Oakland Raiders Must Not Overlook Wounded Bears


The Oakland Raiders have their sights set on an AFC West title this season. But they know to do that, they have to first topple the reigning champs – Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Knowing that the Broncos are on the not too distant horizon, it might be tempting to start getting geeked up for that coming showdown. But the Raiders would be wise to keep their focus on the Chicago Bears, whom they’ll be playing in this Sunday or it might come back to bite them in their collective backside.

There is, they say, nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal. Sitting at 0-3, missing their starting quarterback, players not fitting in well with a new coaching staff and scheme, and giving away players like Halloween candy, the Chicago Bears are most certainly that – a wounded animal.

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Given the state of the Bears today, it would seem that they’re a franchise who has thrown in the towel already. A team that is winless through the first three weeks of the season and has already packed it in. And given what we’ve seen the Bears do over the last few days, it’s not an unreasonable perception.

But perception is rarely reality and though Chicago is a wounded animal, it is a wounded animal that can still bite hard if you’re not careful.

Despite dealing Jared Allen and Jon Bostic, the Bears still have some players on defense that can hurt you if you take your eyes off of them. On the defensive side of the ball, players like Ego Ferguson, Jay Ratliff, Pernell McPhee, Antrel Rolle, and LaMarr Houston can be dangerous. On the other side of the ball, the Bears still have Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, and the tight end – which has been he bane of Oakland’s existence this season – Martellus Bennett, who can all make plays.

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Chicago has one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL so far this season, surrendering a tick more than 135 yards a game. But they also have one of the better pass defenses in the league, giving up just over 195 yards per game – only five teams give up less yardage through the air.

Offensively, the Bears are checking in with the 28th overall offense in the league, racking up just 294 yards a game. They are averaging a meager 162 yards through the air – which will undoubtedly help a struggling Raiders secondary. But they are averaging a bruising 132 yards per game on the ground which means that Oakland’s run defense – giving up just 91 yards a game so far this season – is going to have to be on point.

Though rumors are swirling that the Bears may be looking to deal Forte, the Raiders should be prepared to see him on the field come Sunday. Forte is averaging 4.7 yards a carry and 92 yards a game, and with Jimmy Clausen filling in for the injured Jay Cutler, the Raiders need to be ready for a very heavy dose of the 6’1”, 220 pound running back.

Though they should expect a heavy diet of Forte, they also can’t afford to sleep on the Bears’ passing game. Clausen only attempted 17 passes against the Seahawks last week – completing just nine of them – but given how porous the Raiders’ secondary has been so far this season, it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see Bears’ HC John Fox and OC Adam Gase try to take some shots downfield.

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  • And with the talented receivers Chicago does have, combined with a secondary that has been less than stellar so far this season, the Raiders have to buckle down and focus on the task at hand. Which is dealing with the Chicago Bears.

    In an interview, Latavius Murray echoed HC Jack Del Rio‘s comments earlier this season about the team’s goal of winning the division. In the interview, he said:

    "“To win the division. We set that as our goal when this group got together as soon as when Jack [Del Rio] came in and that’s our one goal. You know, after that we have a chance to get into the playoffs and obviously try to make a run. But winning the division is the most important thing to us.”"

    Knowing that’s the ultimate goal, it might be tempting for some players to already be looking at their upcoming date with the Broncos. But as unlikely as it seems, they will have their hands full with Chicago and need to keep the focus on the field.

    Future Hall of Famer and Raiders stalwart Charles Woodson put it best when, in an interview, he said:

    "“It’s simple. You’ve just got to focus on the next one. Two and one is great, but in the grand scheme of things, there’s a long way to go. We can’t be worried about down the road or what can be or what might be. We’ve got to focus on Chicago and getting on a roll, getting on a plane, going across the country and focusing the way we did against Cleveland.”"

    This Raiders team – unlike most all of the Raiders teams of the past dozen years – has a legitimate shot at winning the AFC West and making the playoffs. Obviously, there is still much work to do and a defense that needs to be shored up quite a bit.But this is a far better football team than most anybody gave them credit for before the season started.

    Now they need to buckle down, focus, and develop that “tunnel vision” that Woodson spoke about and take it, as the old cliche goes, one game at a time.

    Yes, the road to the AFC West crown rolls through Denver, and yes, this young and hungry Raiders squad will get their first crack at them in two weeks. But first up on their plate is Chicago.

    Though Chicago is a very wounded animal that seems to be limping along, there is still a lot of pride in that organization and those players. Taking them lightly or looking ahead into the future would be a mistake – one that could see that wounded animal turn around and bite them.

    Next: Oakland Raiders: Notes & Observations From Week Three