With just four games remaining in the season, the Oakland Raiders are in the home stretch. This team might not be headed to the playoffs but respectability is certainly an attainable goal.
Since Bruce Gradkowski took over as the team’s starting quarterback, the tide has turned and a new sense of determination has set in.
Coming off the upset victory in Pittsburgh makes it all too easy to simply overlook the Washington Redskins who arrive in the East Bay without a single win on the road this year. However, the Skins were a chip shot field goal away from pulling off an even more astounding upset of their own last Sunday.
Washington gave the undefeated New Orleans Saints all they could handle. Much like the Raiders, the Redskins’ struggling offense awoke last weekend and hung a season high 30 points on the board.
Nnamdi Asomugha will be a major factor in a game that could be a low scoring affair. He and Albert Haynesworth made some major headlines in the offseason as both defenders inked mega-million dollar contracts with their respective teams. Haynesworth has ruled himself out of the contest due to injury.
Tom Cable’s offense would serve itself well by repeating what they did last week in attacking their opponents’ weakness. Gradkowski exploited the Pittsburgh secondary that was minus its best player, Troy Polamalu.
The Redskins boast one of the better secondaries in the league. A fact that many Silver and Black faithful find hard to believe considering former Raider free agency bust DeAngelo Hall is among the men who play in Washington’s pass coverage. Hall seems unlikely to make his unceremonious return to the Black Hole due to nagging injuries.
Cable must establish the run to open up the threat of the pass. Haynesworth’s absence should serve as a motivational tool to get Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush involved early.
Oakland’s offensive line is a major concern however. Having lost Robert Gallery for balance of the season and the uncertain status of Samson Satele means there is a good chance of having to field a make shift line on Sunday.
A win on Sunday would give the Raiders five victories on the season equaling last year’s total with three games left to play. It might not sound like much, but ending the streak of six consecutive years of 11-losses or more would be an improvement. Yes, it is a small improvement but an improvement none the less.
Nothing comes easy in the NFL. These are the games Cable has had trouble getting his troops motivated to play. These are also the games that you must win in this league. After Sunday, the next time the Raiders play in Oakland will be the season finale against Baltimore.
It’s now or never for Cable.
His job could be hanging in the balance. So far, Cable has proven himself to be a good big game coach. If he starts winning these matchups he’ll be on his way to keeping his office in 2010 and possibly getting this franchise back to respectability.
Only one result will suffice.
Just win baby!
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