Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gameday: Oakland Raiders

The Black Hole
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates

What To Watch For

1. Air Show

The Raiders have been downright awful against the run this season. The Steelers have struggled to run the ball. You would think this is a match made in heaven. However, when you look at the Raiders secondary, you have to start licking your chops. Their top corner Shawntae Spencer has already been ruled out with a foot injury, leaving Pat Lee, Joselio Hanson and Phillip Adams to match up against Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders. The last time the Steelers visited Oakland, Ben threw four picks, two of which were returned for touchdowns. But this secondary is hardly the same as the one the Raiders trotted out back in 2006 which included Nnamdi Asomugha and Chris Carr. The Steelers should shred this secondary, so keep an eye out for the no huddle offense when the Steelers go to their 3-wide set.

2. Steelers Out West

I wrote about this earlier in the week - since 2007 the Steelers have been downright awful when they have to travel outside of the Eastern Time Zone. 2007 was a convenient year to start the analysis because it took a look at the last 5 years, but the Steelers weren't fantastic before that either. Their 2006 loss at Oakland is still one of the worst in recent memory. Oakland-Alameda County Stadium is a downright awful place to play, but the Steelers need to make the most of a bad Raiders team and put this one out of reach as quickly as possible.

3. Darren McFadden

Run DMC is one of the most explosive players in the league - when he's healthy. He has yet to play more than 13 games in any season, but when he does play he's a beast in both the run and passing game. The Raiders will try to get the ball into his hands any way they can, and the Steelers need to be aware of him at all times. He's easily the most dangerous player on the field. McFadden leads the team in rushing attempts (26), receptions (15) and targets (25). All told, McFadden has either been handed or thrown the ball on 51 of the Raiders 162 offensive plays this season.

4. Penalties

The Raiders have been one of the most highly penalized teams in the league over the past 5 years. With the replacement officials, you never know what is going to happen, but it seems the tendency so far has been to err on the side of more penalties. This means we very well could see another flag-filled affair. I don't mind the refs throwing flags when there are penalties, but the refs need to be in control of the game and not let complaining players dictate when a flag should come out.

5. Carson Palmer

Hello, old friend. Over his career, Carson Palmer has more losses to the Steelers (8) than to any other team. Palmer has a measly 57% completion percentage against the black and gold and has thrown for 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with only a 76.7 QB rating to show for it. With Troy Polamalu out of the game, someone in the secondary is going to have to step up and make some plays, because the Raiders receivers aren't that good. Denarius Moore was Palmer's favorite receiver last year, but he only has 3 receptions on 8 targets through two games. Former Top 10 pick Darrius Heyward-Bey is 3rd on the team in receptions and receiving yards, but hasn't quite had the breakthrough season many were hoping he would after posting 456 yards and 3 touchdowns over his last 5 games in  2011. From the little bit I've seen of Oakland this year, this isn't a team that is going to go down the field much. There are a lot of short passes and they try to get their speedy receivers the ball. They are trying to limit the number of mistakes Palmer can make with the ball, but if the Steelers pass rush can get after him, they can make life very miserable for Carson.

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