It seems to me that when a football team, or any "team" for that matter, spends a prolonged time in an abyss it will take a consistent track record for their fans and others around them, perhaps more importantly, themselves, to feel comfortable going into a game.
With the strong rhythm between Jason Campbell, Hue Jackson and Darren McFadden carrying the team for the first six games and now finding itself nonexistent in week eight this will be a tough week for the Raiders.
It is now the Carson, Jackson, TJ and TJ show. What that will produce is anyone's guess, but, we will find out on Sunday.
We will find out if the Raiders can place their cleats on the throats of a Divisional Opponent that stumbles into the Coliseum in a daze of sloppy play and haze of controversy.
We will find out what Taiwan Jones has. This kid is ready to turn on the jets and GO. If he holds onto the ball and let's the holes develop he may just have a DAY against Denver's aggressive defense.
We will find out what this defense is made of. There will be NO excuse for letting the Broncos net over 150 yards. That has to be the goal. Period.
The Bye came at a great time for this team as this was a real gut check and reorganization period.
Let's take a look at some of the key match-ups:
Darius Heyward-Bey vs Champ Bailey:
Bailey is up to his old tricks again, or rather, still. He is sticking to the oppositions number one threat and has been doing a good job.
Unless TJ Houshmanzadeh establishes himself as Carson Palmer's primary target I would expect that DHB would be lined up against #24 all day. Heyward-Bey has the size and speed to hurt Champ and his hands are coming around. IF Darius can win his match-up with Bailey, the Raiders will win this game.
Bush and Jones vs Denver's Rush Defense:
It looks more and more like we will be seeing Taiwan Bush lined up in the backfield as the primary ball carriers. It is a downgrade, but most teams would love to have the Oakland Raider downgrade as their first team!
One thing that Denver does well is stop the run. In fact, they are 7th in the NFL in average yards per rush against at 3.9. This could also be a product of teams running out the clock against them as their pass defense has allowed 14 TDs (2nd Worst and an 8.1 YPA (t-5th Worst), bit, I do not expect the Raiders to just run all over Denver.
Pass Rush vs Tim Tebow:
Yes, Tim Te-Bow, will be starting for the Broncos this week. And if you haven't heard, his last start was pretty bad. He was 18-39 for 172 yards, 1 TD (with 8 minutes left in the 4th), 1 INT, a 56.8 rating, 3 fumbles and was sacked 7 times. Ugly.
Now, this beaten up quarterback will be playing in front of a sold out Oakland Coliseum that wants to see him put to bed for the season and a defense that can be very "In your face" and put you "on your ass".
The front four of Jarvis Moss, Richard Seymour, Tommie Kelly and LaMarr Houston have made many quarterbacks nervous in 2011 and the addition of Aaron Curry has strengthened the middle of the Oakland defense and freed up Rolando McClain ot make some plays. If things are clicking for this unit, it will be back to back bad weeks for Tea-Bow. In fact, it may just end his career as an NFL Quarterback and hasten his transition to flanker.
Marcel Reece - If Carson Palmer has figured out his timing with Mr. Reece on the flags, screens and wheels, then Marcel can have a huge game in the second level against the Denver defense.
Matt Prater: Prater is a perfect 18-18 on kick-offs going for touchbacks. If this game comes down to field position and Janikowski is unable to go for the Raiders, then the Broncos have an advantage with the heavy footed kicker against whoever the Raiders decide to go with. Maybe it will be Kyle Boller?