These two teams are not expected to make much noise this season, but both feel they have the talent to contend. Miami got rid of a lot of veterans this offseason, but they were able to hang with the Houston Texans for three of the four quarters. Oakland showed Monday night against the San Diego Chargers that they have the ability to win the AFC West if they can get the long snap correct.
Quarterback: Based solely on last week alone, Carson Palmer has returned to being one of the top quarterbacks in the game. His passes were crisp and well-placed and he was efficient in moving the offense, even if it meant hitting the dump-off man. Ryan Tannehill on the other hand, struggled in his NFL debut, throwing for less than 220 yards and three interceptions. Tannehill will get rid of the first-game jitters Sunday, but he needs to take significant strides to match Palmer. Advantage: Oakland
Running Back: This game matches up two premier running backs who are coming off poor games in the season opener. Darren McFadden is arguably the better back, but he was limited to 32 yards on 15 carries. However, he caught 13 passes for more than 80 yards and looked good in pass protection when he was blocking. Reggie Bush averaged nearly five yards per carry against Houston, but he only got 14 carries as Miami tried to chase the game in the second half. He also played a role in the passing game by grabbing six receptions, but he is at his best when he is able to find space. Both running backs will have bounce-back games, but McFadden is the better pure running back. Advantage: Oakland
Wide Receiver and Tight End: Oakland’s receivers were average against the Chargers and dropped too many passes. However, Brandon Myers had a terrific game with five catches for 65 yards including two plays of more than 20 yards. The Dolphins’ receiving corps is not very deep and have only two weapons, Brian Hartline and Devone Bess. Miami does have a great tight end in Anthony Fasano, but all three have sub-par games against Houston. The Raiders can expect Darrius Heyward-Bey and Derek Hagan to step up their games and give Palmer some serious weapons in the passing game. Advantage: Oakland
Offensive Line: Neither team had a good day protecting the quarterback in Week 1 as both Palmer and Tannehill were sacked three times. However, the Raiders’ line looked as porous as a sponge in the second half as the Chargers got pressure on Palmer from the inside and outside. Miami’s offensive line is anchored by the top pick overall in the 2008 NFL Draft, Jake Long and has some talent across the board. Oakland’s line has talent, but have not been able to gel together yet unlike the Dolphins’ big men. Advantage: Miami
Defensive Line: Oakland’s defensive line was great against San Diego and Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour made their presence felt. The ends were also good for the Raiders with Matt Shaugnessy getting half a sack. Meanwhile, the Miami line could not put much pressure on Schaub and the only player who had an impact was Randy Starks who had a sack. Starks had six tackles, which is one less than the other three linemen had combined. Meanwhile, Kelly, Seymour and Shaugnessy each had at least three tackles to share the load. Advantage: Oakland
Linebackers: The best unit for Miami against Houston was the linebackers. Karlos Dansby and Koa Misi were all over the field for the Dolphins, combining for 20 tackles. Misi was particularly impressive with 10 solo tackles and one tackle-for-loss. Oakland’s linebackers were good last week, but did not perform up to expectations. The outside linebackers had a good game, but Rolando McClain in the middle was just average with five tackles and none for a loss. Give credit to Miles Burris and Phillip Wheeler on the outside for leading the team in tackles, but the whole corps needs to be better this week. Advantage: Miami
Secondary: The jury is still out on both of these units. Both limited great passing quarterbacks to less than 300 yards in the air, but both looked susceptible to the long ball. Both teams have a good pair of safeties and average cornerbacks. Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch had solid games on Monday night for Oakland and Miami got good production from Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones. However, until one of these units can string a couple of good games together, neither one can have an advantage over the other. Advantage: Draw
Specialists: Oakland still has the best kicker/punter duo in the NFL with Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler. Miami has a solid kicker in Dan Carpenter and Brandon Fields is a good punter, but not nearly as good as the Raiders’ pair. The only thing that makes this close is the long snapper position after the debacle in Oakland on Monday night. Jon Condo did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, which means it will be up to Travid Goethel to get the ball to Lechler on punts and field goals to ensure the Raiders can keep their advantage in the kicking game. Advantage: Oakland
Coach: Dennis Allen proved himself as an NFL coach on Monday night, but his team still loss. Allen’s greatest achievement is the discipline he established in his team, the same team that set league records for being the most penalized teams. On the other sideline, Joe Philbin did a poor job at utilizing Reggie Bush and instead put the game into Tannehill’s hands a little too early which allowed the Texans to pull away and force Miami to throw the ball. Both of these coaches are in their first season as a head coach, but Allen made better choices in Week 1. Advantage: Oakland
Oakland may have the advantage on paper, but as we saw last week, anything can happen on any given Sunday.