Oakland Raiders Stock Watch: 5 Players Who Are Rising After Week 3
After a disappointing start to the new era in Oakland, a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers gave the Raiders the momentum boost they needed heading into the rest of the NFL season.
The team won the turnover battle, kept the penalties to an unheard of amount (in a good way) and upended a playoff-caliber team in Pittsburgh to pick up its first win of the year.
Despite letting Ben Roethlisberger tear the defense apart, the Raiders came through when it mattered most.
Sebastian Janikowski reminded everyone why he's still one of the best in the business with the game-winning 43-yard field goal as time expired, and it helped Dennis Allen get his first win as an NFL head coach.
Now, with a rejuvenated squad hungry for more, a victory over the Steelers helps set the tone as the team gets ready for a matchup with the hated Denver Broncos.
Here are five players who are on the rise as Oakland prepares to take on its old AFC West foe.
After spending four years with the Indianapolis Colts, Philip Wheeler has found a nice home in Oakland as a member of the Raiders' new-look defense.
After a solid first two games where he led the team with 14 tackles, Wheeler had the best game of his young career against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3.
The fifth-year linebacker finished with 10 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in Oakland's 34-31 win. Wheeler is well on pace for over 100 tackles by season's end, and his continuous improvement is something the Raiders need on defense if they want to make the postseason.
Last year, Wheeler finished with 84 tackles in just 13 games for the Colts, and he has continued that success in Oakland. Whether it's because of his uncontrollable dread locks or his ability to cover plenty of ground, Wheeler has made himself the most notable player on the Raiders defense.
The Raiders' most explosive weapon had gotten off to a disappointing start in 2012, and he needed a big game in Week 3 to break his funk.
For Darren McFadden, that's exactly what happened.
After the Steelers turned a Carson Palmer interception into seven early points, Oakland needed something big to keep the crowd in the game. One minute later, McFadden took the ball 64 yards to the end zone for a touchdown the Raiders most desperately needed.
In Oakland's next three games, McFadden will take on the Denver Broncos, the Atlanta Falcons and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Falcons and Jaguars have two of the worst run defenses in the league, and McFadden tore up the Broncos last season when he ran for 150 yards against them on Monday Night Football.
McFadden will look to build off his performance against the Steelers as the Raiders look to get a critical win in Denver before heading into their bye week.
Brandon Myers has gone from an "unheard of" tight end to a serious force in the Raiders passing attack after the first three games of the season.
In his first year as a starter, Myers has become the favorite and most reliable target for Carson Palmer. He currently leads the team in receiving yards with 206, and if it wasn't for Darren McFadden's receiving extravaganza in Week 1, he would easily be leading the team in receptions as well.
Myers has been targeted 15 times so far this season, and he has made the catch every time. His reliability in the Raiders passing game gives Palmer another weapon to work with, and he's already more than halfway to Kevin Boss' yards total from last season.
After Zach Miller left Oakland for Seattle, the Raiders had a void at the tight end position, something that Myers has filled quite nicely. Now that they have a big body to help extend the field, the Raiders can mix up their passing attack to confuse opposing defenses instead of relying on the dangerous deep ball or the boring dump-offs.
Assuming the concussion he suffered doesn't keep him out, Myers should continue to be Palmer's favorite target.
Since returning from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for months, Denarius Moore has been more than beneficial for the Raiders.
Moore finished with 67 yards on three catches against the Miami Dolphins, and he increased his workload by catching five passes and a touchdown against the Steelers. He started out with a bang in 2011, and he is finally regaining the form that made him so special last season.
With Darrius Heyward-Bey out for an undisclosed amount of time, Moore will get the majority of the deep looks from Carson Palmer.
When healthy, he has the potential to be one of the biggest deep threats in the NFL. Moore averaged at least 23 yards per catch in four games last season, and his ability to stay healthy will help determine the success of the Raiders passing game.
Whether he's playing in Cincinnati or Oakland, the constant chatter about Carson Palmer always seems to revolve around the question, "when's he going to screw up?"
This was the case when the Raiders traded for him last October, and the question remained the same once this season started. In Oakland's first three games of 2012, Palmer has five touchdowns to two interceptions.
An early interception against the Steelers set him back a bit, but he regained his form in the second half to help lead the Raiders to victory.
Despite starting the game 6-of-13, Palmer completed 18 of his final 21 passes to end the game. He also completed passes to nine different receivers in the process. As long as he can keep the turnovers to a minimum, Palmer is due for a great year in 2012.