Football is back! The 2013 season has already kicked off for the Raiders divisional rival the Denver Broncos and the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, but now it is their turn to be unleashed onto the playing field. After months of waiting, the day has finally arrived for Week 1 of a brand new season where everybody starts off with an undefeated record.
This will mark the first trip for the Raiders to the immaculate Lucas Oil Stadium. This beautiful marvel of modern architecture is the home of the Indianapolis Colts who will be providing the Raiders with a very real competency test to start the season. Last year Indy was an 11 win playoff team despite having just had the first pick in the draft in 2012. It was thankful in large part to that very selection which they used on QB Andrew Luck.
Jason Tarver, the Raiders Defensive Coordinator, knows Andrew Luck very well from having been the Assistant DC in Stanford during Luck's senior season on the team. He faced him every single day in practice and attempted to thwart Andrew's impressive intangibles for the good of their team back then, but now he has the chance to use that extensive knowledge for the good of Andrew's opponent here with the Silver and Black.
Not only did Tarver coach against Luck in practice at Stanford, he also coached against Indy's new OC Pep Hamilton at that time who was also a member of the same coaching staff at Stanford as the Cardinals OC. The history between these two coaches should provide an interesting perspective as to who got to know whom better during their time coaching together. Despite the Colts having a very strong roster, this past with Jason and two important member's of Indy's roster could very well provide a chance to even things out a bit.
As for Dennis Allen, the head coach of the Raiders, he feels good about his team going into this game.
"I feel good about the guys we’ve got in that room." Said Dennis Allen in his Friday Press Conference, "We’re going to go to battle and go to war. We’re going to stick together and compete and see how things turn out. I feel good about the guys we’ve got in that room. These guys have worked extremely hard and we’re ready to go."
What else would he say? Of course he is suppose to feel good but hopefully there is tangible evidence on the field to back up that feeling for him. DA needs to have a strong start in coaching this year because many fans of the Raiders have not warmed up to him yet. This is his chance to start so I hope he really does feel good.
This game is expected to be Terrelle Pryor's welcoming to the world of a starting NFL QB. He does have one career start that came in last season's finale game but the Raiders were only playing for pride at that time. This game is more than pride, it is a chance to come out the gate strong and announce to the world that the Raiders are not the laughing stock that most outside of the Raider Nation believe them to be. It will be a lot of fun to see what Pryor does with his opportunity tomorrow inside the dome of Lucas Oil Stadium.
For the Raiders to win this game they will absolutely need to establish a run game. They have an offensive line that is just screaming to be blitzed at so a solid running game in the start of the game would really go a long way towards making the Colts' defense play more conservatively. Luckily for Oakland, that is exactly why they are expected to have Pryor start at quarterback.
Terrelle's specialty is his athletic ability and he will need every ounce of it if he is going to pull out an upset opening day victory. Pryor will need to complete some passes too along the way but he is most dangerous while running the ball and with an all out rush expected from the Colts he is going to have to be productive in that area specifically.
Making matters worst will be the fact that Indy hasn't been given that great of a reason to respect Terrelle's passing skills yet so they will be expecting to be playing against the run more than the pass. That is ok though because if they underestimate Pryor's ability to beat them with his arm then he will be able to surprise them and if they test him too aggressively it could create running lanes for Pryor to take advantage of as well.
Speaking of running lanes, Darren McFadden is going to need the depleted offensive line to open up some of them. Thankfully it will be in the Power Blocking scheme instead of Zone again so hopefully the Raiders will be able to take advantage by using raw power. McFadden knows that he didn't perform up to par last year and is itching for his chance to show he still is an elite back. He couldn't ask for a better opportunity in that regard considering how weak the current offensive line of the Raiders is. If he performs well it is pretty safe to say it will have been due specifically to his own ability, and with this being a contract year that directly will effect his bottom line in contract negotiations.
Oakland's defense is led by aging superstar Charles Woodson who returns to the Raiders roster after years away playing in Green Bay. He knows this team needs his leadership and that is why he is here. Woodson might not be the same player anymore as he once was but he can still be a difference maker in a franchise based off his veteran skills. He wants to use those skills back home where he started his NFL career.
"It means a lot that I got the opportunity to come back here and play," said Woodson. "I’m looking forward to taking that step to getting the Raiders turned back around, helping this organization out. I’m looking forward to it."
Raider Nation is looking forward to that too Charles, so bring your A game! Andrew Luck is a beast and he has some excellent talent around him in WR's Reggie Wayne, TY Hilton, and former Raider Darius Heyward-Bey. Besides that strong group of wideouts they also added running back Ahmad Bradshaw from the Giants and they have an extremely talented tight end in Coby Fleener. There is no shortage of people for Woodson and the rest of the Raiders defense to pay attention to so they need to prove to be ready for the challenge.
DHB is not the only former Raiders on the Colts roster. They also have former Raider Samson Satelle playing Center who is a player many fans in Oakland wish that the team had done more to keep. Besides on the field they also have their very top man in the organization as having Raider ties in Head Coach Chuck Pagano who once was the Defensive Backs coach in Oakland over a two year span. Many Raiders fans will remember Chuck's words about the Raiders when he was being looked at as the next HC in Indy as a slap in the face.
"I had a great experience, or sentence," Pagano said "Well, I can’t say sentence, a two-year sentence in Oakland. And congratulations to Hue Jackson, it’s well deserved. And he will earn every cent that they pay him. It won’t be much, but he will earn every nickel. But I had a great experience out there. And two years was plenty."
If the Raiders didn't have enough reasons to come out motivated in this game then remembering that slight is the topper. No reason to start giving Pagano some good memories now with this team if he didn't enjoy his previous ones, right? This is the first chance the Raiders will have to retort that insult on the field and it will be a real joy if they make him eat those words.
There are plenty of story lines going into this game but hopefully there will be only one coming out of it; Raiders Upset Indy Week 1! I didn't predict that to happen in our weekly picks, but I sure would love writing about it after the fact anyway. As long as its a competitive game I will be somewhat happy, unfortunately my gut feeling isn't exactly positive going into this game. I will be thrilled when my gut is proven wrong though.