The Oakland Raiders shocked the NFL — and perhaps even themselves — with their huge upset win in Denver last weekend. Now they’ll look to pull off another when they play host to the Green Bay Packers this weekend. Much like last week, this will not be an easy feat for the Raiders, who still cannot seem to find a consistent level of play. However, as the overused saying goes: “Any given Sunday.”
If the Raiders want this Sunday to result in a win, here are three keys to achieving that goal:
1. Keeping the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands
The past couple of weeks have been statistical anomalies for the Raiders. First, the Raiders dominated nearly every statistical category, including time of possession, against the Kansas City Chiefs at home, only to lose the game in painful fashion. The script flipped a week later, with the Broncos dominating nearly every statistical category, including time of possession, while losing to the Raiders in painful fashion.
I think the Raiders will return to the mean; whoever has the advantage in time of possession on Sunday will probably win. The Raiders need to play good defense — that’s a given. More importantly, they’ll need one of their best collective efforts on the ground so they can control the ball and create long sustained drives.
This is easier said than done. After rushing for at least 118 yards per game in each of their three contests after the bye, they’ve failed to hit the century mark in any of their last five games. If they can find a way to do this against a mediocre Green Bay run defense that allows 4.4 yards per carry (27th in the NFL), it means fewer chances for Rodgers to work his magic.
2. Dominating the Packers run game
After struggling on run defense for a few weeks, the Raiders have managed to get their mojo back and are once again playing like the team that was ranked second in rushing yards allowed earlier in the year. Last weekend the Raiders held the Broncos to an embarrassingly low 34 yards on the ground.
This week, the Raiders take on a top-10 run offense with a double-headed beast at running back with James Starks and Eddie Lacy. Unlike earlier in the year, the Raiders are taking on the Packers at a tough time as Lacy is running much better now than he was earlier in the year. Lacy has surpassed the 100-yard mark in three of his last four games, and he rushed 24 times for 124 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys last Sunday.
3. Khalil Mack’s continued dominance
Mack has registered nine sacks over the last three games, with five of those coming against the Broncos last weekend. Anyone who was waiting for Mack to break out before declaring him a good player is now done waiting. Mack has been absolutely dominant against the run and as a pass rusher over the past four weeks.
His play, which has been aided by strong performances from guys like Denico Autry and Mario Edwards, Jr., has made the corners look better and created a much more efficient defense. No, the Raiders cannot rely on Mack having crazy games every week in order to win games. But until the offseason hits, they won’t have a chance to upgrade the secondary. For the time being, Mack will need to keep playing out of his mind if the Raiders defense wants to continue looking respectable.
After getting a rare win against their divisional rivals a week ago, the Raiders are looking for another big victory. Before last weekend, the Raiders hadn’t beaten the Broncos since 2011. This weekend, they have the chance to end another streak. The Raiders have lost six straight to the Packers — their last win over the Packers was a 20-0 win in Green Bay back in 1987 … when they were the Los Angeles Raiders.