No. 1 in pass defense? Not even close


Please, no more references to the Raiders’ top-rated pass defense.

For anyone to even imply that Oakland is among the NFL’s elite when it comes to pass defense is like saying a basketball team averaging 50 points per game is playing great defense even though they’re giving up 60.

Points per game in basketball is a statistic indicating pace, not defense. Passing yards per game given up in the NFL has more to do with how much an opposing team is passing, not how well a team is defending the pass.

Oakland is rated No. 1 because they’re giving up 133.1 yards per game.

It’s more a factor of Oakland’s anemic offense, which has caused opponents to rein in their own offenses because they know with certainty the Raiders can’t score.

When teams have had to pass against Oakland, they’ve actually fared rather well.

Quarterbacks facing the Raiders have a passer rating of 88.7 _ ranking the Raiders 25th in the NFL instead of No. 1. They’ve given up a 63.7 completion percentage with eight touchdowns and have just four interceptions. All four AFC West opponents are doing better.

Philip Rivers of San Diego, Steve McNair of Baltimore and Jake Plummer of Denver played it safe against the Raiders and completed big passes when they needed them. Cleveland’s Charlie Frye directed two crucial drives that included passes that pierced the heart of the Oakland secondary. San Francisco’s Alex Smith was 15-for-19 for 165 yards, three touchdowns and in interception for a 120.5 rating _ the highest of his career.

While opposing passer rating is not perfect, it’s a better indicator of how well a team is defending the pass than anything else because it factors in completion percentage, yardage, touchdown passes and interceptions, rather than just yardage.

If Arizona has as much trouble against Oakland as it has against everyone else, the Raiders pass defense could get a chance to be the difference between winning and losing against the Cardinals and rookie Matt Leinart.

Here’s how NFL teams stack up in opposing passer rating:

1. Baltimore 56.8

2. San Diego 57.4

3. Atlanta 57.6

4. Jacksonville 58.4

5. Chicago 62.4

6. Cincinnati 63.2

7. Denver 65.5

8. Pittsburgh 65.9

9. Minnesota 68.4

10. Dallas 69.9

11. New York Jets 72.0

12. Arizona 72.1

13. Philadelphia  74.7

14. Cleveland 75.3

15. St. Louis 76.0

16. Kansas City 78.6

17. Carolina 78.9

18. New England 79.7

19. New Orleans 80.9

20. New York Giants   81.8

21. Indianapolis 82.6

22. Buffalo 83.1

23. Seattle 86.2

24. Tampa Bay 88.7

25. Oakland 88.7

26. Miami 92.3

27. Tennessee 92.8

28. Washington 93.2

29. San Francisco 97.1

30. Green Bay 98.8

31. Detroit 108.4

32. Houston 112.2






Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer