Week four, in this young season has the Oakland Raiders hosting the new improved Houston Texans. Sunday’s matchup will also put the #1 running back, Arian Foster (Texans) against the #3 running back Darren McFadden (Raiders), so this game has basically two subplots. The Raiders, as well as Raider Nation will go into the game trying to shake off last weeks tough “shankapotamus” loss to the Arizona Cardinals. A good home win against a quality team could breathe new life back into this team. Beating the Texans won’t be easy, but if the Raiders take care of three areas, becoming 2-2 my not seem like such an unreasonable goal.
Penalties and Oakland apparently have been joined at the hip since birth. How many years will they league the lead in penalties? Discipline will be key on both sides of the ball. Defensively be careful of the usual, you know personal fouls on the quarterback, face mask penalties and pass interference calls. Expect a balanced offense led by quarterback Matt Schaub, wide receiver Andre Johnson and of course the aforementioned Foster. They did a solid job last week against Arizona, so I expect for that trend to continue. As for the offense, or should I say the offensive line, no more untimely penalties. Two major penalties cost the Raiders 10 points that would have easily won the game last week. Hey, if you don’t shoot yourself in the foot you can maybe avoid being shot right? Bottom line get your discipline up, or 1-3 will be a foregone conclusion.
Defensively, the run defense will get tested, so keep up the solid play. Since the second half of the Rams game, The Raiders run defense has made solid strides against some good running backs. They’re now sitting at 24th in the league against the run, since beginning the season ranked 31st. Sunday’s game will be the ultimate challenge as they have the new kid on the block Arian Foster to deal with. He only leads the NFL in rushing with over 400 plus yards, so this will be their biggest test of the young season. Let’s hope they can just past this one, because it won’t be easy. I expect the 2nd ranked pass defense in the league, led by Nnamdi Asomugha to bring their “A game” like last week when he shut down Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald to only two catches for 36 yards. Playing against Shaub wont be a walk in the park, but I’m sure Asomugha and the Raiders defense will try to contain Shaub and Johnson to make their passing game ineffective.
Offensively, can the Raiders please put two halves together. The swap at quarterback, Bruce Gradkowski for Jason Campbell seemed like the move of the week, scoring 20 first half points, the most since 2005. So how can you explain only 3 second half points? We already know about Janikowski’s missed field goals, so thats self explanatory, but what about the play calling from offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and lack of execution by Gradkowski and the offense? You can not, I repeat not miss out on golden opportunities against the Texans, because they can and will make you pay for it. Make sure the heavy starch and carb diet of McFadden continues, as well as working in fellow running back Michael Bush. This will obviously continue to open up the passing game, which looked efficient in the first half and had good moments in the second. If Jackson and the offense can put together a full game, they may not need Janikowski to bail them out yet again.
Playing in the “Black Hole” should the give the Raiders and added advantage, and they should be able to feed off that hostile energy. Coach Tom Cable always appears to be one game closer to the proverbial “hot seat”. Lets see if he can lead the Raiders to a pivotal win, and whether or not last week’s game will truly define the rest of the season. This one should be interesting.
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Written by Arthur Kai