Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gameday: Oakland Raiders

TV: CBS (local)
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates

What To Watch For

1. Stop Terrelle Pryor

The Raiders offense starts and ends with Terrelle Pryor. No, seriously. I challenge you to name two receivers on their team. I'll spot you Denarius Moore because if you're in a moderately deep fantasy football league you may have considered drafting him in the last round. Pryor isn't lighting the world on fire with his arm (throwing for just 212 yards per game), but he does have the capabilities to make all the throws in the book. He gets himself to trouble when his first option is covered and he has to find another receiver. The problem for the Steelers will be stopping Pryor when he gets mobile. Pryor leads the Raiders in rushing despite having 26 fewer rushing attempts than Darren McFadden. He is averaging about 8 carries per game and the Raiders will run some read-option plays with him. The Steelers will need to be defensively responsible up front and bring him down when they get the chance (like the Chiefs did to Pryor 2 weeks ago when they recorded 10 sacks).

2. Antonio Brown

Lost in the Steelers woeful offense this season is just how good Antonio Brown has been. He is second in the league with 47 receptions through 6 games, an average of 7.8 catches per game. Brown is on pace to shatter his personal best of 69 catches and could break the Steelers single-season record of 112 catches if he continues at his current pace. Brown has solidified himself as one of the most dependable receivers in the league, with 15 of his catches coming on 3rd downs. Brown is averaging 14.4 yards per catch on 3rd downs, 4 yards more than his average on first and second downs. Oakland's defense is not very good, having surrendered over 370 yards to Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers, and Brown should be in line for another big day.

3. Lamarr Houston vs Kelvin Beachum

The Raiders have 16 sacks as a team and Houston is their leader with 3. He doesn't have the pedigree that Terrell Suggs has, but Beachum needs to ride a solid performance against the Ravens through the rest of the season. Last year, Beachum had a great game against Paul Kruger then his performance dropped off in the following weeks. This year, Beachum has a chance to continue to build on his success against Baltimore. The Steelers line really started to come together last week against Baltimore and if they continue to gel this team might actually be able to build something.

4. Find the End Zone

The Steelers have won two in a row and scored 19 points in both games. In only two games this season have they reached the end zone more than once. The Steelers have one of the worst red zone conversion rates in the league, and it has to improve. The emergence of Le'Veon Bell should help their offense close to the goal line, but the receivers also need to come through. Antonio Brown dropped a touchdown pass in New York and Derek Moye dropped one last week. Both were very well-thrown balls that should have been caught. The Raiders have a knack for hanging around and keeping things close, so the Steelers will need to put 6 points on the board instead of 3 any time they get the chance.

5. Time Zones

If you've been reading the blog or following me on Twitter, I'm sure you're familiar with the stat. Since Mike Tomlin became head coach, the Steelers are 70-40 overall (63.6%). They have been successful at defending their home turf to the tune of a 41-15 record and 73.2% winning percentage. On the road in the Eastern time zone, they have been almost as good, posting a 24-10 record and a winning percentage over 70 (70.6%). The statistical anomaly in the Steelers record is their performance outside of the Eastern Time Zone. Since 2007 they are just 5-15 (25%) in games outside the Eastern Time Zone and have lost 7 straight games, dating back to the Blackout game in San Francisco in 2011. The Steelers can't afford any more bad performances against bad teams on the road. They need this win to stay relevant in the AFC. Time to break the streak.

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