The Raiders are 5-4, with a one-game lead in the AFC West. That’s nice and all, coach Hue Jackson said, but the Raiders can’t afford to lose the momentum they worked hard to build to this point.
A win against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday would give the Raiders a great chance to build a two-game lead, given the San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs face tough opponents Sunday.
“That’s all you can ask for is that you are in control, that it’s not about somebody doing something for you,” Jackson said. “It’s about you taking care of your own business. We don’t have to worry, well, if this team beats this team or that team beats that team. What we have to do is go out and compete and play as well as we can play every week and win games.
“That’s the only opportunity you want in this profession when you’re in these situations because then it’s dictated by us, it’s not dictated by anybody else.”
Jackson said he and his players are aware of their situation because it gets written about and reported on so much. Beyond that, they just try to remain focused and keep pushing forward.
Quarterback Carson Palmer said he and his teammates keep things in perspective, not wanting to get too far ahead of themselves as the Raiders attempt to earn a playoff berth for the first time since 2002.
“We talk about it a lot,” Palmer said. “There aren’t many times or opportunities you have in this league to control your own destiny, really. We’re at that position, and we want to stay here. We want to get to Week 16, 17 and still be in this position.
“But before any of that happens, there’s a lot of football left and a lot of improvements to make. We’re going to work to play our best football, especially as the season draws closer and closer to the Week 17 games.”
WISNIEWSKI IN RARE COMPANY
The Raiders selected center/guard Stefen Wisniewski in the second round of this year’s NFL draft. To hear Jackson tell it, Wisniewski should have been long gone before the Raiders made their initial pick of the seven-round process — they traded away their first-rounder to the New England Patriots for defensive tackle Richard Seymour.
“I’ve only been around one other guy that I know of that, as a rookie, could come in and play, and play well, and that was Michael Oher from Baltimore,” Jackson said. “This guy’s off the charts. Kudos to our scouting department for seeing those characteristics in him that he demonstrated in college. That’s exactly what he’s doing here.”
Wisniewski has played guard and center for the Raiders, moving to center whenever Samson Satele is hurt. He has performed well in both roles.
For now, he is working hard at both positions, trying to hold his own and keep pace with his linemates.
“I’m definitely looking at it week by week, but I’m certainly happy with the way things are going,” Wisniewski said earlier this month. “I feel like I’m holding my own in there. As a rookie, your goal is not to play like a rookie, to have people watch the line and not be able to tell who the rookie is. I’m getting better. It’s certainly been a heck of a learning experience for me but I feel like I’m fitting in there well.”
VELDHEER PREFERS GOING SOLO
Left offensive tackle Jared Veldheer takes offense to the Raiders giving him help. That’s an admirable trait, Jackson said, but there are times when mixing up things is important in the overall scheme, whether Veldheer needs help or not.
“Sometimes, we’ve left him out there, sometimes we help, sometimes we chip, we do a little bit of it all, because you have to be multiple in pass protections,” Jackson said. “If you’re not, defensive coordinators are too good. They’ll find other ways to get those great pass rushers matched on people. He’s done a good job.”
Case in point, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. He leads the league with 13 1/2 sacks in nine games. He has at least one-half of one sack in every game this season and is on pace to eclipse Michael Strahan’s single-season record (22 1/2).
Jackson said Allen is so good that the Raiders will take every precaution necessary to keep him at bay and out of the face of Palmer.
“He’s going to get special attention,” Jackson said. “He’s as good as there is in football. The guy has 13 ½ sacks, and it’s not by accident. He makes a lot of stuff happen. We know where he is, we know how he goes about it. He doesn’t make any magical things happen, he just goes and plays extremely hard. What we have to do is get him blocked.”
The Raiders last scored points of any kind in the fourth quarter when Chaz Schilens caught a touchdown pass from Jason Campbell and Sebastian Janikowski kicked a field goal.
That makes four straight games without any fourth-quarter points. Yet, the Raiders are 3-2 in those games, so Jackson isn’t overly concerned.
“I can’t put my finger on it,” Jackson said. “I just know it’s something I have to get fixed. I have to make sure that we find a way to get in this end zone in the fourth quarter. We haven’t. We have to do a better job.
“We’ve been down there but, for some reason, whether it’s turnovers or penalties or whatever it’s been, we haven’t been able to close it out with a score. We haven’t harped on it but I know that that’s true.”
For the record, the Raiders have scored 17 first-quarter points the past four games, 31 in the second quarter and 24 in the third.
RUSH THE KEY
Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan isn’t kidding when he said the Raiders need to be successful against the run if they want to beat the Vikings.
And that has far more to do with the fact that Adrian Peterson is, perhaps, the league’s best running back. The stats bear out the fact, as well.
In Oakland’s five victories, they held the opposing teams to an average of 69.6 yards rushing (3.5-yard average) and allowed only one touchdown. In its four losses, Oakland’s defense allowed an average of 209.3 yards rushing (6.3-yard average) and eight touchdowns.
“Discipline, attention to detail,” Bresnahan said, “you take the example most recent with Denver and, when you play the option, it’s assignment football. When you miss an assignment, that play turns from a 2- or a 3-yard gain to a 12-, 20- or 30-yard gain, which is what happened to us.
“Attention to detail, discipline and, more so than ever before with these guys, you have to gang tackle, because this is an exceptional running back.”
Peterson has 846 yards rushing in nine games and is a matchup nightmare for most teams. Bresnahan is harping on gang-tackling this week.
Bresnahan said the Raiders are confident they can be successful against Peterson based on how well they fared against the Houston Texans Arian Foster.
“One guy can’t beat 11,” Bresnahan said, “but if you put one guy on him, you’re not going to win many times. So you’ve got to get hats to the ball. It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge go go out and play a back like this, but we look at it no different than getting to go up against Foster when we went down to Houston. This is a great challenge for the defense. and we’ll see where we’re at on Sunday.”
Seven players missed all of practice Thursday, including wide receiver Jacoby Ford (foot), running back Darren McFadden (foot), defensive tackle Richard Seymour (ankle) and kicker Sebastian Janikowski (hamstring).
Jackson said he remains confident that Seymour will be able to play Sunday, even though Seymour hasn’t practiced all week. Janikowski also is expected to play against the Vikings.
“Keeping guys healthy down the stretch here is the key for our football team,” Jackson said. “We just got to stay as healthy as we can, we got to get guys to the game. That’s part of my job as the head coach is to make sure that we’re coaching as healthy a team as I can.”
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