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Raiders’ concerns over the final seven

A few potential roadblocks as the Raiders attempt to make a run at the AFC West title and get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002:

Injuries_The easiest and most obvious obstruction for any team. The last few times Al Davis made public appearances, he talked about injuries and their effect _ and thats when the Raiders weren’t nearly as good as they are now. It’s one of the first things brought up by Jason Campbell when asked about continued team success.

The Raiders beat the Chiefs in their pre-bye game without cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle sprain) and tight end Zach Miller (arch), who only happen to be their two most consistent players over the last four years on defense and offense.

The hope is both will be ready to face Pittsburgh, but we really don’t know for sure. When Cable went out of his way to talk up Brandon Myers and how well he played against his Chiefs, my first thought was, “Uh, oh. He’s laying the groundwork for the possibility that Miller could be out awhile.”

Could be I’m reading between the lines and seeing something that’s not there. In any event, foot injuries are tricky and there’s only one tight end on the roster unless Khalif Barnes is getting a uniform number in the 80s.

Another concern is the offensive line, center in particular. Cable says Samson Satele is on the mend, and the Raiders aren’t inclined to add another center at the present time. That means if Satele is hurt, then Jared Veldheer, who has shown great promise since taking over at left tackle, moves to center, and Mario Henderson is back at left tackle. It weakens two positions in a unit that has shown much progress over the past few weeks.

Penalties_ The Raiders lead the NFL with 91 penalties for 794 yards, a pace which would give them 161 penalties for 1,411 yards at the end of the season and erase the existing NFL records of 158 penalties for 1,304 yards _ both set by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1998.

If the Raiders lead the league in penalties, it will be the 16th time in franchise history _ tying the Chicago Bears for most times leading the league. The Bears led the league for the first time in 1941, the Raiders didn’t even exist until 1960.

History says they’re going to get their penalties. A good sign was overcoming 15 flags for 140 yards against the Chiefs, because history also says that good Raiders teams overcome penalties.

But the Raiders aren’t that good. It’s not the 1960s and 1970s when the talent disparity was huge. The occasional penalties of aggression can be lived with. But false starts, encroachment, lining up in the neutral zone, illegal formations and mental penalties need to be reduced if not eliminated.

At some point in a tight game, a third-and-2 that suddenly turns into a third-and-7 (or vice-versa for the defense) may be the difference between winning and losing.

Quarterback play_ Campbell has done some great things in terms of quarterback rating during the three-game win streak, but there’s a reason Cable waited until the most recent game to make the public statement that he would probably be going with the hot hand rather than switching back to Bruce Gradkowski.

He’s not completely sold on Campbell. Gradkowski, on the other hand, is the quarterback who saved his job last year.

I’m not sold on either quarterback being “the guy” for the future and chances are you’ll need both of them to get through the season. You’ll need Campbell because the last 11 times the Raiders have played, Gradkowski has made it start to finish twice and been knocked out of two other games. You’ll need Campbell because he can be a solid, methodical game manager who minimizes turnovers and can occasionally stick a difficult throw when it matters.

You’ll need Gradkowski (when healthy) because there might be days like against St. Louis in Week 2 where the Raiders need a spark they’re not getting from Campbell.

Take a look at the teams competing for AFC playoff spots and the quarterbacks involved, then insert where “Campkowski” fits in.

In no particular order, there’s Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and probably Mark Sanchez who are better, and that’s without even bringing Matt Schaub and a fading Houston team into the equation.

Tennessee seems stuck between Vince Young and Kerry Collins, and the Chiefs have Matt Cassel, situations which Oakland may be able to claim superiority at the most important position on the field.

Wide receivers_At this point, anything you get from Chaz Schilens is a bonus, and even if he does return, the elephant in the room will remain Darrius Heyward-Bey until the Raiders get some consistent production that goes beyond running clear-out routes. He had a big game against Seattle, 5 catches for 105 yards and his first deep strike, a 69-yard touchdown. Heyward-Bey needs to have more of those days. As long as he is not, and Jacoby Ford is cooling his heels on the sidelines after the return of Louis Murphy, then it’s a problem.

It’s OK to be in a developmental mode playing out the string. It’s an issue when you’re trying to make the playoffs.

Sebastian Janikowski_ Cable noted that when Janikowski hit the 33-yard field goal that beat the Chiefs, it came from the same spot on the field as did the miss in Arizona (actually from 32 yards) that kept the Raiders from having a 6-3 record. It officially put the Arizona loss to bed.

Janikowski, however, has missed seven field goal attempts in nine games and is 22-for-29 at 76 percent. That’s No. 27 in the NFL. The most field goal attempts Janikowski has ever missed in a season is 10 (22-for-32 in 2000, 20-for-30 in 2005).

If the Raiders hope to make a playoff run, Janikowski’s percentage will need get near or over 90 percent for the last seven games and include some clutch, long-distance kicks, possibly in bad weather.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • aig-raiders

    Lefty,

    Thanks man. I’m done with those yoyo’s. They can say whatever they want to say. Next week will be a tough game even if Grad/boller take the helm.

    DaRayduh,

    There’s always the any given Sunday possibility. It will be physical. The key is how will Hue use speed and gameplan them. However, there’s nothing like revenge and you know they will be gunning for it.

  • aig-raiders

    STFU AB. Will ya?

  • http://raiders.com A.B. Paine III

    Aig, LOL! I really got you good.

  • http://raiders.com A.B. Paine III

    49er bonus coverage!!!

  • aig-raiders

    I guess the league will stop talking about the Giants being the nubmer 1 team. I saw them getting blown out in their home vs Tenn and couldnt understand why people thought they were #1.

  • DaRayduh

    AIG, one x factor right now will be how much pain NE can lay on them tonight. I know it’s gonna be tough goin in there, but I’m a D guy and got lots of faith in our defense. Hopefully Hue sharpens his pencil and finds a weakness in pitts D and exploits it. But I do believe our ground will have to be way above average so we can score often.

  • lefty12

    It is easy to understand-they are in New York,but rest assured there is no set coast bias-LMFAO

  • lefty12

    East coast

  • 504 Raider

    There’s been a different Media #1 Team every week since week 2.

  • aig-raiders

    DaRay

    I agree with you. I think our D and ground game are playing at championship levels. Can’t think of a better DL playing “rightnow”. Shonasty is playing as well as any DE in this league lately and Seymour is the best DT in the league. We’re not talking earlier this year. I can’t think of anohter RB/OL playing better than DMAC and our run blocking OL. I think you are more optimistic than me in regards to our Oline vs their Dline.

  • aig-raiders

    and this sounds bad but I am hoping for a few concussions or twist of ankles tonite between pitt and NE.

  • Glutten for Punishment

    KC Queefs are who we thought they were!!!!!

  • Raider56

    It is our destiny to beat Pittsburgh. Because of Gradkowski’s success last year Campbell will be on a short leash. Campbell knows this and will be uptight and ready to second guess himself. But he wont have to. DMAC will run the ball up their a$$e$.
    F**K Frenchy and Franco. The creeper Roethisburger will throw two inceptions and my family and I will leave Pittsburgh chanting RAIDERS all the way back to Maryland!!!

  • lefty12

    AIG-I don’t think that sounds bad,sounds pretty good to me.

  • aig-raiders

    wow Raider56 sounds like a hardcore old timer?

  • aig-raiders

    hahaha lefty12…..lmao. I was feeling guilty…..

  • YoungAmerican

    Watching Dwayne Bowe play this season gives me hope for DHB.

  • DaRayduh

    514.lefty12 Says:
    November 14th, 2010 at 3:29 pm
    AIG-I don’t think that sounds bad,sounds pretty good to me.

    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Bring on the pain!

  • 901Raiders

    Report: Fins want to work out JaMarcus Russell
    Posted by Mike Florio on November 14, 2010, 6:18 PM EST

    “Complete Desparation”…

  • lefty12

    Campbell is at his best when he,as Cable says,cuts it loose.Hopefully since he knows BG is real close to being 100% he’ll cut it loose early and often and have a good game.

  • Raider56

    since 1960!!!

  • Raider56

    Counting down the minutes until the Raiders are in FIRST PLACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • lefty12

    AIG-I’m from the Atkinson/Tatum school of thought.Atkinson has said they tried to hurt whoever came across the middle and knock them out of the game.Of course that was before they made this a 2 handed-touch football league.

  • aig-raiders

    Lefty

    Atkinson is so frickin hilarious. I saw a youtube video where he is still calling Lynn Swan soft recently. And they were showing how he knocked over Lynn from behind.

    Raider56,

    Were we more dominant during the Stabler years or Plunkett years in your opinion? One would think Stabler right?

  • http://raiders.com A.B. Paine III

    Aig-Raiders Says:
    November 14th, 2010 at 3:24 pm
    and this sounds bad but I am hoping for a few concussions or twist of ankles tonite between pitt and NE.
    ——————
    I thought I was threw with you, but then you had to say something like this. Not only are you dumb, you are a low life.

  • mizza

    Aig-Raiders Says:

    Yeah, Pitt is going to be a very good measuring stick. The way I see it as follows.

    1. Both running game will be muted due to both good defense. Pitt is only allowing 58 yds rushing per game.

    2. How will JC and the offense handle the blitz?

    3. Can our DB’s hold up against Ben/Ward/Wallace?

    —————————————————–

    Totally agree. This looks like a real smash mouth game. I think its going to come down to whether we can make a big play on special teams or defense. Hope Henderson is back and healthy. His physicality will be a big asset in this kind of street fight.

  • Raider56

    AIG – I have to go with Plunkett years. Two titles. First wild card team to win the super bowl. Madden was a mad man and Marcus Allen was poetry in motion. But you have to give credit to the o-line in 76 with upshaw and shell – smash mouth all the way.

  • lefty12

    AIG-it was never even close-the Stabler years.Those teams were mean and tough.

  • uprforum

    The Raiders already have three big quality WRs who can catch the ball: Zach Miller, Schillens and Marcel Reese. DHB is big, but cannot catch the ball. Reese is not officially a WR, but as a fullback, he can have the same effect.