The Oakland Raiders are riding a two-game winning streak and they are back in the playoff picture. The Raiders have one of the easiest schedules coming down the stretch based on record, so a run at the playoffs is not out of the question. However, before Oakland gets too far ahead of itself, the Raiders face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, which is no easy task despite their record.
Both teams sit at 3-4, but both teams have shown flashes of being a much better team than their record suggests. Tampa Bay is coming off an upset of the Minnesota Vikings last Thursday, but the other two teams it’s beaten have two wins combined. Oakland has a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Raiders have also only defeated teams with two combined wins. So something has to give Sunday.
The Buccaneers offense is really balanced ranking in the middle of the NFL in both passing and rushing. They’re ninth in the league in points per game with about 26. Tampa Bay has a lot of good offensive players, but none that fall into the “great” category.
At the head of the whole operation is Josh Freeman, who has thrown for 1,800 yards on the dot. He has thrown 14 touchdowns compared to five interceptions. Helping Freeman in the backfield is Doug Martin, who was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for October. The rookie from Boise State is averaging 4.2 yards per carry and has three touchdowns. His 543 yards leads the team and he has taken a lot off of Freeman’s shoulders. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are the teams leading receivers and will be dangerous for the Raiders’ weaker secondary. The pair have nine of the 14 receiving touchdowns for the Buccaneers, which means as Tampa Bay gets closer to the end zone, Freeman will be looking for these two targets.
The Tampa Bay defense is not so balanced. The Buccaneers rank sixth in rushing defense, but 31st in passing defense, something Oakland has to be licking its chops about. The Raiders have been inefficient running the football and love to air it out, which is exactly the Buccaneers weakness. The pass defense only gets worse with the news Tampa Bay traded away Aqib Talib on Thursday. The ageless Ronde Barber continues to lead the Buccaneers in the secondary and already has three picks this year. Mason Foster and Lavonte David lead the team in tackles from the linebacker position, but the pass defense is still the biggest issue.
The Baltimore Ravens linger in the near future for the Raiders, but if they look too far ahead, their playoff dreams may disappear. Beware of the trap game against the Buccaneers.