With Week 2 of the NFL’s new season about to begin, it is time to look ahead to this week’s match-up between the Oakland Raiders and the Miami Dolphins, two teams guilty of shooting themselves in the foot in Week 1.
The Dolphins gave up the ball 4 times in the last half of the second quarter, giving up 3 touchdowns after the two minute warning. The rest of the game was fairly positive, with the defense holding the Houston Texans high-powered offense to 3 field goals, while Reggie Bush racked up over 100 receiving/rushing yards.
For the Raiders, the story line was a concussion suffered by Pro Bowl long-snapper Jon Condo which led to three back-breaking mishaps when back-up linebacker Travis Goethel could not figure out how to get the ball to Shane Lechler, arguably the league’s best punter. The result was excellent field position for the San Diego Chargers, who took advantage by putting points on the board every time.
The two teams each gave hint to the potential lying beneath a crude exterior and both will come into this contest feeling as though they can walk away with a win.
Passing/Receiving- Despite the embarrassment Monday night, Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer actually had a decent game. He was 32/46 for 297 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. This is decent play in a losing effort from a quarterback who many think was a bust of a trade. Where the Raiders passing game is lacking is in a down field threat. With key injuries to speedsters, Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, Palmer relied on short passes and dump-offs, averaging just 6.5 per completion. He will have to do much better against the Dolphins if he expects to move the ball consistently on a defense surprising rigid in its first two levels. The deep ball could be Palmer’s best friend against a shaky secondary, but he will need his receivers to rise to the challenge and the offensive line will have to give him time to allow the plays to develop.
Offensive Line- Although Palmer faced a vicious San Diego pass rush, he was only sacked three times, showing the growth of the Raiders offense of line. On Sunday, they will face an even bigger challenge
as they try to slow down what should be one of the league’s most challenging defensive fronts. Randy Starks, Jared Odrick, and Paul Soliai create enough of a concern, but the Raiders O-line also has to account for defensive end/linebacker Cameron Wake. This is no easy task for any group to accomplish, but if they are unable to withstand the onslaught, it is going to be a long day for Raiders fans.
Rushing- There is no doubt running back Darren McFadden is Oakland’s number one offensive weapon. Although he has been plagued with injuries throughout his career, when healthy, McFadden has proved to be one of the most electric running backs in the game today. The Chargers did a good job of bottling McFadden up on Monday night, but he was still able to rack up 85 yards as a receiver coming out of the backfield. McFadden’s issues may have been the result of a change in philosophy, as the team has switched from the power blocking scheme they utilized last year to the current zone blocking scheme they are incorporating this season.
In order for the Raiders to control the tempo of the game McFadden is going to have to be able to earn more than 35 yards (Week 1 total) on the ground Sunday. McFadden is a special kind of player though and even against a stiff run defense he is likely to be the Raider with the largest impact on the outcome of the game.
Defense- Oakland’s defense was the one bright spot Raider fans could take away from their first game of the season. San Diego could only manage 32 yards on the ground against them, but it should be noted, the Chargers were without their starting running back, Ryan Mathews. Still, the defense stuffed the run and kept pressure on Palmer all game, forcing him into making rushed decisions and making him uncomfortable in the pocket.
Besides McFadden, the Raiders defense has the biggest opportunity ahead of them on Sunday. They face a rookie quarterback coming off of a 3 interception campaign his last time out. The receiving core of the Dolphins will pose no threat to Oakland’s secondary, and while Reggie Bush remains a threat at all times, he will be backed up by rookie Lamar Miller, with the bigger, heavier Daniel Thomas likely out with a concussion. The odds are in the defensive unit’s favor, and the game could easily be won on this side of the ball.
Summary- Oakland will come into South Florida confidant in their ability to pull out a win. They are stronger than the Dolphins in all phases of the game, and facing the Dolphins home crowd should not be enough to sway the match-up in the home team’s favor. The Dolphins have the ability to stuff Oakland’s offense and keep the game close enough to squeeze out a win, but no one should see the Dolphins as the favored team to win this match up.
Final score Raiders 17, Dolphins 10.
Jeff Everette is a Featured Columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. Follow Jeff on twitter @jeverettesports, like his page on FaceBook, or add his Google + to your circles for all of his latest articles, thoughts, and rants.