Both Tim Tebow and Carson Palmer are coming off performances they would love to forget. After orchestrating a heroic comeback against Miami, Tebow fell flat at home against Detroit, while Carson’s last outing resulted in 3 interceptions in one half of football.
For Palmer, the Raiders bye was anything but an “off week” as he spent some of the mandatory off days gaining chemistry with receivers Jacoby Ford and Darius Heyward-Bey.
“There’s no comparison to last week…I’m comfortable with the entire playbook. I’m comfortable with the guys,” Palmer said.
The Raiders added to Palmer’s familiarity by signing veteran free agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmanzadeh. Houshmandzadeh will help out in the slot. He’s a big body that’s not afraid of contact and can go over the middle. Palmer and Houshmandzadeh played together in Cincinnati and worked out together last summer. Palmer will look for his safety blanket primarily on third downs.
Perhaps the definition of “Tebowing” should be changed to throwing the ball 10 yards behind a receiver, because that’s all Tim Tebow was doing Sunday against the Lions. Tebow held the ball in the pocket for too long and the result was 7 sacks. He was a dismal 18 of 39 passing and some of those throws weren’t even close. The euphoria in Denver around Tebow is quickly evaporating. Doubt has grown in Denver all week about his ability to play the position at a pro level.
The Raiders will be without Darren McFadden, who suffered a sprain in his foot early on in Week 7. With the big match-up against San Diego looming next Thursday night, its best to rest him this week and get him as close to 100% as possible for the Chargers.
The Raiders are lucky to have a player of Michael Bush’s caliber as their backup running-back. He is not McFadden, but Bush would probably be the starter on 15 other NFL teams. Bush should touch the ball at least 20 times, with change-of-pace Taiwan Jones getting more of a load this week.
Much of the Raiders’ success the rest of the way will fall on the arm of Carson Palmer. He needs to show off the arm strength observers believe he has lost. Now that Palmer is familiar with the playbook and the stable of young athletic receivers, he should have a good day against a less than stalwart Broncos defense. Houshmanzadeh will make his Raider debut and it will be interesting to see if the chemistry he has with Palmer will carry over.
You usually don’t mention a kicker when breaking down the offensive keys for a football game, but Sebastian Janikowski is a weapon. He will test his hamstring on Friday and Saturday. Dave Rayner’s cell number being is on speed dial in case he can’t go.
X-Factor – Marcel Reece, Fullback
The Raiders finally had a healthy Reece in practice this week. Reece not only is a reliable blocking fullback, he is a special talent catching balls out of the backfield. Screen plays, quick angle and flat patterns; his hands and athleticism are rivaled by few, if any, at that position. Manase Tonga and Richard Gordon filled in admirably in his absence, but there is no replacing this special player.
Chuck Bresnahan is salivating at the chance to spring his defense loose on struggling quarterback Tim Tebow. The only way Tebow will be able to hurt the Raiders is with his legs by turning broken plays into positive yards. The Raiders will most likely continue to blitz, but I think you won’t see it as much this week. The defense will force Tebow to make his reads and make the accurate throw in coverage, something he was unable to do last weekend against Detroit. The Broncos offensive line has struggled for much of the year, so expect the Raiders big boys up front to be a major factor.
Denver running back Willis McGahee was limited in practice with a broken hand and is questionable for Sunday. He has three 100-yard rushing games since he took over as the starting role in Week 2 and is enjoying a healthy 4.5 yards a carry. The Raiders will predictably key on the Broncos ground game and force Tebow to make them pay through the air.
X-Factor – Richard Seymour, Defensive Tackle
The anchor on the Raiders defensive line had a great Week 1 performance against the Broncos, registering two sacks on Kyle Orton. The Lions took down Tebow 7 times last week. Expect number 92 to be a frequent presence in the Denver backfield all afternoon.
Prediction: The Raiders were embarrassed by Kansas City at home in a loss much too reminiscent of the dark years between 2002-2010. The Raiders have a great opportunity to get back in the win column against a struggling Broncos team. Expect Palmer to play better (he can’t do any worse) than last week. The Raiders should be 5-3 heading into San Diego.