Dennis Allen will be on the sidelines this Thursday to coach the Oakland Raiders just days after saying goodbye to his father Grady Allen for the final time.
Football people are a different breed and moments of tragedy like this show that in a bright light. It takes a strong person to go into an environment like an NFL game and be a leader when you just lost a loved one like Dennis Allen has. I hope the players understand just how much this game means to Coach Allen.
The game must go on despite the circumstances for Dennis Allen and sometimes going into something that takes your complete concentration can help give some relief from the pain for a few hours. I hope to see some strong emotion coming from the sideline from the players but also from Dennis Allen himself.
Even Mark Davis was quoted as saying he didn't know if Dennis Allen had that fire in him and now he must show it. This game now means more to him than any other game possibly could this year and that urgency must be relevant in the way he coaches this game. This game is not promising for the Raiders but tragedy can spur incredible acts and that could be the case this Thursday Night against the Broncos.
For the Raiders to win this game they must get their hands up at the line of scrimmage more often. The reality of the Raiders pass rush is that it is completely non existent so although that would be the truly ideal way to pressure Peyton it is highly unlikely that the Raiders would reach Manning. Since they can't get in on him before the ball is gone they must concentrate on clogging up the throwing lanes instead.
The Raiders will once again need to rely on Ron Bartell to play in this game as they are too depleted to rely on anybody else. Phillip Adams had played well in Bartell's stead last week but was injured and did not practice yet this week. Therefore Ron gets another chance to prove he can still play at an NFL level and it will be against one of the best quarterbacks in the game.
The Raiders need Bartell to not give up anymore big plays in the passing game like the 44 yard touchdown he gave up to the Browns. He will have a tall assignment covering the under-rated Erik Decker and will need to perform well for the Raiders to have any sort of a chance in this game. He may also be covering the Broncos other big playmaking WR Demaryius Thomas at times which is an even taller task for Bartell.
The Broncos Knowshon Mereno has performed admirably since replacing Willis McGahee who is now on IR. It is good that the Raiders wont see McGahee since Willis has been known as a Raider killer but they still need to be ready for Mereno. Peyton Manning describes Mereno as a humbled player after his demotion from starter to scout team this year. The Raiders will need to keep him contained, or at least keep the back breaking long runs in check.
As for the Raiders offense hopefully they will finally get their Run DMC mojo back. It has yet to be confirmed but Darren McFadden had been close to returning last week against the Browns but was held back. He will be a game time decision but I hope that he plays. The Raiders need to get any type of positive production out of him that they can.
There is a distinct chance with next year being McFadden's final contract year that the Raiders will consider trading him in the off-season. They could use ample production from him when he returns to increase his trade value. If he started playing great again it could also give the Raiders a reason to keep him. Darren's status can only be helped by him playing well and he has had his best games be against the Broncos in his past.
With the passing game Carson Palmer needs to make sure not to throw any of his patented interceptions. This is already a tough enough match-up for the Raiders even if Carson plays perfect football but if his gunslinger tendencies cause him to throw the ball to the opposing team Oakland probably could not handle that well. He has had a great season so far numbers wise but the Raiders need to know that they can trust him.
The wide receivers are the most in question right now for their extreme lack of production this season though. Even Denarius Moore was benched last week for his poor play. Oakland can not survive if their receivers continue to drop balls or run bad routes. They need to get back on the same page as Carson.
Darrius Heyward-Bey has not had much of a breakout game yet this year and this is the perfect chance for him. His size and speed should be challenging for the ageless Champ Bailey if that is who is lined up across from him. In all likelihood he will actually be lined up against Tracy Porter though. Whoever it is Hey-Bey needs to demand the ball and show what he is capable of. He too is in dire straights considering his cap number for next year and needs to show McKenzie that he wants to stay a Raider and can be a playmaker.
Oakland's offensive line has a huge challenge in this game containing the Broncos Von Doom combo. Von Miller is still in the race for most sacks this year and has played so well this year that he is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year and may even get some MVP votes. Elvis Dumervil is also an elite rusher and loves to tee off on the Raiders.
Carson Palmer must have time to throw and the Raider running backs must be given some holes to run through. This is a huge game for the offensive line because of the challenges facing them in the Denver defense. Coach Allen needs this victory and in order for that to be possible the offensive line needs to hold their own in the trenches.
This game is on National Television. It is being aired on NFL Network and it will be one of the only chances all year for America to see the Raiders play. So far this year not displaying the product nationally was probably a good thing. Now though is the time for the Raiders players and coaching staff to show that they want to be here.
There are not many players or personnel that are safe right now and each one needs to show the powers in charge that they want to be Oakland Raiders. This being shown to the nation is something not to take lightly. With the Raiders long dead in the playoff race this is their biggest game of the year now.
This is their super bowl this year considering the loss that Dennis Allen is going through right now. They need to perform well under the spotlight. Coach Allen needs this game unlike any other game he has ever been a part of. Help him grieve and help him say goodbye to his father. It may not be winnable in the end because the Broncos are that good, but the team needs to put everything they have on the line this week.