By Merlin Edwards III
The positive changing of a culture in professional sports is a hard thing to. Going from good to bad isn't the most difficult thing, but when an organization has been bad for an extended period of time, gaining confidence of future wins is extremely challenging. When things are going bad, not only do the fans to believe the team will always loose, but it seeps into the front office and locker room of teams as well. In order to change bad culture, a lot of times a full overhaul is needed in order to succeed at a later date. Once that later date comes and the players and coaches all believe in themselves, the national media is the last to jump on the bandwagon. Sometimes teams, in any professional sport, need to produce a "signature win" in order to finally have arrived and be taken seriously by the league. The Oakland Raiders had one of those signature wins this past Sunday after defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-24.
Derek Carr and the Silver and Black came ready to play in Tampa Bay and were able to steal yet another away game, and this time there is no way they should have won. It was not a pretty win, by any stretch of the imagination, if anything it was beyond ugly. After setting an NFL record for penalties in a game with 23, no NFL team should ever be expected to even compete in that game, let alone win. Not only did they give up 23 penalties, but it was for a total of exactly 200 yards. The Raiders gave up 2 football fields worth of yardage and still were able to pull out a win. The circumstances that this team overcame cannot be ignored. It seemed as if they played a pretty good game if there weren't so many penalties. Heck, Winston didn't even pass for more than 200 yards, which means Oakland had more penalty yards than the Bucs had passing yards. Wow. It really is a shame that there were so many flags; we'd actually be talking about a really good Raiders win where the defense played better than they have all season. Instead, that locker room's main concern is toclean up the yellow laundry. The only thing this team can do after a win like that is brush it off, be thankful you came out with a "W," and hope that the seemingly complete game you played (other than the penalties) can be carried over to this next week's game. The Raiders are going to need it.
For the first time since the early 2000's (we've been saying that a lot this season) the Raiders will host a Sunday Night Football game against the hated Denver Broncos. Not enough can be said about how important this game is. Both teams are coming into this game at 6-2 and the winner will take sole place atop the AFC West division. The Raiders will not only put a choke hold on first place with a win in this game, they will put the rest of the league on high alert as well. As if it wasn't enough for Derek Carr to throw for 513 yards passing (new Raiders record), a win against the arch rival Broncos will also cement Derek Carr in serious MVP talks. However, accolades and recognition is not what this team yearns for. Wins are, and it will take a valiant effort from all sides of the ball in order to come up with a win and move to 7-2.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders need to do a couple things to help their chances. First and foremost, Kahlil Mack and the Raiders defensive line needs to get after Trevor Siemian and put him on the ground. The Broncos offensive line is decent, but it is attack-able. Even though the player that Mack got 5 sacks against last season won't be playing, Kahlil needs to get at least 1.5 sacks in order for the defense to succeed. If Siemian has time to sit back in the pocket and assess the defense, it will mean major trouble. Denver's starting running back will be out and the Raiders will have an upper hand in the run game, but if Siemian does not feel pressure he will throw it all over the yard with a good completion percentage and beat the Raiders. This game will not be a shootout and the Raiders need to keep Denver under 25 points in order to pull out a victory. The Broncos defense is just that good.
Derek Carr will need to follow up, arguably, his best game of the season with a very good performance again. The defense that Denver fields is the best in the league and there is a reason they just won a super bowl with a mediocre offense. The Raiders do catch a break with Denver's #1 DB, Aqib Talib, hurt with a bad back, but they still have Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby who would be #1's on most other teams. The Raiders need to attack the run game and let that set them up for passes throughout the game. This will be a relatively low scoring game and it is key for the short passing and running games of Oakland to get going early. If they can keep the defense guessing with good yardage running plays and short to medium yard passing plays, it will hopefully lull the Broncos to sleep and open up the long throws when you need them most, late in the game.
If the Raiders can stick to the offensive game plan and keep Denver from scoring enough to turn this game into a shootout, they will pull out a huge win. They need to put together a full 4 quarters of football or else this game could get ugly. It will be a hard hitting, hate filled, nut buster of a game, but what else can a Raider fan ask for than meaningful football against Denver on a national stage for first place in the division. Get ready for a doozie.
My prediction: Broncos 21, Raiders 17