Tonight’s week 3 preseason game against the Detroit Lions marks one of the last chances the Raiders will have to clean up their sloppy play of late before the regular season starts. If the Raiders dissapoint for a third week in a row it could be percieved as the foreshadowing of what sounds like a Stephen King novel. However if the Raiders manage to fix the issues that have plagued them there is no reason why they cannot make a run in the post-season. Coincidently the Raiders happen to be playing a team that kept them out of the post-season last year.
So the story is set. The protaginist Raiders have a chance to turn the tide on the future of their season. The only thing in their way is the problems of an eratic throwing quarterback, a young and thin secondary, the insurance policy running backs behind Darren McFadden, the injury bug, and of course the antagonist Detroit Lions. Like any good story Oakland has to first analyze the problems before they can be fixed.
1) The Carson Palmer project has had great potential, but potential doesnt win games. Palmer suffered through a season plauged with interceptions last year. The question is, now that he knows the playbook and his teammates can he throw to the guys in the same jersey? If Palmer fails to fill in his role his team could be left with a losing record and a bust draft pick (Matt Leinart) to salvage the team. However, if Palmer manages to control his cannon then there is a possibility of adding a ring to his throwing hand.
2) Every football fan has experienced a fan-fit. That brief moment of flailing one’s limbs in extreme frustration due to a mistake made by a player. Unfourtunatley Oakland’s secondary caused many of these fan-fits last year. To be the contender every Raider fan wants to watch the secondary in Oakland needs to be able to at least slow down a superb passing attack. Tonight’s game against Megatron and company will be the perfect test. Demarcus VanDyke has turned heads in camp, Tyvon Branch is primed for another good season, and Mike Huff has had an impressive pre-season, but can the rest of the secondary finish the job? To be a superbowl contender Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell both need to be more than capable of making plays.
3) With Micheal Bush taking hand-offs from Jason Campbell in the windy city, the Raiders have got to see some production from those running backs who arent named Darren McFadden. To keep McFadden healthy the Raiders will have to be able to give him a break on occasion. Obviosly they cant do that with Mike Goodson fumbling the football. Taiwan Jones has yet to show that he will be of any significance in the NFL, and unless one of the two step up the Raiders seem to have all of their eggs in Darren McFadden’s basket. A basket that in recent years seems rather brittle. Tonight’s game will have to show that the Raider’s can pick up tough yards.
4) The injury bug seems to have found a home in Oakland. Not many franchises in sports can say they have been hit by this problem as bad as Oakland. Last year the Raiders managed to go .500 without Jason Campbell, Darren McFadden, Marcel Reese, Jacoby Ford, and numerous others. This year there are plenty of things to deal with other than injuries. So it is vital that the Raiders eat all of their veggies and concentrate on winning games.
5) The Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders have never been big rivals. However, after last years dissapointing and embarrasing loss to Stafford and Megatron this matchup could be a highlighted one in years to come. Tonight the Lions dont stand in between Oakland and the playoffs. However, they do have a great oppurtunity to crush team moral and leave the Raiders with one week to prepare for their last chance to prove themselves before the season begins. If the Raiders do not play with intensity tonight then we might not see any intensity all season. If they do come out hot and embarrass the Lions then the hype in Oak-town will be similar to the hype in 2002. Lets just hope the result of tonights game is the latter.
Tonight the Raiders will become the protaginist of either a gruesome horror novel or the tale of a determined underdog team on a mission. Fortunately for the silver and black this book has yet to be written.