10:00 am Pacific, TV CBS
It's week two of the NFL season and the Raiders are traveling to Miami to face to the Dolphins. The two teams have met in three of the past four seasons and have lost every one of those games and have lost six of the last seven games against the Dolphins. Their last win was in 2007 in Miami and before that, they hadn't beat Miami since the two teams met in the 2000 playoffs.
But history is just that. It's in the past. And has little bearing on how this game will play out. As it stands now, the Raiders are a one point favorite over the Dolphins in their home opener.
The one prevailing issue the Raiders will face is the dreaded East coast trip. The odds aren't in their favor heading all the way to the East coast. It doesn't help matters that it is also a short week as the Raiders played on Monday night in the opener last week. The Dolphins also think the heat and humidity will affect the Raiders who will be playing in their black uniforms in the Miami sun.
The Raiders will enter with as close to a healthy team as they've had in quite some time. They were without three of their six wide receivers last week. Now after placing Jacoby Ford on injured reserve and having starting receiver Denarius Moore and rookie standout Juron Criner back, the outlook is quite different.
Other news on the injury front is not as good as number one corner, Ron Bartell, has been placed on the six week injured reserve with a broken shoulder blade. He will be replaced by Pat Lee who has started just one game in his four-year NFL career. His teammate, Joselio Hanson, who is a veteran slot corner, will take on the responsibility of covering Dolphins top receiver, Davone Bess.
The Raiders primary issue in the opener was losing their long snapper, Jon Condo, to a head injury that caused two bobbled punts and a blocked punt. Condo has yet to be cleared to play but the team signed Nick Guess to replace him as long snapper should he not pass his concussion test.
The Dolphins have some injury problems as well. Tailback Daniel Thomas-- who takes the more convention role in the offense while Reggie Bush plays in moves around the offense-is out with a concussion. Wide receiver Anthony Armstrong is not expected to play which leaves their weak receiving corps even weaker.
The primary issue for the Dolphins is their quarterback. He threw three interceptions last week and fumbled one other time that was recovered by the Dolphins. It was the rookie's first game as a pro and the Texans brought a lot of pressure to try and rattle him. Expect the Raiders to try a similar approach.
Both teams' strength is their defensive line play. The Dolphins defensive front consists of Jared Odrick, Randy Starks and Paul Soliai with Cameron Wake as a rushing outside linebacker. They held Arian Foster to 3.0 yards per carry in the opener which is important because the Texans, like the Raiders, run a zone blocking scheme.
The Raider defensive front, while they won't have Danial Thomas to worry about, will still have to keep Reggie Bush in check. Bush had 100 yards on 22 carries against the Raiders last season. Although at the time, they were without Matt Shaughnessy. He is a stout run defender along with being the team's best pass rusher. He, Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, and Lamarr Houston will look to continue their run stuffing success of late while relying on the linebackers to keep Reggie Bush from burning them.
Those linebackers held up very well last week. The pleasant surprise was rookie Miles Burris. Rolando McClain also played well. Philip Wheeler has been very solid since joining the team and the Raiders will need all three to continue to play well if they hope to keep Tannehill from having his coming out party against them.
The special teams will be crucial and the two teams went in opposite directions last week. While the Dolphins were returning a kick for a touchdown, the Raiders were bobbling the opening kickoff, rolling snaps to the punter, and missing a blocking assignment for a blocked punt.
The special teams play has been plaguing the Raiders through each of their four preseason games before last week as well. The Raiders have a Pro Bowl trio in Shane Lechler, Sebastian Janikowski, and Jon Condo. But as I mentioned before, Condo was injured last week and Jacoby Ford, now on injured reserve, was the team's best return man. Suddenly a strength is a severe weakness.
The Raiders and Dolphins are fairly evenly matched in most areas. The one area the Raiders should have an advantage is quarterback with veteran Carson Palmer over rookie Ryan Tannehill.
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