Lions vs. Raiders: 4 Things on the Line for Oakland on Sunday

Carl CockerhamSenior Analyst IDecember 16, 2011

Lions vs. Raiders: 4 Things on the Line for Oakland on Sunday

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    Sunday's game between the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders will be the biggest game the Raiders have been in since the 2003 Super Bowl. I find it ironic that the game is against a franchise that has been just as bad as they've been since that Super Bowl.

    To me, this is a colossal game for the Raiders for more reasons than one. There are so many things that are on the line for the team at this time.

    Turn the page to see what they are.

The AFC West Crown

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    As badly as the Raiders have played lately, they are only one game behind the Denver Broncos for first place in the AFC West. The Broncos have the New England Patriots going up to Invesco Field, making it a likely loss.

    So if the Raiders can pull it together and beat the Lions at home with a Broncos loss, the Raiders will be in a first-place tie with two games left. The Raiders will have the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers left on the schedule.

    The Broncos have to go to Buffalo to play the Bills, then come back home to play the Chiefs. That doesn't look like much of a schedule for the Broncos, but you have to remember the Bills are tough at home.

    It all has to start with the Raiders winning Sunday to keep the pressure on the Broncos.  

The Playoffs

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    Right now, the Raiders are the No. 8 team in the AFC at 7-6, and they need to be No. 6 to make the playoffs. The New York Jets are the No. 6 team right now at 8-5, with the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 7 also at 7-6, but winning tie-breakers with the Raiders.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are the No. 5 team, as they are tied with the Baltimore Ravens at 10-3 for the AFC North, losing both games to the Ravens. This doesn't bode well for the Bengals, who have to close the season against the Ravens, who will still be playing for something with the Steelers breathing down their backs.

    The Jets have the Eagles, New York Giants and oncoming Miami Dolphins left on their schedule. The Giants are the team that I most look for to give the Raiders help to force a tie, which the Raiders would win because of their win over them early this season.

    But to have a tie to break with the Jets, or to pick up a game on the Bengals, the Raiders have to win out.

    The Raiders can't win out, if they don't win Sunday.

The Perception of Carson Palmer

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    I had high hopes for Carson Palmer when Jason Campbell got hurt, but that's actually disrespectful to the NFL to think a quarterback can just chill for the first half of the season, go to a team he's not familiar with, and take them to the promised land.

    But I expected Darren McFadden to be back sooner to force opposing teams to put eight in the box, forcing man coverage outside. Palmer isn't very sharp right now, but one thing he does is hit receivers when they're open deep down the field.

    Speaking of that, his favorite deep-ball targets have been out, but five interceptions in two games is a lot, no matter who is playing receiver for you. A lot of people are feeling buyer's remorse these days for the trade, but Palmer can make it all go away by getting the Raiders into the playoffs.

    He'll have to win out to do that.

The Perception of Hue Jackson

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    This is Hue Jackson's first year as the head coach of the Raiders, so I don't expect him to be on anyone's hot seat. But most in the media have openly wondered if Jackson has too much power and abuses it.

    Then there's the issue with penalties that he has promised to fix but hasn't been able to so far. The penalty issue has been here since long before his arrival, but when you make promises, you better keep them.

    Winning out and making the playoffs will make Raider Nation forget about the broken promises.

    Again, to win out, you have to win Sunday.


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    Palmer needs to step up and save the season, which is what Jackson brought him in for and promised Raider Nation he would do. Jackson already promised the fixing of penalties this year, but has come snake eyes on that.

    But as far as Palmer saving the season, that can still be done because I do expect one game's worth of help. So for the season to be saved, the Raiders are going to have to win three games in a row.

    Can they?

    They did the last time they lost two games in a row.

    There is hope, Raider Nation.

    Just win baby!