The rival Denver Broncos come to town this Sunday to face the Raiders. It will be the second meeting of the two teams this season. The Raiders won the first meeting in the season opener in Denver on Monday Night. Now they look to sweep the Broncos but inside the game itself there are many things on which to focus.
Carson Palmer will make his first start as the Raiders’ new franchise quarterback. The Raiders traded a first round pick in 2012 and a conditional first rounder in 2013 to get him from the Bengals so expectations are high.
Palmer made his first appearance in Silver and Black two weeks ago when he came into the second half of a blowout loss to the visiting Chiefs. He had only been a Raider for five days leading up to the game including three days of team practices. He said himself last week that he knew probably about 15 plays. The result was a disastrous three interception performance with one of those interceptions returned for a touchdown.
He has now had nearly three weeks with his new teammates and new playbook. In that three weeks he also had several days working with his new receivers to get used to their speed and route running. How quickly he was able to get up to speed with his new team will be the main story of this game. He also has a lot of rust to shake off after not having any training camp or practices in 10 months.
Broncos coach John Fox said that Tim Tebow will once again be his starter this week. Tebow has played horribly since taking over as the starter for Kyle Orton. He has shown a complete lack of read and recognition and is inaccurate or late on nearly all of his throws.
What the Raiders want is to force him to throw the ball. He is dangerous with his legs so the Raiders will stack the box and not over pursue in order to leave no gaps for him to run through. This will also force him to throw it which should lead to a couple turnovers.
The Raiders will be without starting running back Darren McFadden for the second week in a row. Again they will turn to Michael Bush to carry the load. He performed well last week against the Chiefs, carrying for 91 yards on 20 carries. And for the Broncos, facing Bush instead of McFadden is not necessarily good news.
Bush has played extremely well against the Broncos over the years. One of the biggest games of his career came against the Broncos. In late 2009 he rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown against them while averaging 7.39 yards per carry. Last season he had three touchdowns in two games.
Janikowski has not kicked a football for three weeks. He was at practice on Friday but he still was not kicking. If he can’t play, the team will re-sign Dave Rayner who kicked off to open the game versus the Chiefs and that was it. If Rayner is re-signed, another Raider will have to be cut or sent to IR. Those possible cuts would be fullback Manase Tonga or tight end Robert Gordon. Or then again they could just let go of Lito Sheppard after having just signed him last week.
If Janikowski is able to go, you can bet he won’t be the Janikowski we are used to seeing. Don’t expect kickoffs through the upright or Hue Jackson calling for 50+ yard field goal attempts. That hamstring is sore at very least and playing him at all is risking aggravating the injury which would end his Pro Bowl level season.
Like Moss to a flame
Raiders starting defensive end Jarvis Moss has a lot of motivation for this game. He will be facing off against his former team in the Broncos which he relishes. But before Moss played for the Broncos, he was a Florida Gator. He will be trying to chase down his former super star teammate Tim Tebow.
When asked about Tebow on Friday, Moss said the Raiders had to be careful because Tebow can do a lot of damage with his legs. But when asked about Tebow’s arm, he paused for what was timed as 12 seconds and then: ”Uh, I don’t want to answer that question because I really want to… Never mind. I can’t answer that question.”
He was also asked if he respected Tebow as a player to which he would only say, “Yeah, at college I did.”
Rarely has so much been said by saying so little. We can expect to see an extra pumped up Jarvis Moss for this one.
Raiders control their own destiny
During the bye week, the Raiders moved into first place in the division. The Chiefs beat the Chargers which formed a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West at 4-3. If you want to get into division records it isn’t technically a tie but none of that really matters right now. Right now the slate is basically clean. Each team is tied and has one in-conference loss. This means that each team controls their own destiny. The Raiders won’t have to rely on either of the other two to lose in order to win the AFC West.
Granted, that could all change within a matter of a few days when each team plays again. But for now, if the Raiders want to win the division, it is entirely in their hands.
Another streak must go down and it must go down hard
The Raiders have ended a few streaks this season already. They ended two streaks with the first win of the season. It was the end of their seven game losing streak on Monday Night Football as well as their eight game season opening losing streak. The Raiders have lost eight straight games coming out of the bye week. Their last post-bye-week win was September 29, 2002. They beat the Tennessee Titans 52-25 in that game and later beat the same Titan team to win the AFC Championship.