Category Archives: game previews

Game Preview: Raiders (10-3) @ Chargers (5-8)

Win and we’re in. That’s all there is to it. Sounds easy, and looks good on paper, but San Diego really is better than their record indicates (six of their losses come from blowing 4th-qtr. leads), and Philip Rivers is always dangerous, especially when Antonio Gates is healthy.

Rookie DE Joey Bosa looks like a good draft pick for the Chargers so far, and may have some impact plays in this game. But they don’t have much of a running game, and this is essentially a glorified home game for the Raiders anyway. Guaranteed there will be more black jerseys than blue ones.

And the Raiders have something to play for, their first playoff berth since 2002. The Chargers will do their best to push that off one more week, but this should be a good rebound game after last week’s disappointing loss in Kansas City.

Game Preview: Raiders @ Titans

It’s a tale of three teams — two of them being the Raiders — as Oakland heads into Nashville to take on the 1-1 Titans.

The Raiders are clicking on offense so far:  1st in total yards, 2nd in rushing yards, 3rd in points, and 6th in passing yards. But the defense is nothing short of a train wreck: dead last in total and passing yards, 31st in points allowed, and only 20th in run defense.

Titans head coach Mike Mularkey has taken some guff for his self-described “exotic smashmouth” offense, but the fact is that Mularkey has two very good running backs in DeMarco Murray and last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry.

Neither back has had a chance to put up significant numbers so far, but Murray has a 5.2 YPC average on his 25 carries so far, and Henry is a big, bruising runner who could do some damage if the Raiders’ front seven gets caught unaware.

Tight end Delanie Walker will probably be the biggest receiving threat, followed by 5th-round pick at WR Tajae Sharpe, who has 11 catches for 109 yards in his first two games.

The Titans are a middling team at best, with neither offense nor defense in the top 10 or even in the upper half of the league for the most part. But the Falcons and Saints are even worse, and the Raiders lost against one and barely beat the other. Until Oakland defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. gets the defensive unit whipped into shape, this is going to be a problem.

Game Preview: Raiders vs. Falcons

This early in the season it’s tough to do much in the way of previews, as there aren’t yet enough trends to spot anything really predictable.  The good news is that Oakland currently is #1 in offensive rushing; the bad news is that they’re dead last in passing and total yards defensively. Obviously, both rankings will probably change after the next game.

Coming off a wild finish in New Orleans last week, the Raiders should put up a solid home opener against an Atlanta team that got tuned up for 281 yards and 4 TDs by Jameis Winston and the Bucs.

The Falcons’ main weakness — pass defense — mirrors the Raiders’ own. New CB Sean Smith got torched repeatedly by Drew Brees, so Matt Ryan will be itching to test Smith out with Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, and Tevin Coleman. Jones and Sanu each had aTD in Tampa Bay last week, and Coleman racked up 95 yards on 5 receptions.

Atlanta only managed 52 rushing yards (including 10 from Ryan), so they may be vulnerable in the running game, as well as their pass defense.

Already the Raiders’ offensive line is in trouble. Right tackles Menelik Watson (groin) and Matt McCants (knee) are both doubtful, and center Rodney Hudson (knee) and RG Gabe Jackson (knee) are both listed as questionable. RB and special teams ace Taiwan Jones (concussion) is also listed as questionable.

With a victory, Oakland would start 2-0 for the first time since 2002, and beat Atlanta for the first time since 2000.

Game Preview: Raiders at Chiefs

It’s the end of an era, as Charles Woodson suits up for his final NFL game. And of course the Raiders will strive to send him out on a high note. The Chiefs are already in the playoffs, so there’s no spoiler role to be had in this final game of the 2015-16 regular season. But that doesn’t mean that Oakland can’t use this game as a barometer of the direction the team is heading, and how quickly and effectively. Kansas City is red-hot, winning nine in a row after a 1-5 start, and will win the AFC West with a win against the Raiders, and a loss by Denver.

The Chiefs have continued their winning ways with the steady play of Alex Smith, the next-man-up approach of the running back corps, and the usual tight defensive play. Defensive back Marcus Peters is a legitimate contender for the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Kansas City is top-10 in their rushing attack, and second in the league in defensive points allowed.

There are some noteworthy parallels between this game and the season-ender in KC in 1999, for what that’s worth. Probably the main key to victory for the Raiders is to generate a strong running game and ride it for all it’s worth. If they do that, and own the clock enough, they can actually pull this one off and end the season at a respectable 8-8, more than the last two seasons combined.

Game Preview: Raiders vs. Chargers

Lots of things in play for this Christmas Eve matchup — did the Chargers play their final home game in San Diego last Sunday? Will the Raiders be playing their final home game in Oakland on Thursday? Will this be the final division game between the two teams (since if the Raiders and Chargers both move to the same Los Angeles stadium, one of the teams would have to change divisions)?

The short week, the holiday, and the weather certainly won’t help either team. The four-touchdown performance by Danny Woodhead against the Dolphins on Sunday leaves him either exhausted or invigorated, and with the Raiders luck, probably the latter. But aside from their performance against Miami, the Chargers just seem worn out, beaten down, ready for the season to end. If the defense continues doing what they’ve been doing, and the offense can generate just a little bit of consistency and luck, this should be a smackdown similar to the one the Raiders inflicted on the Chargers a couple months ago.

Game Preview: Raiders vs. Packers

I’ve been waiting for this one all year, and not just because my wife is a lifelong Packers fan who literally helped pull Aaron Rodgers’ wisdom teeth. Interconference matchups don’t typically mean much, but hopefully the Raiders take seriously the head-to-head history against the Packers. Oakland is 5-6 in regular season against Green Bay, winning the first five matchups and losing the last six. In other words, the Raiders haven’t beaten the Packers since 1987. Only one of those losses has been by fewer than 13 points, and four of them were by at least four touchdowns.

The last time the teams played each other, just over four years ago, could be summed up in a single play: leading 31-0 with 4:22 in the 2nd quarter, the Raiders forced a fumble on Rodgers and returned it to the Packers’ 10-yard line. Rodgers whined to the refs about the tuck rule (remember that turd of a rule?), and not only got the fumble overturned to an incomplete pass, but got a clipping penalty on Lamarr Houston. So there’s a well-deserved ass-kicking due here, and hopefully the team looks at this as an opportunity to take a playoff contender down a couple notches.

Oakland’s o-line is banged-up, with right tackle Austin Howard out for the rest of the season, and center Rodney Hudson questionable. But the Packers’ entire line is wounded, leaving them ripe for Khalil Mack to repeat his all-world performance from last week. Rodgers’ Lambeau crybaby routine won’t work in Oakland, and if Mack can get into the backfield enough, look for David Amerson and C-Wood to make some serious plays in the defensive secondary. Amari Cooper had a nice bounce-back week in Tennessee, after his lousy performance in Detroit, so maybe he can replicate that tomorrow against an 11th-ranked (but again, banged-up) pass defense.

Game Preview: Raiders at Broncos

With Peyton Manning on his last legs (so to speak), Denver has turned to Brock Osweiler and a top-rated defense to maintain their playoff chances. Osweiler is huge (6’8″, 250#) and has a strong arm, and has been carrying a clipboard behind Peyton Manning for a couple years now. With receivers like Demaryious Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and a solid running game in CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, you’d think Denver would pose a more serious offensive threat. Yet they seem content so far to let Osweiler be a standard-issue “game manager” type of QB, while their buzzsaw defense keeps opposing offenses in check.

The Raiders are all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but still have some opportunities to show that the rebuild under Jack Del Rio has made them competitive again. While their performance in the last month’s worth of games has been underwhelming, it’s been more a case of a failure in one phase or another, good offense and bad defense or vice versa, rather than being completely overmatched. If the Raiders can hold Von Miller and give Derek Carr enough time to find Cooper and Crabtree, they might be able to regain their mojo.

Game Preview: Raiders vs. Chiefs

After a 1-5 start, Kansas City is one of the hottest teams in the league, winning their last five in a row. They hold the edge in the wild-card race right now, and this is the perfect time for the 5-6 Raiders to get back into the race themselves, after squeaking past the Titans on the road last week.

The Chiefs have turned their season around with solid defense, and minimizing offensive turnovers. Alex Smith frequently gets saddled with the “game manager” pejorative, but he hasn’t thrown an interception in his last 220 attempts, and injuries to running backs haven’t stalled their “next man up” approach. Charcandrick West has filled in well since Jamaal Charles’ season-ending injury in Week 2, and Spencer Ware put up 150 yards against someone after West pulled a hamstring.

Since their dominating performances several weeks ago against the Chargers and Jets, the Raiders continue to be victimized by running backs and tight ends. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce is currently leads the league with 11 TDs, so the defense has their work cut out for them. Sack monster Justin Houston is questionable, and the weather forecast is rainy, so a ground-and-pound game from Latavius Murray might be just the thing to get Oakland back into wild-card contention. The Chiefs are resurgent, but this game is definitely winnable for the Raiders.

Game Preview: Raiders at Titans

It would have been understandable if, after the losses to Pittsburgh and Minnesota, fans looked at the next two games, road games against terrible Detroit and Tennessee teams, and chalked them up as easy wins, or at least less challenging. Well, the Lions showed up last week and the Raiders didn’t, so we all saw how that went down.

So the Titans game becomes one that not only cannot be overlooked, but is an opportunity for Oakland to right itself after a nasty three-game losing streak, and preserve some hope for a possible wild-card berth. Even though players, coaches, and fans all seemed to accept from the beginning that this would be a rebuilding season, and that playoffs were not a realistic expectation, the Raiders’ back-to-back dominant victories against the Chargers and Jets suddenly changed those expectations.

The main goal this year was for the team to be competitive, and in every game. And aside from the season opener, that goal has been getting accomplished. But the last three losses have been frustrating, and the last two especially have been characterized by listless offense and inconsistent (at best) defense. The Raiders are going to miss Aldon Smith, who turned out to be an excellent pickup for the team, but Khalil Mack continues to develop practically game-to-game, and David Amerson plays like someone who’s ready to move up from nickel back into a starting CB role.

As the Titans get Marcus Mariota going as their franchise QB, the team’s main strength is their pass rush, tied for 4th in the league with 31.0 sacks, with 13 of those coming in their last three games. They may be 2-8, the worst team in the worst division in the league, but they still have some defensive weapons, the weather forecast calls for 100% chance of rain, and the Titans are trying to break a 10-game home losing streak, dating back almost a full calendar year.

The Raiders still need to get a better balance to the offense, not necessarily a perfect 50-50 pass-run ratio, but the roughly 2.5:1 ration they’ve had the last couple games is killing their time of possession. Amari Cooper has had some drops, but also has already proven himself to be a very capable receiver with a great work ethic, and Derek Carr has confidence in him, so he’s due for a nice bounce-back game. Maybe not this game, if it rains too much, but you never know.

Game Preview: Raiders vs. Vikings

The Vikings are good again, with Adrian Peterson back in the lineup and Teddy Bridgewater, picked just four slots ahead of Derek Carr in last year’s draft, developing into a solid quarterback. Minnesota also has a solid defense, ranking in the top ten in points, pass yards, and total yards allowed.

After last week’s close but nasty loss in Pittsburgh, the Raiders needs are clear — defense, defense, defense. Stop someone, anyone, everyone. Get a good pass rush on Bridgewater, contain AP, keep a balanced offensive attack, and there’s no reason Oakland can’t beat a likely wild card team. This could be a nice game for the Raiders to bounce back in front of a home crowd.