Note: My esteemed colleague, Jerry McDonald, is on a well-deserved vacation this week. As usual, I will do my best to fill the considerable void during his absence.
Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy told fans Tuesday that he and his team are “excited” about the prospect of hosting the 2011 regular-season opener at Lambeau Field on Thursday night, Sept. 8.
He can be certain of that taking place, given the honor is bestowed upon the defending Super Bowl champion. The opponent has yet to be determined, yet you could almost hear conspiracy theorists getting to work on how the Raiders will be the sacrificial lambs.
It has happened before. The Raiders played the host New England Patriots in the regular-season opener in 2005, with the Patriots fresh from another Super Bowl victory. Raiders managing general partner Al Davis criticized the matchup soon after it was announced.
The question is, why? The Raiders knew they had to play the Patriots that season, and they knew it was going to be on the road.
Why not play the Patriots in the opener, when there’s little chance of snow or cold weather – can you say, Tuck Rule Game? – the Patriots likely aren’t in synch yet and the game is nationally televised?
Lo and behold, the Raiders played well against the Patriots and came close to winning the game.
The same line of thinking should be applied in this case. The Raiders should welcome a season-opening matchup against the Packers.
Everyone will be watching, and it’s a perfect opportunity for the Raiders to show that they are back to their old ways, as new coach Hue Jackson promised several times since he was promoted as the replacement for Tom Cable.
Even better, the Packers won’t have the advantage of getting into a rhythm, unless you subscribe to the theory that exhibition games actually help a team get ready for regular-season games.
The Raiders last played the Packers in 2007, on Dec. 9. It was cold, cold, cold that day, and the Packers cruised to a 38-7 victory. It says here that the Raiders would be far better off taking their chances against the Packers in early September this time around.
Jackson has said numerous times that he wants to build a bully in Oakland. Well, bullies don’t back down from a fight, regardless where it takes place. What better place to take the fight to the defending Super Bowl champs than in their own yard.
The NFL will release the schedule sometime later this month. At that point, we’ll find out whether the conspiracy theorist are correct in thinking that the Raiders will get the Packers in the opener. Soon thereafter, we just might hear whether Davis has changed his tune on whether such a matchup is a good thing for this year’s Raiders.