The Oakland Raiders are staggering back home this week after a long month in which they played at Buffalo and Miami (they stayed in Florida for a week in-between), had their bye and then played New England in Mexico City.
This Sunday, the Raiders return to their home field for the first time in five weeks, since their season-highlight win over Kansas City. The Raiders need some home cooking and some good vibes as they lick their wounds at a disappointing in 4-6.
Because the AFC playoff picture is messier than a Thanksgiving kitchen, Oakland still has a shot at the playoffs. However, sad shot may disappear if Oakland finds a way to lose to the Denver Broncos – they of a six-game losing streak and an offensive crisis – at home Sunday.
Here are five keys to the game for Oakland:
The Raider Nation will welcome this team back home with open arms, yet they will be skeptical arms. Raiders fans are understandably testy these days. Their team has burnt them. Oakland fans embraced this team even through the pending move to Las Vegas. The only thing that kept Oakland fans interested was that the team was supposed to be good. Now with the season teetering,
Oakland fans are losing patience. The Raiders must earn trust back. The best way to do that is start early against the Broncos. If the Raiders can jump to a 10-0 early lead, the crowd will be in the game and it will be very difficult for the Broncos to muster the energy and confidence to come back, knowing they’ve already lost six straight games. So, Derek Carr and crew must be crisp early.
It may be unrealistic to ask the Oakland defense to dominate. It hasn’t yet dominated a game this season and it’s been a poor unit for years. But the Broncos’ offense is in disarray. Anything less than a dominant performance by the home defense, would be a disappointment.
Former Oakland offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave – who was surprisingly fired after leading Oakland to the No. 6 offense in the NFL last year — replaced the fired Mike McCoy as Denver’s offensive coordinator. He would want nothing more to debut with a win over the Broncos’ rival and the team that dump him 10 months ago. The problem is, the Broncos’ don’t have much on offense. This is a game Oakland’s defense should do well in. It must.
Run the ball
Oakland’s run offense has been getting marginally better, but it still isn’t good enough. The Raiders are 27th in the NFL on the ground. They are averaging 89.7 yards a game. They need to wear down Oakland and they need to do with Marshawn Lynch, who had 67 yards on 11 carries against the Patriots in Week 11. Oakland is fourth in the NFL against the run, 85.5 yards a game on the ground. The Raiders had just 24 rushing yards on 15 at attempts in a 16-10 Broncos’ win in Denver in Week 4. That number must quadruple in this game.
Win in the trenches
Denver won the trench battle in Week 4. Now, the Raiders’ offensive line is battered now, so Oakland may have a better chance. Oakland’s offensive line, which has been solid not great this season as expected, needs to keep Denver’s defensive front at bay. If the Broncos have a chance to win this game, it will be on defense. So, Oakland some to win the fight at the line of scrimmage.
Interceptions, remember those?
We all know the gory details. The Raiders do not have an interception this season. It is the only team in the NFL without one and it’s the longest a defense has ever gone without an interception. That streak must end Sunday. Whether it’s Brock Osweiler or Paxton Lynch, you would this a pick or three is coming Oakland’s way. If not, well, then the Raiders may never interception a pass again.