In case you hadn't heard, the Raiders are in London. They have been all week as they get acclimated to the time change and prepare to face the Dolphins who - being from the East Coast of the US - took a different tact and left on Friday.
This is the first of three games at Wembley Stadium in London. The weather has been fantastic this week and it figures to be pretty good for the game as well. I have spoken to several Brits who say this is not typical for late September. They said this weather is usually what they experience in July and August.
What it means is the field doesn't figure to be a slippery mess like it often is for the teams that come over here to play.
Menelik Watson is the talk of the town as the Manchester England native returns as an NFL player. The NFL fans from the UK love that one of their own is playing this week. He said playing in Wembley is a "dream". That dream will be that much cooler for him when he carries the British flag out the tunnel for introductions.
While Watson gets much attention, Holmes is also on the case. Andre Holmes will start at wide receiver opposite James Jones. Rod Streater is going to miss a few weeks with a broken foot and Denarius Moore has had a case of the dropsies - particularly ones that result in game-losing interceptions.
Fresh off the plane from Miami is newly signed Raider - and former Raider - Brandian Ross. With Tyvon Branch on injured reserve, also with a broken foot, Ross will be the back up Usama Young at free safety. And being that he spent the first few weeks of this season with the Phins, he comes with a little inside information. Not a smart move making Ross available heading into this game.
Speaking of not smart decisions by the Dolphins, the head coach Joe Philbin created an unnecessary quarterback controversy this week by being non-committal all week as to whether Ryan Tannehill was his starter. Tannehill was not pleased with the distraction it caused and the team was not happy about it either. If they lose to the Raiders, many will point to that disruption as a possible source. Matt Moore is Tannehill's back-up.
Tannehill has not exactly cemented his spot as the starter this season which is what opened the Dolphins up to the question in the first place. Not helping matters is his starting center, Mike Pouncey, has been out with a hip injury this season. He was limited this week and is doubtful for the game.
Out for the game altogether is Randy Starks who has a back injury. The 6-3, 305-pound defensive tackle is their anchor in the middle of their defensive line so his loss is pretty sizable (literally).
Speaking of sizable losses, the Raiders linebacking corps is depleted considerably. They have three healthy linebackers at the moment. Miles Burris is the latest to go down. He has a foot injury that had him limited in practice this week. Nick Roach is still limited with his concussion that occurred five weeks ago and Sio Moore is officially out with an ankle injury.
If Burris can't go, it will be Khalil Mack, Kaluka Maiava, and Bojay Filimoeatu as the only linebackers the Raiders have on the field.
With the way the Dolphins have been running the ball, the linebacker depth in Oakland is a real problem. The Raiders already had a suspect run defense which makes this a tough match-up. Luckily for the Raiders Knowshon Moreno won't play in this game. He pummeled the Patriots in the opener racking up 134 yards and a touchdown. But the fact that Miller averaged over seven yards per carry last week should tell you they simply run the ball well regardless of who is toting the rock.
Toting the rock for the Raiders once again will be Maurice Jones-Drew who returns from his hand injury. He suffered the injury in the opener and had to have a procedure done on it. He is expected to start and share some carries with Darren McFadden. This combo didn't do well in the opener against the Jets so it remains to be seen if they can play up to expectations coming into the season.
These two teams made a draft day trade two years ago as the Raiders traded down out of the number three pick and down to the 12 pick. The Dolphins chose Dion Jordan and the Raiders chose D.J. Hayden. Neither of those players will play in this game. Hayden is on the PUP list, eligible to return after week six and Jordan is in the substance abuse program, also scheduled to return after week six. At least the Raiders got a second round pick out of the deal. That pick was Menelik Watson who will play but won't start.
Both these teams are reeling at the moment. And they have both had their best games against the Patriots. The Dolphins beat them in the opener and the Raiders played their best game against them in a loss last week. The Dolphins are hoping to get back in the win column against the Raiders and the Raiders are hoping they can ride the momentum from last week to their first win of the season.
Something's gotta give.
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