The Oakland Raiders will travel to the Mile High city to take on the Denver Broncos on Sunday, October 24th.
Every remaining game are "must wins" for the Raiders after falling to 2-4 by putting up a pathetic performance against the 49ers in San Francisco.
This divisional game against the Broncos carries a lot more weight than most games. These teams don't like each other, they both want nothing more than to defeat the other, and both desperately need a divisional win.
After embarrassing themselves in San Francisco, the Raiders should have something to prove. If they come out an play like they did last week, the team morale will plummet, the fan support (whatever is left) will dry up, and the Raiders will find themselves in a nearly inescapable hole.
They have to prove they can bounce back.
Let's have a look at 10 things the Raiders must do to get a win on the road against a pretty tough Bronco team...
Rumor has it that Kyle Boller may get his shot to start.
Bruce Gradkowski and Jason Campbell are still ailing from nagging injuries, so there is no guarantee as to who will start at quarterback for Oakland on Sunday.
Therefore, I will address all three Raider quarterbacks.
Jason Campbell: For God's sake—show some fire. At least TRY to look and carry yourself like you actually want to win. Lead this team, or sit down.
Bruce Gradkowski: Just keep doing what you're doing. Play with your heart, take chances, and lead the team to victory.
Kyle Boller: If this is your shot, take advantage of it. Play like this is your last chance to start in the NFL, because guess what—it probably is. Don't waste this opportunity.
Whichever quarterback gets the start has to be decisive, get rid of the ball on time, and push the ball down the field. That's what this team is built to do, so do it.
The offense looked pretty bad in most of the 49er game last week.
The Oakland offense has done nothing to win the hearts of Raider Nation.
The Raider offense was uninspired last week to say the least. It lacked creativity, adjustment, and just didn't work.
If the Raiders really want to win, every player on the Raider offense has to prove that they deserve to be in the NFL. As it is right now, most of them have not.
Other than the first two drives of the game against the 49ers, the Raiders went three and out far too often. That forced the defense on to the field to get exhausted and give up big yards.
If the offense continues to go three-and-out, the Raiders will continue to lose.
I don't know what Hue Jackson was thinking against the 49ers. He called the same plays over and over. If those plays were successful that would be fine, but they weren't.
Rather than adjusting and trying something new, Jackson just kept calling the same failed plays all day long. This is not the way to win games.
Jackson's lack of creativity was apparent in one of the Raiders' redzone trips in which he called three straight inside runs to Michael Bush. The same inside runs that hadn't worked all day.
If Jackson really is the "head coach-in-waiting," he needs to show Raider Nation that he can be trusted to call better plays and score points.
Zach Miller is the most consistent offensive weapon the Raiders have.
Zach Miller is doing everything the team is asking of him. The problem is, the offensive coordinator isn't asking enough of him.
Miller is one of the best tight ends in the NFL. There is no excuse for not getting him the ball more than just two or three times a game.
If Miller doesn't get targeted at least ten times, the safeties will be free to help with the wide receivers. That will limit the effectiveness of the Raider offense.
Miller can control the middle of the field, but only if the game plan includes him, and if the quarterback throws him the ball.
There is a rumor that the rotation at the left tackle position may be over. Vittorio Tarfur is reporting that rookie Jared Veldheer is taking all the first team reps this week in practice.
That will help, but not cure the pass blocking woes.
The Broncos are ranked 15th against the pass. They have two of the best defensive backs the league has seen in the last 15 years. Champ Baily and Brian Dawkins are elite players.
The windows to throw the ball will be small, so the quarterback (whoever it is) will need a clean pocket to step into his throws.
Also, it's no secret that the Raiders can't pass protect. The Broncos are likely to attempt taking advantage of this by blitzing a lot.
The offensive line has to hold up for the Raiders to be successful.
So far in 2010 the Raiders have given up big runs to every back they've faced, except Steven Jackson.
This is due in part to bad defensive play calling, but more so to poor tackling.
The Raiders, and the NFL in general, is filled with horrible fundamentals. Too many players go for the "devastating hit" rather than the solid, wrap up tackle.
The Raiders can't afford the risk of taking a shot at a big hit, they need to just tackle like they were taught in high school. Put your facemask on their chest, bring your arms around, and drive them to the ground.
It's time for the Raiders to get back to basics.
John Marshall has all the talent he needs to work with, it's time he got it done!
Every time the Raiders blitzed the Chargers and 49ers, good things happened. Every time they played soft, bad things happened.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out what needs to happen going forward.
Marshall inexplicably called a soft coverage on third and 20 against the 49ers that resulted in a virtually uncontested touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree. That play turned out to be the game winner.
Marshall's "bend but don't break" philosophy is not working and needs to be scrapped for a more aggressive style.
Look at the defenses that allow the fewest points: The Steelers, Vikings, Chiefs, Ravens, and Bears are all aggressive defenses that blitz often.
It's time for Marshall to rethink his play calling. The talent is there, he just has to utilize it better.
Richard Seymour and other veterans must step up and DEMAND excellence from the team.
There are a few players that have assumed the roll of leader. Richard Seymour, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Bruce Gradkowski come to mind.
The problems is that none of them seem to be willing to chew out their teammates when they lay down like they did in San Francisco.
The Raiders need veteran players to speak up, speak out, (yell and scream if necessary) and hold players accountable for their actions.
Without accountability, all the talent in the world means nothing.
Jeremy Ware and Mike Mitchell have been solid on special teams coverage.
John Fassel appears to have coached the kick and punt coverage teams out of their problems. Hopefully for Raider Nation, this is not just a fluke or a trend, but the norm.
Sebastian Janikowski seems to have cured what ailed him in Phoenix, and Shane Lecher simply continues to be great.
Nick Miller will have another chance to show some of the explosion that earned him the right to handle the punt return duties.
Coach Fassel: Just keep it up.
There is a lot of pressure on head coach Tom Cable. Pressure to win, pressure to fix the offensive line, and pressure to not break an assistant's jaw.
The one duty he cannot allow to go undone is motivate the players.
Let's be honest, these are professional athletes that shouldn't need pep talks or "rah rah" speeches, but the fact is—they do.
If Cable allows the morale and intensity of this team to plummet as it did in the second half of the 49ers game, the Broncos will steam-roll them.
I have as much, or more respect for Al Davis than any person on the planet, but I must admit that I'm extremely frustrated with what I've seen from this team in recent years.
The coaches have changed, the players have changed, but the losing continues. The only constant is Al Davis.
The Raiders are one of the youngest, most talented teams in the league, but they can't seem to get everything put together.
With changes in every facet of the organization, except the owner's box, one must wonder if the problem isn't there.
Therefore, my 11th and final key to a Raider victory over the Broncos is for Mr. Davis to take his hands out of the coaching and personnel decisions.
What do you say Raider Nation? Let me hear you in the comments.
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