Ahh...The Battle of Los Angeles! Click the link...do it and thank me later. Rock while you read!
Much like the incident that earned this title, which was depicted in Steven Spielberg's historically accurate reenactment, it isn't really happening. Since both teams left small market Los Angeles for the media spotlights of St. Louis and Oakland, it would be more appropriate to call it the battle of the rebuilding. Still, nothing like rekindling an old rivalry to get the juices flowing.
If there is such a thing as a must win game in Week 2, this is it. The Raiders and its Nation are in desperate need of a victory in the home opener. A loss and I am quickly back on the meds that promise to cure Raider depression. Side effects be damned!
Okay, so I think we can all agree the Raiders need a win and I think most everyone agrees they are rightfully favored to win. The Raiders are a 3.5 to 4 point favorite in this contest. The betting public expects a defensive battle with the over/under sitting consistently at 37.5. This is the second lowest over/under of the weekend.
3.5 to 4?!?! That's not enough. Just look at this in-depth analysis of the Rams last season: They sucked...at everything. They were 1-15!
Should be an easy win for the Raiders right? A team coming off a 1-15 campaign while starting a rookie QB...no problem. Well, not so fast, this match-up doesn't look as easy as it once did.
What Has Me Reaching For Those Meds:
The Rams front 7 vs. The Raiders O-line:
The Rams D-line looks to be a vastly improved unit. They looked good in the pre-season and had a solid opening. Overall, the Rams had two sacks and hit the QB 9 times in Week One.
Chris Long is alive! He had 3 QB hits and one sack as he finally looked like the player that was worthy of being drafted #2. Lucky for him, he will be lining up against what may be the worst Tackles in the league.
I am sure Tom Cable is working on ways right now to offer protection help to his struggling Tackles. Son of Howie wouldn't sack a Raider would he? Come on Howie, just tell Chris you'll take away his cell phone for a week if he tackles anyone in a Raider jersey.
Long is not alone on the line. The addition of Fred Robbins has helped shore up the middle. He had a great pre-season and Week One debut. Robbins registered a sack among his 4 tackles against the Cardinals and provide stout run D.
The Rams looked improved against the run all pre-season. Thanks not only to the line, but to the maturation of a young LB corp. This corps features budding star James Laurinaits in the middle and Larry Grant and Na'il Diggs on the outside.
Despite the improvements, they surrendered 112 rushing yards to the Cardinals at 5.3 yards per carry. The interesting thing here is that the majority of the Cardinals success came on one drive that featured 4 runs that were 15 yards or longer.
Other than those four runs the Cardinals gained 37 yards on 17 carries.
Steven Jackson vs. The Raiders D
Jackson is a beast! The guy can do it all and with a rookie QB at the helm the Rams are going to ask him to.
The Cardinals effectively shut down Jackson last week and forced Bradford to try and beat them. Jackson had 81 yards on 22 carries.
The Rams O-line, which looks to be a strength, struggled to open up holes for Jackson. Jackson also suffered from an inflamed knee and had an MRI after the game. No damage was revealed.
I expect heavy doses of Jackson in this one as the line tries to establish itself and the coaches take pressure off their QB who attempted the third most passes in franchise history last week with 55.
The Rams disciplined play and turnovers:
The Rams only had 5 penalites last week and forced 4 turnovers.
What Helps The Fear Go Away
The Raiders D vs. The Rams Passing Offense
A rookie QB making his first start on the road usually doesn't end up well and while Bradford had many plays displaying why he was worthy of a his draft status, he also had many plays that you'd expect out of a rookie. Bradford ended up with 3 picks and a QB rating in the mid 50's.
The Rams are thin at WR. The loss of Donnie Avery combined with Laurent Robinson's status for the game in doubt effectively destroy their already muted deep passing threat. While Robinson may play with a sprained ankle, it will surely limit his effectiveness.
The Rams have become a notoriously dink and dunk passing attack. They averaged just 5.5 yards per catch last season--which was good for 29th in the league--and 4.6 yards per catch last Sunday (note: these numbers do not include YAC).
This combined with the Raiders DB's abiltiy to man up on the WR's should allow the Raiders to stack the box and take away Steven Jackson.
It is worth noting that a rejuvinated Mark Clayton came in and had a career best 10 catches last week. Coaches put Nnam on Clayton please and take away the rookies favorite target!
The Raiders Passing Attack vs. The Rams Nickel Defense
Of course, for the Raiders to get the Rams in the Nickel they will have to get the quality of play from the O-line that allows them to get out of max protection packages.
If they do, the Raiders should be able to get their passing game on track. The Cardinals exploited the Rams Nickel coverage last week. Part of this is due to injury. The Rams will be without their starting Nickel LB, Chris Chamberlain, and their starting Nickel DB and possibly his back-up.
While the Rams starting DB, Ron Bartell, did an admirable job shadowing Larry Fitzgerald last week, it was largely when the Cardinals went to a more wide open attack that Steve Breaston was able to get 7 catches for 142 yards.
Match-up To Watch:
The Raiders Interior D-line vs. The Rams Interior O-line
The Rams O-line is really good Guard to Guard. Combine this with Steven Jackson and the Rams can often count on interior runs keeping them out of 3rd and long situations.
While the Raiders had serious doubts at defensive tackle this off-season, it is suddenly looking like a strength. There is some question mark with the availability of Richard Seymour. Seymour dominated a good interior Titan offensive line last week and if he can do the same against the Rams it will go a long way towards a Raider victory.
Seymour doesn't need to worry about holding down the middle by himself. Tommy Kelly and John Henderson were stout against the run last week and are joined by Jay Alford and possibly Des Bryant to add incredible depth.
Keys To The Game:
The Raiders need to contain Steven Jackson and force the Rams into 3rd and longs. They need to put pressure on the rookie QB in passing situations and force mistakes. While the Rams Offensive Line looks solid they are still incredibly raw at Tackle. The Rams starting Tackles have a combined 7 career starts. They are starting 2nd round pick Jason Saffold at LT and last year's #2 overall selection, Jason Smith at RT.
The offensive line needs to actually pass protect this week and when they do, Jason Campbell has to let it fly and take advantage of the thin Rams Pass Defense.