Young Raiders face tough task

November 1, 2009; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Michael Bush (29) run around the tackle of San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle (32) during the third quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers defeated the Raiders 24-16. Photo via Newscom

Consensus is that the 2010 version of the Oakland Raiders is far better than the 2009 version, even if the win-loss record doesn’t indicate a difference. One thing you could certainly put your finger on in arguing such a point would be the level of toughness the team has played with this season. Once they got down at home by 17 points on Sunday, the 2009 version would have rolled over and played dead. Instead the 2010 version fought back and ended up scoring the final ten points after allowing the Texans to go on a 17-0 run.

Tuesday is generally the day to discontinue the prior week’s talks and begin looking ahead to the next opponent. This week the Raiders face the San Diego Chargers—a team that has owned them for over six years now by winning the last 13 games the divisional opponents have played against each other. It’s about time for the Raiders to score the next ten wins. It’s Chargers week Raider Nation!

In my opinion, this is the first must-win game of the year for the Oakland Raiders. If this team is going to get off the double digit losing season side of things and start moving forward in an effort to become legit again, it has got to start this Sunday.

The Raiders should not need motivation to get this victory, especially players like Nnamdi Asomugha, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Zach Miller, Michael Huff, and Michael Bush—guys who have been around a while and are tired of losing these two games they play against the Chargers every year. They could also look back to the first game of the 2009 season to gather inspiration for the younger players. It was a game that many felt the Raiders should have-or at least could have-won if not for a few (blown) calls.

The Raiders have had a rough start this year but getting a win at home against the Chargers would put them right back into that feel good mode. Many of the players have made an indication that they will not be willing to give up on this season until they start losing divisional games. Therefore a loss this Sunday, which would be their third straight loss, would be a heartbreaking one and could devastate their efforts.

A win would be inspirational for a team that is starting to get desperate to prove that they can play with any team in this league. A loss would proceed to take more wind out of the sails.

The Raiders have got the players they need to stay in this contest regardless of what the box score says about the Chargers game against the Arizona Cardinals; I watched it, I wasn’t that impressed. The Raiders need to continue to keep those penalties down (only 2 vs. Houston) and they need to execute well to make up for their lack of chemistry. That’s probably the biggest advantage the Chargers will have on Sunday is their chemistry. But the Raiders have the players on the field to disrupt that chemistry. This is a job they are capable of doing and a job that they absolutely must do.

The defense should be fired up on Sunday. If I were John Marshall, I’d make them watch the game tape from the Texans game one more time on like Friday or Saturday and just remind them of the opportunities they missed out there. There were plays where they were a step or two away, they bit on a shifty move, or they got just a hair out of position. These “little miscues” cost them yardage all game long. The defense is going to be okay, but they need to have nearly flawless execution to make up for that lack of chemistry. The defense entered the week ranked second overall in total defense, but they were shredded by Houston’s run game and come out of the week ranked 11th overall and they are back down to 31st against the run. They need to change that and fast.

Meanwhile the offense is making no bones about it; they want to let people know they are for real. Heading into the Texans game, they had made more trips to the red zone than any other team in the NFL, but only had three touchdowns in 13 attempts. Last week, they were 3-3 in the red zone and they moved the ball up and down the field by just taking what the Texans were giving. They were ranked 10th in total yards going into the game and they didn’t disappoint, putting up their first 24-point effort of the year. They come out of this week with the ninth best total offense in the league.

San Diego has a banged up front seven and was giving the Cardinals room to run a bit on Sunday. Michael Bush will be at 95 percent or better for the first time all year and after getting some of that rust knocked off over the past two weeks, this should be an interesting match-up: Bush vs. the Chargers run defense. If Darren McFadden’s hamstring isn’t at 100 percent, it will be up to Bush to provide that consistent ground attack the Raiders need.

The Raiders wide receivers need to step up also, or sit out if they aren’t good to go. Last week they were hampered by injuries and it showed as they failed to be competitive against one of the worst pass coverage units in the league. They need to be up to the task or step aside and let Johnnie Lee Higgins and Nick Miller try their hand against the Chargers. Maybe get Jacoby Ford out there a little and stretch the field.

Whatever they’ve got to do to win—that is what needs to be done. Because if there is one game that will decide how the rest of the season goes, this would be that one game. This one—at home—against the team that has owned them. This is the time to make a statement and make the Raider Nation Believe again. Do this team and favor and go buy some tickets! Give them a true twelfth man this Sunday. If there was ever a time these young Raiders need help from you, the fans, it is right now. Right here—the Chargers at the Coliseum. Now go get you some tickets, some food, and some beer!

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