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Now that the bye week is over it is time to concentrate on the undefeated Atlanta Falcons. Normally I dislike early bye weeks like this year's week 5 bye, but it really could not have come at a better time for the Raiders.
Not only did the Raiders coaching staff desperately need the early bye to tweak their schemes on both sides of the ball, but the fans also really needed a week away from the suckitude that was the Raiders beginning to the 2012 season. Everybody else in the division losing wasn't too shabby either.
Now that everybody had a week to calm down a bit we get to go back to the doom and gloom. YAY! This game against the Falcons is possibly the toughest matchup on the Raiders schedule this year so it helps to get two weeks to prepare for them.
Even with the two weeks of prep time I don't think anybody can feel very comfortable with Oakland's corners lining up across Roddy White and Julio Jones. That isn't even mentioning how amazing Matt Ryan has been this year, which has been MVP quality.
Despite the obvious reasons for pessimism I actually have a little bit of optimism coming into this game. Not because I suddenly believe in the direction that the Raiders have been heading, but because this is exactly the type of game the Raiders end up winning. When there is absolutely no reason to hope for a victory it's the time that the Raiders often come out of nowhere and surprise everybody. They embody "Any Given Sunday" unlike almost any other team in professional sports (just ask the Steelers).
Coming into this season I was telling everyone to watch out for Darren McFadden, but so far they have only watched him fall flat on his face. Oakland needs him to start seeing the holes and hitting them. They also need Greg Knapp to call better run plays for him. This is the number one area that the Raiders need to be tweaking in practice this week especially considering how tough of a passing defense the Falcons have.
One possible solution to the lack of a rush attack is to incorporate some power blocking runs along with the zone blocking runs which are a staple of Knapp's offense. And unveiling some new tweaks to the Raiders' blocking system could help throw a wrench in the Falcons high energy defense.
As for the Falcons offense, it is pretty hard to envision the Raiders doing much to slow them down. There is a bit of good news for the Raiders' secondary and that is the Falcons love to go deep. That will give the Raiders defense the ability to feature their safeties a little bit more. Considering the Raiders' weak cornerbacks, giving the safeties more chances to make plays can only help.
The thing that I am most disappointed about with the Raiders defense this year is that they have generated such an embarrassingly little amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Adding defensive end Andre Carter to the mix should help in that area. If the Raiders can get the motor going faster for the defense this week during practice maybe they can get some pressure on the quarterback.
That has to be a major point of emphasis all week long in practice. After only getting just 3 pressures and 0 sacks on the generally immobile Peyton Manning last week, the coaching staff know they need to fix the lack of pressure above all else defensively. Without it, you can expect similar results from Matt Ryan this week.
There will be a lot of emphasis on the Falcons' passing game in practice this week but they must also concentrate on stopping the run.The Raiders also need to prepare for a heavy dose of Michael Turner who many will remember from his days in San Diego. The Falcons are a better team when they are a balanced attack and will definitely want to get Turner going early on Sunday.
The Raiders have had two weeks to get ready for this game, lets all hope that they show signs of improvement. I know most of you reading this will not be holding your breaths to see that come to fruition though.