Regular Season Week 11
Where: Oakland Coliseum
When: 1:15 p.m. PDT
2009 Records: Bengals (7-2), Raiders (2-7)
History: Oakland has a 17-8 regular season series lead
Television: CBS, DirecTV 716, Blacked out locally
Line: Bengals by 10 points
Week 11 of the 2009 NFL regular season brings the Cincinnati Bengals to the Oakland Coliseum where the host Raiders hope that the sounds of BOOO...BOOO...BOOO!!, emanating from Raider Nation, change to BRUCE...BRUCE...BRUCE!!
The Bruce Gradkowski era has begun in Oakland as the calls from the overly-frustrated Raiders fans screaming for the benching of failed QB JaMarcus Russell have been answered. Gradkowski get his first NFL start in a Raider uniform Sunday and it would be difficult to imagine that he could perform any worse than Russell has. Now, we will be able to at least get a better read on the Oakland wide receivers, their ability and progression, with a more competent and accurate passer in Gradkowski. One of the reasons Cable stated for benching Russell was the fact that Russell was missing so many wide open receivers. Well, many times even when Russell managed to be accurate, the receivers would drop the ball. I am especially looking for today to see if DHB and Murphy respond to the change at QB and find their hands.
The Bengals come into this game with a surprising 7-2 record and are 4-0 on the road this season. The Raiders on offense will be facing a highly improved Bengals team, especially on defense, where the Bengals are doing a great job of pressuring the pocket, which shows up in their sack total (25) as well as interceptions (11). While the Raiders will still need to establish the running game, fortunately, Gradkowski brings a different skill set to the field which will force the Bengals to not just stack the box and forget the pass as they would have done with Russell. Look for Gradkowski to be able to get McFadden a lot more involved in the passing game and to lean heavily on Bush pounding the ball behind Gallery and changing it up with Fargas.
The Bengals will be without their leading rusher Cedric Benson due to injury and though they just signed Larry Johnson, he will probably not play much, so expect the Bengals to go with backup rookie Bernard Scott. This will probably mean that Cincinnati will go to the air more often with Carson Palmer. Look for a great matchup today between Chad Ochocinco and Nnamdi Asomugha, that is, as long as the Raiders scheme allows for Nnamdi to be covering Ochocinco. If the Raiders can manage to contain the running game of Cincinnati, then they can really use one of their few strengths, their defensive line to go hard at Palmer.
The other interesting item to be looking for in this game and for the remainder of the season is the game inside the game. That is to say, how JaMarcus Russell conducts himself on the sideline as now the #2 QB. I believe that Russell is auditioning himself for whether or not he will be with the Raiders next season or even the NFL at all. 2010 will be an uncapped year, so the Raiders could jettison Russell's contract without impacting their financial ability for roster maneuvering. While I do believe that the Raiders will bring in another QB for next season, (Gradkowski is not the answer) they would rather not give up on Russell just yet. However, the way Russell comports himself for the rest of the season is going to go a long way towards his future in this league. Russell must show that he is fully engaged in every game and is prepared to step in and perform as any other #2 QB would around the NFL.
I think we will see some noticeable improvement from the Raiders today because of Gradkowski and the Raiders will play a good competitive game. But Cincinnati is just too good, especially on defense and they will ultimately prevail.
Prediction: Bengals 27 Raiders 20
What are your keys to the game Raider Nation and what are the things that you are looking for in this game now that the era of Bruce has begun?