Alright guys and gals! The weekend is here and our next game is creeping ever nearer. That next game is going to be against our toughest opponent yet with the Pittsburgh Steelers but despite our recent ineptitude there are reasons to feel optimistic. We all have to remember time and time again the mantra Any Given Sunday has been proven true and all it takes is a great performance this week to turn our season around.
The first and foremost reason that this game is always an interesting match up is the historical rivalry between these teams. That rivalry has calmed with age but the history will always be there. When dealing with rivalries I believe the current records go out the window. You can't completely disregard current trends surrounding the teams but they are definitely a much lesser factor in the final score of the game than playing a team with no rivalry involved. Once out on the field anything can happen and the intensity is turned up a few notches. That is something we absolutely need to see out of the Raiders after a noticeable lack of intensity in the first two games this season.
Another reason to be optimistic is this is the 2nd game in the return of Stefen Wisnewski into the starting line up. Now that he has a game under his belt he can start feeling more comfortable in the new scheme. Zone blocking the center becomes even more important because of more in depth blocking assignments. It also requires more teamwork than the power blocking system and so the time Wiz had missed would have effected that chemistry. Now with a game in and a full week of practice the line should hopefully work together more cohesively. We need Stefen out there and in charge being comfortable on the field. A second game should have noticeable improvement, especially when you consider the amount of preseason time Wiz had missed.
Last but not least for the reason I see a little more optimism going into this game is knowing that we beat them two other times recently when it seemed impossible to do so. Once was the reason we still hear people complain about giving up on Bruce Gradkowski and one was a 4 int defensive battle where we beat up Roethlisberger all day. Now Bruce is not going to be put in to save the day so we can't get a repeat performance of that game so we have to hope for the defense to step up. We traded continuity on offense for a better defense but that is debatable right now. Oakland needs to provide a reason to stop that debate amongst the fans and beating up Ben Roethlisberger would do that for us. The Raiders need to get to him fast and they need to take him down hard. Even if we can't get the sacks we need to get hits on Ben, because if he has a chance to stand tall he will find players open in the Raiders depleted secondary.
I can't lie and say I think the Raiders WILL win but I can honestly say there are reasons to believe they CAN win. Nobody knows what the outcome will be in the end. If the Raiders do come out on top it will provide some momentum for them as they go to play Peyton Manning for the first time in a Broncos uniform. If nothing else we need to see some serious improvement in play through the whole 60 minutes. If it feels like the team didn't give full effort in this game it will lead to quite a long week of foreboding defeatism before an important divisional game against Denver. GO RAIDERS!!