By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, November 16th, 2008 at 9:43 am in Oakland Raiders.
Note: Didn’t make the Miami trip this week, so no live in-game blogs today. Will post a wrap-up following the game.
Is it really too much to ask to convert a few third down plays and punch the ball into the end zone two or three times?
If the Raiders could manage to do that, it’s not inconceivable they could beat the Miami Dolphins today.
There may be stats and events that serve as signposts to 3-13, but keep in mind the schedule has been brutal since Tom Cable took over for Lane Kiffin.
They got the Saints at home, where they’ve lost only once. Baltimore is now considered a dark horse AFC Super Bowl contender. The New York Jets are 7-3 and atop the AFC East _ and that’s a game the Raiders won.
Most recently, Atlanta is NFC’s turnaround story of the year and Carolina is atop the NFC South at 8-2.
The Dolphins are 5-4 and coming off a 21-19 win over a Seattle team which stands at 2-7, same as the Raiders.
I’m not suggesting there is any sort of remarkable turnaround in the offing, only that every once in awhile teams with bad records do enough right in an afternoon to defeat one with a better record.
If a few things go the Raiders way, today could be one of those days.
– A big play by Darren McFadden, preferably for a touchdown. Short of that, McFadden’s presence sets up someone else for a touchdown. Touchdowns are so hard for the Raiders to come by, they could use a quick strike.
– A few first downs from Ronald Curry, who could be back in the starting lineup today with Javon Walker out for the season and Chaz Schilens active but hobbling with an ankle sprain. He’s the only player with a real sense of how to get past the third down stake _ now he’s got to remember how to hold on to the ball.
– A running game that gets 150 to 175 yards rushing after gaining 299 in Miami last year. It would help if a lot of that is straight at Joey Porter, slowing his pass rush. There were some signs against Carolina the Raiders were starting to snap out of their run-funk.
The Raiders can’t afford another sack-fumble from JaMarcus Russell and zero interceptions would be nice. Today’s backup is Marques Tuiasosopo, as Andrew Walter is listed as the third quarterback because of an ankle sprain.
– A big kickoff return or two from newcomer Justin Miller. Sometimes a little juice from a recent acquisition can do wonders. Better kick coverage, the usual 2008 performances from punter Shane Lechler and kicker Sebastian Janikowski. That means making every field goal attempt from 50 yards and in, and maybe a kick or two from beyond.
– A defensive performance which rivals last week. Chad Pennington isn’t going to beat the Raiders deep, so the tackling must be good. Tommy Kelly was as stout in the middle against the Panthers as he has been all season.
The “Keep it simple’’ approached worked well last week.
– A wakeup call. West Coast teams have been coming out in a fog in 10 a.m. starts. Fact is, it’s a problem of bad West Coast teams. It’s an excuse. Don’t use it.
I’ll check in following the game . . .