As the Raiders host the Lions today, they know they’ll at least have one thing they haven’t had the past two games: the crowd.
While key playmakers seem to be disappearing left and right, the Raiders are looking for anything to give them a boost as they head into the final three games of the season with hopes of trying to secure a playoff spot.
At 7-6 after two straight road losses, Oakland trails Denver (8-5) by one game in the AFC West. The Broncos – matched against the Patriots Sunday – could have their six-game winning streak come to an end, however.
“Oh my God, that’s going to be a huge boost,” head coach Hue Jackson told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group in reference to Sunday’s seventh home sellout crowd at O.co Coliseum this season. “We’ve been on the road, with angry people screaming at us for the last coupleof weeks and giving it to us. We’ve had to take it. Now we’re at home and our crowd will be there for us.”
But how many of the Raiders will be there for the fans?
While receiver Denarius Moore appears ready to make his return Sunday, running backs Darren McFadden and Taiwan Jones, receiver Jacoby Ford, defensive tackle John Henderson and safety Michael Huff all missed practice Thursday and may miss Sunday’s game. McFadden, Jones and Ford all seem certain to be out, while Henderson (knee) and Huff (who injured a hamstring vs. Green Bay last week) are iffy. Cornerback Chris Johnson also hasn’t practiced all week because he’s been in Texas for the funeral of his sister, but will probably play.
The Raiders likely will try to run on Detroit, which has a ferocious pass rush but has been vulnerable on the ground (ranking 27th in the NFL). Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh returns from a two-game suspension for stomping on an opponent during a Thanksgiving game.
A quick start by Oakland might also give the team a boost. After trailing 34-0 in each of their two consecutive road losses, jumping out to a quick lead – and getting the crowd fired up – might just wipe away all those bad vibes from Miami and Green Bay.
All week, Oakland’s players and coaches have said there’s a more positive, energized tone to practices now that there is no room for error. Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan told reporters this week there’s been a “rejuvenated effort.”
Sunday’s matchup pits similar teams and personalities. Both are fighting for a playoff spot. Both are among the most penalized teams in the NFL (and are tied for the lead in personal fouls with 27). Each team has a strong pass rush but is vulnerable to the run. Both quarterbacks, Carson Palmer and Matthew Stafford, can throw the long ball but have been inconsistent. Stafford has an excellent big-play receiver in Calvin Johnson, who has 12 TD catches.
“Very similar. We’re a lot bigger,” Palmer told the Bay Area News Group’s Jerry McDonald this week when comparing defensive fronts. “They’re probably a lot faster, but as far as just having great players all over the place, both fronts are fantastic.”
Oddsmakers have made the Raiders one-point favorites.
Said Jackson: “We’re coming to play this weekend, I promise you that.”
A full house of silver-and-black wearing fans is praying for nothing less.