The Raiders are heading to the East Coast to play Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.
Oakland still has not won in the East since way back in 2009. I really want the Raiders to win this game and end this long streak of losing on the East Coast.
Any time a team is long out of the playoffs there will be a contention of fans that would rather lose to bolster their draft spot. That is not me. I think winning these next two games would mean more to the team than drafting higher would.
To win this game though will take an incredible effort from the Raiders. Cam Newton seems to have overcome his sophomore jinx and is now playing like he did last year. The Panthers defense lead by rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly is not bad either. This team is actually much better than their 5-9 record would have you believe.
Oakland's defensive line is really going to have to have discipline and patience in this game. If they get out of position Cam will make them pay with his running ability but if they give him too much time he can beat them with his arm. It makes it a very tough match-up for the line that must balance playing their spot with getting pressure on the quarterback.
The Panthers also have a good although getting older running back in Dangelo Williams. They also have Jonathan Stewart but he has not played since week 12 and looks like this week will not change that status. Williams is more than capable of doing some damage without Stewart and they also have Mike Tolbert as a change of pace back.
Mixing in their strong running backs with Cam Newton's own running prowess means the Raiders must be prepared for a heavy dose of running. They can pass too with Steve Smith on the outside but they like to run the ball. The Raiders defense better be prepared to take some hits to their jaws in what promises to be a physical match-up.
Raiders fans will recognize a couple of former Raiders on the Panthers offense this week. The Raiders traded Louis Murphy and Bruce Campbell to the Panthers earlier this year and due to injuries their is a chance of seeing both play much of the game. Campbell might even make his first start due to the Panthers RT Byron Bell taking a song from Disturbed too seriously by getting down with the sickness. Bell was recently added to the injury report with an illness.
It will be interesting to see if Louis Murphy feels he has a taste for blood with the Raiders after his fall from grace in Oakland. In Murphy's rookie year he led the team in catches but his production immediately dropped severely leading to his exit out of town. With Brandon Lafell also not practicing this week it opens the door for Murphy to play more snaps against his former team.
Not to be out done in the former player department the Raiders also will likely use a fairly heavy dose of ex-Panther Mike Goodson. Goodson had a nice outing last week with over 100 yards from scrimmage against the Chiefs and I hope to see a little more of him this week.
After suffering a couple of debilitating injuries this year the Raiders probably should give Mike Goodson plenty of touches the rest of the year to help the evaluation process on him. When on the field he has been a nice surprise for Oakland but he has not been able to be on the field that much.
Though I expect Goodson to get his touches there will be no doubt who the primary rusher for the Raiders will be. Jeremy Stewert! Just kidding, it will of course be Darren McFadden who also must prove he is capable of playing without getting hurt. The Raiders will have a big decision to make on DMC in the off-season and no matter what they choose it would be good to see Darren finish out the season well.
As for the passing game of the Raiders I would love to see Carson have another turnover free game. He wasn't fully healthy last week as he had the flu and that kept him from really airing it out like usual last week. Now he is back to healthy and I hope that doesn't mean a return of the interceptions. He really needs to finish this season strong by taking care of the football.
I would expect to see a game where Carson throws the ball around 35 times this game and hopefully he can get a couple of those passes into the endzone. The Raiders scoring offense have been pathetic all year and I'm sure that has frustrated Palmer more than anybody. Maybe he can relieve some of that frustration with some nice drives this week.
Carson is not the only quarterback who was feeling ill last week as Terrelle Pryor also was under the weather against the Chiefs. He finally got to see a couple plays but it wasn't really much of anything. If there is a chance to give him a drive or two in this game the Raiders likely will put him in the game. However Dennis Allen wants to win so if its a close game Pryor might not see the field.
At wide receiver for the Raiders I hope to see Rod Streeter continue his recent success. He has been a great find as an udfa this year and hopefully he is rewarded with many targets this week. Juron Criner also I hope sees a number of targets his way too. After a huge training camp Criner has not been used as much as I expected. Both of these young players have shown flashes of being solid receivers.
As for the veteran in the receiving corps Darrius Heyward-Bey really needs to keep himself involved in the game. He didn't even have a single catch last week despite 5 targets. He is really playing for his job now as the Raiders could use his salary elsewhere immensely.
I love DHB but he did not build on last year's season and has definitely regressed. That could be blamed on Greg Knapp not using him as well as Hue did but at over 7m a year salary that excuse only goes so far.
Winning this game against the Panthers could really hurt the Raiders draft position but I want it anyway. Wins mean too much in the NFL to give up any of them, even if the season is long over. If the Raiders were to win out this year it could provide some nice momentum to build on next year.
They would finish the year with a 3-game winning streak and take over 2nd place in the division. They also would finish with only two less wins than last year at 6-10. For how much this season failed if they win out the amount of regression on the year would be drastically reduced and I think that means more than a better draft position ever could.
On the East Coast and thinking of going to the game? Get your Oakland Raiders tickets here.