.
Jared Veldheer vs. Julius Peppers
Peppers is a different kind of defensive end than Jared Allen. Peppers is more of a complete defensive end, he plays the run as well as he rushes the passer. With a performance like last week, Veldeer will get his hat thrown in to the Pro Bowl discussion.
Carson Palmer vs. Charles Tillman
Tillman isn’t great in coverage. There is a reason why he is the Bears leading tackler. With the Bears having a stout front seven, look for Palmer to pick on Tillman to loosen up the defense. On Sunday, Tillman will need to do more than create a fumble to have a good game.
With injuries to the wide receiver core, Murphy will likely receive more snaps than he has all season. Murphy will try to work out his frustration and should play with a chip on his shoulder. Look for Murphy to prove himself.
The Raiders slogged through the second half again and it nearly came back to bite them. A better team may have been able to capitalize on the Raiders penalties, but the Vikings without Adrian Peterson were powerless to do so. The defense looked suspect again and the Raiders offensive line struggled more than they have all season. A few welcome surprises this week and the reappearance of duds from 2010.
Veldheer handled Jared Allen on Sunday and held him without a sack for the first time this season. The Raiders finally found their franchise left tackle from Hillsdale College. If Veldheer can handle Julius Peppers this Sunday, he’ll start getting national recognition and should get a decent amount of Pro Bowl consideration. Allen did get pressure on Palmer on back-to-back plays in the first half, but Veldheer adjusted and was pushing Allen well wide of Palmer for the rest of the day. On one occasion Veldheer flattened Allen on a run. A great performance from the Raiders left tackle and the Raiders need him to equal it next Sunday.
Hue Jackson finally got his tight end involved in the offense and the Bossman didn’t disappoint. On more than one occasion Boss helped the Raiders convert on third down. It was nice to see Boss getting into the groove of things and getting involved, he’ll continue to be a good third down outlet for Carson Palmer and Jackson should utilize him in that capacity when needed.
He sustained a blow to the back of the head and the severity of the injury is still unclear, but it appears that Heyward-Bey avoided the worst and may be able to return to action in a few weeks. It’s a good thing too, because Heyward-Bey’ has been producing when given the opportunity. Palmer is starting to look his way and a 34-yard strike was nullified by a Veldheer hold in the first half.
He’s much like Nnamdi Asomugha was, he’s consistently good in coverage and will occasionally have lapses trying to make a tackle, but a corner’s main responsiblity in the Raiders offense is to cover and he did that an elite level on Sunday. Capping the performance with interception in the endzone when it appeared the Vikings were getting back into the game.
He’s the starting end opposite Lamarr Houston now and his performances have gotten him more and more playing time ahead of Jarvis Moss and Trevor Scott. He had two sacks on Sunday and looked dominant at times. He should win the job full-time at end as he has been equally good against the run and pass. It sure helps alleviate the loss of Matt Shaughnessy when you have a player as versatile and good as Desmond Bryant on the team.
Tommy Kelly, Matt Giordano, Tyvon Branch
Oh Rolando…how I wish you were anything approaching a good middle linebacker. The Raiders really hit the 2010 draft out of the park…minus the very first pick. Bad angles, bad tackling, can’t get off blocks. He’s decent in coverage, but for every good play he has a lapse. He made a good play to knock down a pass late in the game, but he should have been able to intercept it if he hadn’t been there a step late.
Matt Giordano is getting more time at free safety and Huff is getting more time at cornerback at the expense of Demarcus Van Dyke. Perhaps the Raiders should re-think this alignment. Huff might be playing injured, but he wasn’t able to tackle anyone and was lucky Percy Harvin’s touchdown run was nullified by a Vikings penalty. Terrible game for Huff.
He’s obviously the weak link on the Raiders resurgent offensive line. If the Raiders had a good alternative they would probably bench Barnes, but Bruce Campbell appears stuck at the bottom of the depth chart and Stephon Heyer and Joseph Barksdale are getting their snaps at guard due to the injury of center Samson Satele.
The Raiders offensive line struggled on Sunday and Carlisle was no exception. The Raiders couldn’t run to the right without the lineman getting blown into the backfield and stuffing Michael Bush. Carlisle and Barnes are probably rated 21 and 22 among Raiders starters and they both get dud status this week.
Stephon Heyer, Samson Satele, Aaron Curry, Officiating.
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The Raiders are one of the most up and down teams in the NFL, but with good reason. At the beginning of the season, they rose with the Autumn wind, fueled by the emotion of the passing of Mr. Silver and Black himself. They looked unstoppable; that is, until Campbell got hurt. The team, who still has no real, official front office leadership, had to make a snap decision about what to do since the signing deadline was looming. This landed Carson Palmer squarely into the black hole, and the rest of the team started looking like just that: a black hole. Then the Autumn wind picked up again and the team is cruising steadily. Though they’re headed in the right direction, there are still some massive things to look out for, both good and bad.
Raiders’ Biggest Obstacles
It’s still no secret that the Raiders are the most penalized team in the NFL, which is not unique to this season. This seems to be something that needs constant work and attention. Even a casual Raiders fan can think of at least one game that was lost on a penalty. This remains their biggest obstacle.
Hue Jackson is seemingly trying to fill the shoes of Head Coach and Al Davis, one of which he is new to and the other is impossible. You could see the desperation and over-confidence in his face when he prematurely threw down the challenge flag last week. Hue Jackson, while doing a good job overall, tends to get in his own way. His ability to out-think himself and put the weight of the Raider Nation on his shoulders is most definitely an obstacle.
While they did a pretty good job last week, the O-line is the scapegoat for a lot of problems. If a quarterback has no blocking, he can’t throw; it’s as simple as that. If he gets sacked, he gets hurt, and Boller goes in, which NO ONE wants except maybe his mother, unless she’s a Raiders fan. The O-line needs to protect their quarterback. If he has time, plays happen and games are won.
Raiders Biggest Weapons
The Run Game
Even with DMC out, the Raiders have been able to generate a ton of yards utilizing the run game. Michael Bush is a number two running back, but when given the chance, he always rises to the occasion. This is a weapon the Raiders use effectively and consistently. Taiwan Jones brings up the next weapon.
Sure, coaches have had half a season to get a look at some of these Raider rookies, but not a good one, which works to the Raiders’ benefit. Denarius Moore lit up the field last Thursday and quickly took Who’s-Yo-Mamma’s place as Palmer’s number one receiver. Taiwan Jones played a very valuable part and averaged 5.6 yards per carry against the Chargers. The ability of their rookies to step up, play where needed, and excel is a huge benefit.
A Veteran Quarterback
While many questioned the signing of Carson Palmer for two weeks (three if you count the bye), they were silenced on Thursday. Taking a closer look at Palmer’s initial play would show you there was nothing to worry about and he just needed to fall in sync with his players. He now provides the team with steady veteran leadership, which they haven’t had from a quarterback since the Gannon years.
There’s absolutely no way you should play Carson Palmer this week. He’s averaging 3 INTs a week and his yardage certainly isn’t making up for that. He threw for 3 touchdowns last week, but the INTs nearly balance out the point gain. The only reason he should start on your Fantasy roster is if it’s 10 minutes before kickoff, you have no backup and your usual starter is on a bye. Otherwise, no Palmer for you!
From all appearances, DMC will be out again this week. If you didn’t pick up Bush or Jones, then you didn’t miss too much. Bush had an impressive showing in comparison to previous weeks. He had 96 yards and his first touchdown of the season. That being said, the Chargers are fairly tough against the run, but Bush is going to have the majority of work in this game. Jones, however will get a few touches, but it most likely won’t translate into fantasy points. Consider Bush a strong RB2 this week after back-to-back strong showings.
What in Al Davis’ name happened to Darrius Heyward-Bey? DHB was fifth in the depth chart vs. the Broncos and by all accounts we can only assume that it was for disciplinary reasons. Or worse, the other two WRs, Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, caught on to the scheme faster than DHB during practice. In either case, the Oakland WR corps is bound to be a jumbled mess. Moore saw the most targets with 12, while Ford did the most with his targets (6) for 105 yards and a touchdown. Ford made for a popular waiver-wire add this week and deservedly so. He is an explosive playmaker and shows great rapport with CP3. Consider Ford a strong flex option this week and it’s wise to use the wait-and-see approach with the other pass catchers this late in the fantasy season.
Kevin Boss should not be deployed even in the deepest of fantasy leagues. He failed to catch a pass vs. Denver and recorded two catches combined in Oakland’s last three games. We can conclude that the Raiders will utilize newly-signed TJ Houshmandzadeh out of the slot to catch short passes to move the chains, rendering Boss to blocking duties.
Sebastian Janikowski is officially listed as Questionable (Rotowire) for Thursday’s tilt with San Diego. While he has a strong leg for fantasy purposes, we strongly advise that you pick up a replacement for this week and beyond.
I like many of you out there was burned by this defense last week vs. the Broncos. There was no excuses for last week’s showing and the defense as a whole should be ashamed of their performance. Tim Tebow looked like world-beaters and the newly-installed read-option playbook was effective. This week this unit gets a Chargers team. Avoid the Raiders’ defense at all costs this week. Sneaky alternatives this week include the Browns defense vs. the Rams and the Jags defense playing against the Colts.