But that doesn’t mean this Week 16 showdown won’t lack action. Each team’s playoff hopes were smothered weeks ago, but they both could afford to build up some much-needed momentum for the 2013 campaign. After all, morale is crucial.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Raiders vs. Panthers.
Where: Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina
When: Sunday, Dec. 23 at 1 p.m. ET
Listen: Sirius XM Radio: 93 or online at Audio Pass
Betting Line: Carolina (-9), according to Bovada
What’s At Stake?
With the Raiders at 4-10 and Panthers 5-9, everyone is a winner in this matchup.
The winner obviously gets another W under its belt and increases optimism about the franchise’s future while, perhaps an even more valuable reward, the loser gets a higher draft pick.
Raiders Injury Report (via ESPN, as of Dec. 18)
Richard Seymour, DT, Questionable
Panthers Injury Report (via ESPN, as of Dec. 18)
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Questionable
Fantasy Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em and Sleeper
Start: Cam Newton
Newton has become a human highlight reel again.
He began the season so poorly that fans were demanding he be given his walking papers. In the past five weeks, he’s finished each game with a passer rating of at least 95.0. Over that period of time, he’s compiled 1,601 yards from scrimmage, scored 13 touchdowns and hasn’t turned the football over once.
Sit: Carson Palmer
Last season, every offensive player was a must-start against the Panthers. Now, Carolina’s pass defense is ranked 10th in the NFL. Combine that with Palmer’s mediocrity and I guarantee there’s a better option than the Raiders QB for your fantasy championship.
Sleeper: DeAngelo Williams
Williams rushed for a season-high 93 yards on a season-high 22 carries last week against the San Diego Chargers. Matched up with the Raiders’ 21st-ranked run defense, he could stay hot.
What They’re Saying
Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that head coach Dennis Allen revealed the Raiders’ winning blueprint as running the football, stopping the run and harassing the quarterback:
That's the formula we want for being successful. We all saw that when we execute that game plan the way that we feel we are capable of executing it, we have a chance to win games.
On the other sideline, Albert Brenner believes what triggered Newton to become one of the hottest players in the NFL is being overlooked.
It's absolutely worth noting Cam Newton has 12 total TDs and zero turnovers since Thanksgiving. When the "Just loosening my arm" ad debuted.— Aaron Brenner (@wareagleextra) December 18, 2012
Raiders Player to Watch: Brandon Myers
Myers is probably the best tight end no one’s ever heard of. He’s quietly reeled in 72 receptions for 743 yards and four touchdowns this year. Of course, don’t feel bad about being unaware of his existence—he hadn’t caught more than 16 balls in a season prior to 2012.
Panthers Player to Watch: Luke Kuechly
Carolina has absolutely nailed its last two first-round picks.
Kuechly is a stud and, barring injury, will be the face of the Panthers defense into the next decade. He has racked up a whopping 138 tackles this season, good for second in the NFL. He’ll single-handedly halt the Raiders’ 29th-ranked rushing attack.
Key Matchup: Cam Newton vs. the Raiders Defense
This is really the only matchup that matters on Sunday.
Newton has carried Carolina to two straight upset victories and has the Panthers favored against Oakland. The Raiders need a complete 11-man effort on the defensive side of the football to even compete.
On the Hot Seat: Dennis Allen
Ron Rivera’s seat was scorching prior to Newton’s resurgence. Now, his job seems safe for another year.
Allen, on the other hand, could be in trouble. Yes, it's only in his first year in Oakland. But he’s supposed to be a defensive specialist and the Raiders have surrendered more points than any team in football this season.
Oakland couldn’t score a touchdown on the pitiful Kansas City Chiefs.
The Panthers just beat the 12-2 Atlanta Falcons by multiple scores two weeks ago. At home, it’d be shocking if they didn’t come out on top.
Carolina by 14
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.