Despite that foreboding statistic, the Raiders are on their way to the dreaded East Coast yet again. And yes, for all you West Coast based fans that does mean the hated 10am start time.
This time the Raiders are headed for the Georgia Dome in Atlanta to face the undefeated 5-0 Falcons. All logic points to another loss for the Raiders in the East but there is always the chance for an improbable victory.
Atlanta is a team that nobody in their right mind wants to face right now. They have the top wide receiver combo in the league of Julio Jones and Roddy White, and they have a QB in Matt Ryan who can get the ball to those stud WR's anywhere on the field. If that's not enough, the Falcons also have the human bowling ball, Michael "the burner" Turner and an excellent offensive line that runs the zone blocking scheme the way it is supposed to be run.And let's not forget Hall of Fame TE Tony Gonzales. Man, that offense is scary.
Expect the Falcons to try and punish the Raiders with the run and then strike deep. Atlanta is at their best when they are balanced and they will try to establish the run right away to insure that balancing act. The Raiders can not let the Falcons establish their ground game if they want to win. Even with the worst corners in the league on the Raiders defense they need to force the Falcons to be one dimensional or else Atlanta will impose their will on the Raiders all day.
The Raiders will need to come out with that same game plan of establishing the run early. Without a doubt the Raiders need a productive Darren McFadden in this game. If they can't get him going in the run game then they need to use a short passing attack to make up for the lack of rushing yards.
DMC is the best player on this team but that hasn't been very obvious so far this season to those watching the games. If getting him going means throwing him ten screen passes, then so be it. Oakland cannot continue to let their best player look like a wounded deer. They need him to be the powerful buck that he has shown capable of being in the past. As McFadden goes, so do the Raiders, hence their current 1-3 record.
The Raiders should get a boost with the return of an important piece of the offense and the introduction of a new player on defense. The offensive player returning is WR Darrius Heyward-Bey. After the shot he took against the Steelers, it looked like we may not see him again at all this year. Instead, he once again shows the heart of a lion by coming back just 3 weeks after a devastating hit left him motionless on the field. The biggest benefit of DHB being back is to Denarius Moore who now will see a little less coverage rolling over the top his way. Another weapon for Carson Palmer is definitely a plus too.
The new player that will be introduced to Raider Nation is DE/OLB Andre Carter. The Raiders desperately need somebody to help their pass rush and that has always been Carter's specialty. It is tough to imagine a player his age (33) who is coming off a major surgery having much left in the tank but anything the experienced veteran can bring to the Raiders horrid pass rush will be appreciated.
The Falcons defense is about as opportunistic as they come and will be looking for turnovers. They do not have the strongest run defense in the league though so that could bode well for McFadden. The Raiders will need to test the Falcons run defense and have success in the run game to win this game. The Falcons get most of their turnovers in the passing game so keeping the ball in the hands of the Raiders running backs and control of the ball is even more important.
If DMC can get going in this game and Carson Palmer continues to keep his turnovers to a minimum, the Raiders have a shot at coming out of this with another improbable victory. A win would keep the Raiders in the hunt in the AFC West with a record of 2-3 because the Chargers (3-2) face the Broncos (2-3) this week. Best case scenario would have the Raiders just a half game back from the lead and worst case isn't that much more depressing than where this team was after their last game versus Denver.
A win in Atlanta is highly unlikely but a win versus Pittsburgh also seemed like a long shot. That's why they play the games.