Over the next few days, I'm going to take a look at the Raiders' schedule and show how the Raiders and their opponents match up. You may be surprised at how well they stack up against some of these opponents.
This is part three of four, and I will cover four games at a time.
It's now midway through the season and the Raiders sit at 6-2, with wins over Denver, Kansas City, Buffalo, New York Jets, Baltimore, and Atlanta. The Raiders will be riding a three game winning streak at this point heading into their game against Carolina at home.
Week 10 Panthers at Raiders
Last meeting: Raiders win 27-24 in Carolina, 2004
The Panthers have had a pretty busy offseason themselves, re-working their defense so as to improve its run defense. The pass defense has some questions too, giving up huge games to quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, and even Joey Harrington.
The musical chairs at the quarterback position left the Panthers with the inability to score on a consistent week-to-week basis (the Panthers failed to score 14 points in eight games last year and scored 16 and 17 points in two others).
Julius Peppers fell off hard last year and the defensive line took some hits during the offseason. Despite all these problems I believe the Panthers have left them in the past, especially Peppers who is my pick for Comeback Player of the Year.
If Jake Delhomme is back to form, the Panthers should have an explosive offense again with Steve Smith, new additions D.J. Hackett, and Muhsin Muhammad, along with rookie RB Jonathan Stewart to spell DeAngelo Williams.
I think the Raiders may overlook this team's offense next year and the Panthers' defense does just enough to pull out the win.
Final: Panthers win in shoot-out, 38-31.
Week 11 Raiders at Dolphins
Last meeting: Raiders win 35-17 in Miami, 2007
After a painful dose of a slap-in-the-face-and-wake-up the previous week against Carolina, the Raiders go into Miami with a chip on their shoulder. Even though the Raiders went into Miami and literally ran the Dolphins into the ground last year, they learned not to be overconfident after a few wins and keep focused on the next week.
And it just so happens that facing the weaker-than-last-year Dolphins is just what the doctor ordered. The 'Phins lost MLB and defensive leader Zach Thomas and traded away Pro-Bowl and 2006 DPOTY DE Jason Taylor to the Redskins.
Those two moves leave the Dolphins' defense resembling wet tissues against the Raiders' triple threat in the backfield. I see this game going much as the last one did; with the Raiders hardly passing at all while the backs take it in turns to gash the Dolphins' defense.
On offense, the Dolphins have former Raider Josh McCown as the starting QB. He's a serviceable backup but is way too turnover-prone for a starter, especially when the game is on the line. The Dolphins' running game is pretty good with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams returning, but I just don't see them being able to control the game like Fargas, McFadden, and Bush can.
Also, the Dolphins' offense lacks any type of big-play threat at any receiver position. I think this game goes pretty similar to the last meeting and the Raiders run to another victory.
Final: Raiders win 31-13.
Week 12: Raiders at Broncos
Last meeting: 38-17 Raiders win in the Coliseum*
In the previous game that I predicted between these two, I said the Raiders would win based off a stronger running game, stronger run defense (which actually happened the last time they played, holding the Broncos to less than 90 yards rushing as a team), and the least turnovers.
Taking into account that this game will be frigid, if not a bit snowy, I think the running games will be the deciding factor in this game. Mike Shanahan's record against the Raiders speaks for itself, but that can only go so far as the talent on your team. And this year, I think the Raiders are simply more talented than the Broncos.
That said, I think the Broncos will fight for this one. However, they will be forced to throw if the Raiders take control with their ground attack early, forcing Cutler to throw it in the bad weather. The Raiders are built for bad-weather games and it will show here as they sweep Denver for the first time since 2002.
Final: Raiders fend off furious Bronco comeback in the fourth quarter, 21-20.
Week 13: Chiefs at Raiders
Last meeting: Raiders win 24-20 in Kansas City*
Numbers? Stats? Records? Players? Throw it all out the window again, it's Chiefs' week. And you can count on the Chiefs thinking the same thing when they visit Oakland in Week 13.
They'll come with that fire that only this rivalry brings and they'll want that 'W' against their hated rivals, if nothing else but to spoil the Raiders' resurgent season. That alone should make this game worth watching.
But again, like in Week 2, I think the Raiders have the edge. The Raiders are still better at almost every position across the board with the exception, perhaps, being tight end and No. 1 WR. If the Raiders do indeed win in Week 2, then I think they'll see it as an obligation to give the Raider Nation something they haven't seen since 2002: a win over the Chiefs at home.
The Chiefs' offense will start to look a little better at this point in the season after the O-line has had time to gel. But, the Chiefs' defense will have inherited that old Raider problem of protecting late leads which plagued both teams last year. Meanwhile, the Raiders start shedding that problem and winning the tight ones like this one will surely be.
Final: Raiders dominate on the ground again and win 17-13.
*= predicted score from earlier in the season.
Part Four coming soon.