The Broncos meet up with the Raiders on Sunday in Oakland. This is a pivotal game for the Raiders, as is every one of their remaining games, as they make a push for the playoffs. The Broncos’ season has long been over. They called the season a wash a couple weeks ago when they fired coach Josh McDaniel. Now, with an injury to regular starter Kyle Orton, they are making a change at quarterback, opting to start their rookie first round pick Tim Tebow.
At this point, the Broncos are in the “What do we have to lose?” mode of the season, so this could be a good chance to see what kind of player they have in Tebow. He led the Florida Gators to two consecutive national championships in 2007 and 2008 and nearly led them to a third trip to the big game in 2009.
However, he has long been seen as the type of player who doesn’t translate to the NFL as a quarterback. The Broncos clearly disagreed with that assertion as they traded up into the lower part of the first round to draft him. Now it’s time to see if Tebow performs closer to the opinions of his doubters (like ESPN’s Todd McShay), or if he will prove the Broncos right in having faith in his abilities.
He will have a tough task in the Raiders’ newly formidable defense. He will have to outscore a team that scored 59 points in the last two games, which is the exact number they scored in Denver in their week seven dismantling of the Broncos.
In last week’s game in Jacksonville, Jason Campbell had his best numbers of the season, throwing for 324 yards and two touchdowns. The previous week in San Diego he managed the Raider offense with confidence and poise en route to completing a season sweep of the Chargers. It would appear that he is finally confortable with his new teammates and the coaches’ gameplan.
But with all of the signals pointing to a another decisive Raider victory, there is now one very big variable that will loom large in this game — rain. And lots of it.
If the rain comes down as much as is expected Sunday, it is going to keep this game on the ground for both teams. I have no doubt this played into the Broncos’ decision to start Tebow over Brady Quinn. Tebow plays best in an option, wildcat type game. On the other hand, Jason Campbell does not. And especially not in the rain.
The Raiders have been in two damp games this season and those were Campbell’s two worst games as a Raider. The first was the week six game in San Francisco which was the worst of his career. He completed just 8 of 21 passes for 83 yards in that game with no touchdowns and two interceptions. The other wet day was the game in Pittsburgh, a game in which he played just the first half before being replaced by Bruce Gradkowski. In that half, Campbell completed just 7 of 19 passes for 70 yards and an interception. Clearly, playing in damp conditions is Campbell’s weakness.
The next thought that comes to mind is that the Raiders will not be relying on their quarterback’s arm to win this game as they will be giving the Broncos a steady dose of McBushen. But if the Charger game (or any game in the last 30 years) showed us anything, there must at least be the threat of the pass to keep the defense honest so the running lanes open up.
The Broncos defense is pretty terrible, there is no doubt about that. And they stacked the box a few times in week seven to no avail. But counting on the Raiders to simply have their way with a weak defense is not a solid offensive gameplan.
On defense, the Raiders knew they would see a good amount of Tebow and an offense with a steady dose of the Wildcat. But it wasn’t until Saturday that they knew Orton would be out and Tebow would start the game. The Raiders had to face this type of offense in the Dolphins a few weeks ago. In that game they held the wildcat in check pretty well through most of the game. Where they failed miserably was when the Dolphins did anything else. They were so fixated on the wildcat that they allowed Dolphin quarterback Chad Henne to drop back and pick apart the Raider secondary.
What it comes down to is this: it won’t matter much that Tebow is a rookie or that he isn’t a typical NFL quarterback. If Jason Campbell can’t convert the occasional third down to keep the Raider offense on the field, the defense will wear down from defending the wildcat and this game could end up a lot more interesting than the Raiders would like. Factor in the inevitable fumbles that a wet field will cause, and you have all the makings of a messy, wild one in Oakland.