The stretch run begins!
As the 2010 season draws to a close, the Oakland Raiders will be hunting a playoff berth. The final four games aren't the most difficult of the season, but there are some tough teams to play, and the wear and tear of the weekly grind will be taking its toll on this young team.
Week 14: at the Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars are one of those teams that can beat anyone if they bring the right intensity.
Stopping Maurice Jones-Drew will be the key, but that's no easy task. Jones-Drew is 5'8", 205 pounds of talent and fury. Tackling him is like trying to tackle a bowling ball! Arm tackles and missed gap responsibilities will result in a lot of yards and points for the Jaguars.
The Jaguars are not known as a great passing offense, but they still have some receiving weapons that can hurt you if you neglect them. Mike Sims-Walker and Kassim Osgood both played very well last season, and with another year to grow and learn, they will be even better. The Raiders must not allow themselves to lose focus on their coverage responsibilities by spying the backfield looking for the run.
Oakland must stay committed to the run on offense.
Jacksonville plays the run fairly well and they've added a pretty good rookie in Tyson Alualu. However, without at least the appearance of a commitment to the run, Jason Campbell won't be able to exploit the relatively weak Jaguars secondary. Rasheen Mathis is a good cornerback and if he doesn't have to worry about supporting the run, he can play free and make plays for his team.
When all is said and done, I think the jet lag of flying to the East Coast, the stout Jaguars defense, and the grind of the 12 previous games will result in a surprise victory for the Jaguars.
Projection: Raiders-14 Jaguars-20
Week 15: the Denver Broncos
Just like in Week Seven, the Raiders will be jacked up to lay a beating on their hated rivals. This time, there'll be thousands of screaming members of Raider Nation egging them on!
This game is destined to turn out just like the last meeting: the Raiders running the ball at will and exploiting the ancient Bronco secondary with speedy, young receivers.
Projection: Raiders-30 Broncos-17
Week 16: The Indianapolis Colts
This may be the toughest game on the Raiders' schedule. The defending AFC champs are likely to be just as tough as ever. The best quarterback the league has seen since Joe Montana always does his homework and, along with offensive coordinator Tom Moore, will have a plan to take advantage of the young Raider front seven.
Second year back Donald Brown and veteran Joseph Addai are excellent receivers and are extremely difficult to cover. The most obvious weakness of the new-look Raiders is in the coverage skills of their linebackers. Manning knows this, Moore knows this, and we know this. Look for the Colts' backs to have big receiving days.
As if one of the deepest wide receiving corps wasn't enough!
Once the Raiders are focused on the short pass to the running backs, I expect to see Manning and his fantastic receiving corps to really try to get after everyone in the Raider secondary...except Nnamdi Asomugha!
Not even Manning wants any part of him!
If the safeties and cornerbacks don't stay focused, it'll be a long day. By the same token, if the front seven fails to stop the run and cover the backs, the secondary will be even more vulnerable.
The only real chance the Raiders have is to run the ball and control the clock. The best way to beat Peyton Manning is to keep him on the sideline!
Running the ball won't be easy given the Colts are all good tacklers. Additionally, Gary Bracket keeps everyone in good position and recognizes offenses really well.
With the help of short play action passes and a solid run game, the Raiders offense can keep Manning off the field and allow the Raiders to have a chance.
I'm just not very optimistic about how good of a chance that will be.
Projection: Raiders-17 Colts-28
Week 17: at the Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are going to suffer the same fate in this game that they did in Week Nine, only this time it will be in front of their own fans.
The Raiders will run the ball, control the clock and dominate the Chief offense...again!
That's all there is to this!
Projection: Raiders-34 Chiefs-13
End of the Regular Season
This brings the 2010 season to a close. I have the Raiders finishing the season at 11-5. While I think that is entirely possible, I'm not sure it's realistic, but what did you expect from a life-long member of Raider Nation?
What do you think Raider Nation? Am I being too optimistic? Am I underestimating the Silver and Black? Or, is it just too soon to tell?
Let me hear your voices!
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