The Raiders and Raider Nation look to take on the role of the amnesiac in this season long movie, as they try to bounce back from the 35-3 beat down handed to them by the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, that was anything but a “Sweet Dream or Beautiful Nightmare.” The Raiders take on the Miami Dolphins at the Black Hole this Sunday, and are looking to stay close to the AFC West division leading Kansas City Chiefs, not to mention the surging San Diego Chargers. Here are three keys that will play a vital role in the Raiders getting the “W.”
Offensive consistency is key when playing a high quality opponent, because it allows you a chance to stay in the ball game for all four quarters. The same could be said when you are playing a weaker opponent, because it gives you a chance to jump out on them early, possibly putting the game out of reach well before it enters the fourth quarter. The Raiders look to reinvent their offensive chemistry with quarterback Bruce Gradkowski taking over the reigns again from Jason Campbell.
This will be Gradkowski’s first start since week 6 when he injured his shoulder. Campbell led the team on a three game winning streak, but had a rough outing against the Steelers last week. Its tough to develop offensive consistency when you’re rotating quarterbacks. Lets see if Gradkowski can be a spark for this offense once again. Also, memo to offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, lets not go away from the heavy starch and carb diet of Run DMC (Darren McFadden). He’s the foundation of this offense, and that needs to be reestablished this Sunday.
Defensively, the Raiders have been solid all year. The run defense has improved, despite the stat line of last week’s game. Defensive tackle John Henderson had good moments last week in his return to action from being out for several weeks. The secondary has managed for a couple of games without Prow Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha in the secondary, who will be a game time decision come Sunday.
The Raiders should continue to slow down the running game as they take on running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Oakland must not allow these two guys to have flashback performances to when they were premier running backs in this league. Instead, allow third-string quarterback Tyler Thigpen to beat you with his arm against your third ranked passing defense. Keep an eye on wide receiver Brandon Marshall also, and you should be in good shape come the 4th quarter.
Staying focus is the last key in Sunday’s ball game. On paper, both teams appear equal, but playing in front of Raider Nation at the Black Hole should give the Raiders a decisive edge. The Dolphins are 4-1 away from South Beach, so the Silver and Black need not take them lightly, even with Thigpen getting the start for the Dolphins. I call this a “Take Care of Business Game”, primarily because too many positive factors outweigh the negative factors in the Raiders favor. If the Raiders play smart on both sides of the ball, and take advantage of opportunistic moments, the “W” could and should be a forgone conclusion.
Every week it seems coach Tom Cable is going up against a new feat as a head coach. We know these Raiders take on the personality of their coach, so it will be interesting to see how he manages these ball game from here on out. For now, lets see if he and the Raiders can bounce back from a tough loss. This should be interesting!
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Written by Arthur Kai