The Oakland Raiders take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Black Hole Sunday afternoon. These two swash-buckling teams post identical records of 3-4, and are trying to get to .500.
The Raiders look to put together their first three game winning streak since Nov. 10th-27th of last year. So far,Oakland has defeated the teams they were suppose to beat, and now they play another team who struggles with consistency, but have the talent to make Sunday’s game a tough enough contest for the Silver and Black.
Offensively, running back Darren McFadden has to get going sooner, rather than later. As the running game begins to pick up momentum (with McFadden running for a season best against the Kansas City Chiefs last week, 114 yards), the ground game must be established early on to hit the Buccaneers top tier run defense in the mouth. McFadden got a lot of his yards late in last week’s game against the Chiefs, and although nothing is wrong with that, they need him to get going from the outset to open up the passing game down the field.
Carson Palmer has been a steady maestro as of late, and must continue his efficient conductor ways. It will be imperative for him to put points on the board early against a team like Tampa Bay, who actually are really talented on the offensive side of the ball, and can put up a lot of points. Palmer will need to make plays early in the ball game to help out the running game, as well as create a certain balance and tempo for the Oakland offense.
Defensively, the Raiders are starting to gain their identity, and must keep up the intensity on this side of the ball. They face a quarterback in Josh Freeman, who is a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act at times, but bottom line he’s talented and confident. The Raiders front seven must put relentless pressure on him to keep him flustered all day.
The Raiders must also guard against any possible let down with their run defense. As they begin to climb the defensive rankings in that department, they must remember to stuff the inside and contain the runs on the perimeter.
Head coach Dennis Allen knows his team is gaining confidence, as he is too, but is making sure he reinforces to his ball club that each game counts, and that you must become and remain focus for the next ball game after a win.
“I feel like our guys have confidence that they can go out and compete, that we can win football games,” said Allen. “Like I told them, this is only important if you’re able to go out and win the next one.”
Sunday’s game is considered by most pundits a winnable game. If the Raiders can take care of business and play with some consistency and dominance on both sides of the ball, then maybe those same pundits can stop prefacing these type of games as a “winnable game”, to more like a forgone conclusion. Raider Nation is looking for a third consecutive victory come Sunday evening. Let’s see if the Silver and Black can give it to them.
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Written by Arthur Kai