Oakland Raiders: Defense Must Lead The Way Against Packers


The Oakland Raiders square off with the Green Bay Packers today in a game that still carries playoff implications.

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If the playoffs started today, the Oakland Raiders would be out of course, and the Packers would be in. But a win by the Silver and Black today would keep their postseason hopes – admittedly, very much on life support at this point – alive. At least for another week.

A win by the Raiders today could also potentially damage Green Bay’s postseason aspirations. At 9-4, the Packers have nothing sewn up just yet. The Minnesota Vikings (8-5) are nipping at their heels and are within striking distance of claiming the NFC North for themselves.

At the very least, a loss by the Packers today would make their week seventeen date with Minnesota very, very interesting.

The Packers are a good club. But they’re not without their weaknesses and deficiencies. The stretch where they lost four of five games proved just that. And if not for a last second miracle against the Lions a couple of weeks ago, that stretch might have been five of six.

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Green Bay is not as invulnerable this season as they’ve seemed in the recent past. If the Raiders come out and play the kind of football we have seen them play this season, the kind of football that we know they’re capable of, they will have their chances against the Packers. They’ll have their chances to snag a game most don’t think they stand a chance of winning.

But it is all going to start with the defense. To have a shot in this game, Oakland’s defense is going to have to rise up and punch the Packers in the mouth. Again and again.

The Raiders come into the game with the NFL’s twenty-seventh ranked defense. They’re giving up a tick under 373 yards and 25 points per game. The Raiders are giving up 271.5 yards a game through the air and another 101 yards on the ground.

On paper, that’s not so good. But what those stark, black and white numbers don’t tell you is that this is a defense that is on the rise. After getting absolutely destroyed by the Steelers and Vikings in back to back weeks – defensively speaking – DC Ken Norton has started pushing all the right buttons and this defense has rebounded in a big way.

Over the last four weeks of the season, the Raiders defense has given up just 292 yards per game – that’s 80 yards less than their season average, if you’re scoring at home. It’s also a vast improvement over the average of 409 yards a game the Raiders defense gave up over the first nine weeks of the season.

Over those same four games, that defense has given up an average of 223 yards per game through the air and just 69 yards on the ground. They’ve amassed 15 sacks in those four games and are giving up just over 21 points per game.

Those numbers would put this defense among the very best in the league.

After spending a good portion of the season getting torn up by opposing offenses and being maligned in the media, this Raiders defense seems to have really figured it out. They’ve made big plays at big times and have done a terrific job of keeping this team in games when the offense has been sputtering and stalling – more on OC Bill Musgrave‘s deficiencies later.

Green Bay is not bulletproof. Without Jordy Nelson, their offense has not been nearly as explosive as it has been in the past. But Randall Cobb and James Jones have still proven capable of making some plays and Davante Adams . Eddie Lacy has had an up and down season, but his 124 yard outburst against the Cowboys last week has possibly gotten him back on the right track. If not, James Starks has proven a capable option for the Packers offense.

There is no question that the Raiders are going to have their hands full with the Packers. They have a number of reliable options and explosive playmakers. They are going to be relying on Dan Williams, Justin Ellis, and Mario Edwards to get a good push up the field while cutting off the running lanes. They’ll need Khalil Mack to continue his relentless pass rush. They’ll need Ben Heeney and Malcolm Smith to continue with their strong play against the run and pass. And they’ll need Charles Woodson, David Amerson and Travis Carrie to keep stepping up and making plays in the secondary.

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This Raiders team can beat this Green Bay team. They have the players and they have the ability. They have a DC who has grown to trust them and is more comfortable turning them loose and letting them do their thing. They have a DC who is pushing the right buttons and is putting his players in a position to succeed.

All they need to make sure they have is the fire in their bellies to come out swinging to not stop swinging until the final whistle.

This Raiders team can beat this Packers team. But it’s the defense – a unit that is on the rise – that is going to have to lead the way.