After their biggest scare to date in their 38-35 win over the New York Giants thanks to a brilliant last minute drive by Aaron Rodgers, the Packers return home to face the Oakland Raiders Sunday at 3:15. The Raiders, tied with the Denver Broncos at 7-5 atop the AFC West, come into the game after a 34-14 beatdown at the hands of the suddenly hot Miami Dolphins.
So how will the rematch of Super Bowl II pan out? Let’s look at the Raiders.
Raiders Key Players
QB Carson Palmer The Oakland front office took a lot of heat for the trade that acquired Palmer and sent to the Cincinnati Bengals a first round pick and a conditional second round pick that would become a first rounder should Oakland play for the AFC championship in either of the next two years.
After his length stalemate with the Bengals, it was unknown exactly what shape Palmer would be in. Was he working out during his “retirement” or was he already moving on to his post-football life.
The jury is still out after nine games. Palmer is completing 55% of his passes and has thrown eight TDs against seven interceptions.
In a game where the Packers have a concussed Charles Woodson and could be without Desmond Bishop and AJ Hawk, Palmer presents a challenge for the NFC North champions. He is the biggest upgrade the Raiders have had at the position in years and still has an arm to make a lot of throws. Palmer isn’t setting the world on fire, but he is still a decent QB.
RB Michael Bush Even with Darren McFadden still sidelined with injury, the Raider rushing attack is still potent with Bush carrying the load. At 6’1” and 245 lbs., Bush is a big bruising back who, if he gets through the Packers’ defensive line, he could cause real problems for their depleted linebackers.
Although he stunk last week against the Dolphins with only 18 yards on 10 carries, he still broke 100 against the Vikings and Chargers and nearly put 100 on the Broncos’ revived rushing defense.
Throw in the Packers have given up 100 yards rushing each of the past three weeks, and Bush is a player to watch during this game.
DT Richard Seymour Seymour famously pitched a fit when he was sent from the New England Patriots to the Raiders, but quietly he has become a force for the Raiders defense.
With six sacks and 19 solo tackles, Seymour will be a test against the Packers offensive line. Anyone with a brain knows the key to beating the Packers is getting Rodgers on the ground. Hitting him won’t be enough with his quick release and when you throw in his mobility, it will be a tough challenge for Seymour and the Raiders defensive line.
LB Rolando McClain It would not be an NFL season without a Raider player doing something stupid. McClain was arrested roughly a week ago for misdemeanor assault and discharging a firearm.
The Raiders let McClain play against the Dolphins last week and will likely continue to play until the court makes a decision which in turn will force (or not force) NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand. In the meantime, this situation and the Raiders’ handling of it will be a distraction for the team going forward.
As for on the field, McClain was touted as the next big linebacker for the Raiders but he has so far failed to realize his potential. Only 2.5 sacks in his career so far, McClain has not emerged as the pass rusher the Raiders had hoped. Jermichael Finley will likely eat him up for lunch all day.
Three Matchups To Watch
Bush vs. Packers rushing defense The Packers, one week after facing Brandon Jacobs in New York, face another bruising back in Bush. If the rush defense continues to struggle, fans should be thankful it was Bush and not the injured Darren McFadden the Packers went up against who can inflict far more damage.
Stopping Bush will require a greater effort from BJ Raji than what has been seen from him the past couple weeks.
Palmer vs. Packers secondary With Woodson still officially questionable for the game, Palmer will face a secondary that was already sans-Nick Collins. The Packers pass defense has struggled as of late and Palmer could have some chances.
That said, the Raiders won’t be able to keep up with the Packers if this game becomes a shootout.
Saine/Grant vs. Raiders rushing defense December is here which means it’s the time of year the running game starts taking center stage in the NFL.
OK, maybe not in Green Bay but a Grant/Saine one-two punch could open things up for Rodgers and company. The Packer offense has flourished without a running game, and that likely will continue with James Starksout with an ankle injury. But Imagine the possibilities in the playoffs if they establish one. Look for McCarthy to try this week.
Packers 35, Raiders 17
As I stated in yesterday’s post, I’m done underestimating these Packers. Not that I think the Raiders will give them much trouble anyway.
Still, each week the Packers will get their opponent’s very best and with the Raiders in a dogfight with Tebowmania in Denver, the Raiders will be ready for this game.
They still can’t stop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers get win number lucky 13.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke