As I sit here at my desk, I have a hard time shaking the Bye week dust off, which from hearing all last week is what the Raiders have had a hard time doing the past TEN YEARS! I first heard the stat when Lamarr Houston was on the Fox Sports 1’s Fox Football Daily show panel, Hosted by the Fox NFL Sunday Crew. During a segment called “Bullstat” where the panel decides if a stat is well you guessed it “Bull” or if it matters. Curt Menefee uttered the stat, “The Raiders have lost ten straight years after a bye” Which Houston turned right around and said doesn’t matter. “It’s a bullstat. We are a different team and a different organization.” To which I agree. On a side note, I saw Houston make the rounds to all of the L.A. based sports shows last week and he did very, very well. Kudos to him and he might have a nice future in broadcasting after his run of chasing NFL QB’s. Now, back to the “Bullstat” lets not kid ourselves here. This Raiders team and organization has been abysmal since the kickoff of Super Bowl 37 against Tampa Bay. However, I was a little stunned by that record after the bye week. I would figure a win here or there, but no, 0-10. Last year the Raiders possibly played their best game of the year after a bye in Atlanta in a last second loss. So with all that said, I am going to give you my 3 Keys to victory the Raiders need to do to win on Sunday against their long time rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Blitz, Blitz and Blitz some more
Let me throw out a stat. Big Ben has been sacked 22 times this year. Now before we get all giddy and jump up and down, the Raiders have given up 27 sacks. The Steelers O-Line can sympathize with Oaklands O-Line issues. With Levi Brown and Markice Pouncey on IR they have been forced to pull guys from practice squads and the waiver wire just build enough to practice against. The Raiders understand that. So I expect to see lots of pressure on Roethlisberger, as well as Pryor. However, the difference is the Steelers have only generated a total of 8 Sacks on Defense. The Raiders have doubled up that mark with 16. Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver should be able draw up some blitzes to get to Big Ben. However, we all know Ben Roethlisberger is probably the toughest QB out there. Remember when took on a Chrysler New Yorker face first? Long story short, it is hard to get him rattled; so don’t depend on trying to get in his head, because it will not work. You have to bring him down with the ball and make the Offense go backwards in yardage.
GET REECE THE BALL
In another story line that blew up during the bye, was the fact that one of the Raiders best weapons, Marcel Reece, has yet to have a break out game. That is because he has yet to really be featured or given the ball to Marcel Reece. Give him the ball. There is nobody in the league quite like him. Reece is big, fast and has hands like Tim Brown. The former Wide Receiver turned Fullback is a favorite of Raider Nation and with good reason. Reece extended his contract earlier this year to stay a Raider for Three Years 13 million dollars. 7.2 million of which is guaranteed. You don’t pay that to guy to just be decoy. Over the break Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen said they are working on different packages, schemes, blah, blah, blah. Just get him the damn ball already. It will take some pressure off not only McFadden, but Pryor as well. It also makes the offense more well rounded, but we know this already. Call some FB screens or motion Reece out to the slot and have him run some routes from there. Just find a way to get him some touches. Keep the Defense guessing and help my fantasy team out for God Sakes!
Contain Antonio Brown and company
The Secondary of the 2013 Oakland Raiders is a story line that does not get enough attention. The turnaround from one of the worse in the league to being respectable all while being hamstrung by salary cap issues is amazing to me. While not putting out the best stats, they are getting stops when they need to and you aren’t seeing blown coverages like last year. Also, the way Tarver is scheming up the blitzes and how he leaves the secondary out to dry, Woodson and company responding with plays and making most of the stops they should is astonishing. Keep in mind they are doing this while their best DB Branch is injured and won’t be coming back anytime soon.
With all that being said, the task of defending Antonio Brown is not easy. In my opinion, Brown is one of the most underrated Receivers in the NFL. He isn’t very big (5-10, 186lbs), he is fast, but not the fastest. He does run routes well and precise and always makes a nice target for Big Ben. Do not let him catch the ball in space. He WILL make you miss. The first tackler MUST either slow him down or make a good open field tackle or you will pay for it. Also, do not forget about Heath Miller, he starting to finally get healthy and get back into the groove after missing a big chunk of time. The Raiders have historically had trouble defending TE’s, but remember this isn’t the same Raiders team anymore.
So to sum it all up in a nice package, The Raiders are back home after a well deserved break and the O-Line needed some rest and recharging. As of this post there was no word on Wisniewski, Pashos or Watson. We will know later on in the week. Getting two, hell even one of them back would be big. They Need to Keep Pryor upright. The Steelers are rolling after winning 2 in a row. The Raiders are ready to correct what went wrong two weeks ago in KC. The Steel Curtain is coming to town which, as a season ticket holder, is always entertaining. I am excited about this one, as what was once referred to as “The NFL’s greatest rivalry” that was decades ago, but there are a lot of Raider Nation that will never let go of that infamous moment at three rivers stadium go and they shouldn’t.