Two AFC West rivals meet for the second time in 2011 this Sunday when the Denver Broncos travel to Oakland's Alameda County Stadium in a rematch with the Raiders. 4:05 PM is the scheduled kickoff time, and the early football betting lines favors the Raiders by -8 points.
It's been an emotional few weeks for the Raiders, as first founder and owner Al Davis passed away the day before a game, and then the team's starting QB, Jason Campbell, broke his collarbone and is out for the season. The team then made a deal for disgruntled holdout QB Carson Palmer of the Cincinnati Bengals. Kyle Boller started after Campbell's injury but was ineffective, giving way to Palmer less than a week after he was obtained. Understandably, Palmer was rusty, and the results were ugly in their last game, two weeks ago at home when they were shutout by Kansas City, 28-0.
Despite those whirlwind three weeks, the Raiders (4-3) are still in the running in the AFC West, and Denver, another team facing that's undergone a "soap opera" atmosphere recently, might be the perfect opponent. Oakland's running game, currently ranked 2nd in the NFL with an average of 159 yards per game, is still potent with Darren McFadden (614 yards and 4 TDs on 113 carries) and third-down/goal-line specialist Michael Bush (237 yards, 3 TDs, 60 carries). The ground game will probably have to carry the offense, at least until Palmer becomes comfortable both with the system and his receivers. The receiving corps is in desperate need of a "go-to" guy. Darrius Heyward-Bey is improving week-by-week, but his inconsistency prevents him from being "the man." Oakland has reportedly brought in Palmer's former Bengals teammate, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a workout.
On defense, Oakland is middle-of-the-pack, capable of shutting down an offense, but with so many inexperienced components in key positions, consistency is an issue. DT Richard Seymour is the leader up front, while LB Rolando McClain and S Michael Huff are capable defenders on the back side.
The Tim Tebow Experiment received less-than-glowing reviews in its debut this past Sunday, getting blown out (at home, nonetheless) by the Detroit Lions, 45-10. A week after leading the Broncos to a last-minute miracle win over Miami, Tebow was roughed up by the Lions, completing just 18 of 39 passes for 172 yards, a touchdown and an interception which was returned 100 yards for a TD by Detroit's Chris Houston. Not surprisingly, Tebow was much more effective running the ball, piling up 63 yards on 10 carries. Tebow was also sacked 7 times and fumbled 3 times, losing one, which was scooped up and returned for a touchdown by the Lions' DE Cliff Avril.
All of Denver's woes can't be blamed on Tebow however, as Detroit's high-powered offense met very little resistance from the Broncos defensively. Allpro LB Elvis Dumervil is still not 100% recovered from injury, and Champ Bailey is also playing banged-up. Rookie LB Von Miller is going to be a star, but he can't play but one position, and the holes in Denver's defense are plentiful.
Each of these teams desperately need a win, and quarterback play on both sides is a huge question mark. If Fox stays with Tebow, a better course of action might be to scale back on the straight drop-back passing attack, which is obviously not a Tebow strength. However, the young man has proven to be a great motivator and leader, and in time, it all may start to click. For the Raiders, it will be interesting to see how much Carson Palmer has adapted during the bye week and if he will be a good fit.
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