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As a network commentator, former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms is paid to give his opinions about NFL teams.
He looks at Sunday’s Raiders-Packers game and sees a far different Oakland team than he saw early in the year.
Simms, speaking to Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week, said the Raiders early in the year – with a healthy Darren McFadden at running back – were dynamic offensively. Now, without McFadden and with Carson Palmer at quarterback, Oakland has a different team that will need to attack the undefeated Packers much differently.
“I haven’t seen a real Raiders football team in so long,” Simms told Wolfley. “The team I saw in Week 2, with Darren McFadden at running back, was a dangerous team. They were a team that caught my attention. Not having him affects everybody. It affects the offensive line, the quarterback, but it also affects the Raiders’ defense as much as anything. He helps your offense, but it probably shortens the game by two possessions for the opponent. What defense wouldn’t want that?”
Especially against the Packers, the defending Super Bowl champs, who are 12-0 and the favorite to return to win big game again. Green Bay is coming off a tough, 38-35 victory over the Giants, but oddsmakers have made the Pack a 12-point favorite over Oakland Sunday in Green Bay.
Green Bay’s offense is a machine, ranking No. 3 in the NFL in passing and No. 4 overall, behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the former Cal star. He’s the first QB in NFL history to have 12 consecutive games with a passer rating of 100 or more. He’s already thrown for 37 touchdowns and needs just three to pass Brett Favre’s team single-season record.
Rodgers has a great deep-threat receiver in Jordy Nelson and a solid running back in Ryan Grant, who rushed for 156 yards against Oakland in the last meeting between these teams, a 38-7 Packers victory in December of 2007.
The Raiders go into the game again without McFadden, who's still not practicing, so Michael Bush will be the featured back. Also missing will be other dynamic (but injured) players such as wide receivers Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, and possibly rookie running back Taiwan Jones.
Oakland, which is still very much in the AFC West race, tied with the Broncos at the top of the standings at 7-5, is coming off a 34-14 loss to Miami last week.
Simms looks at the Raiders and says Oakland must be more aggressive offensively against Green Bay, which does have holes in its defense. Against the pass, Green Bay ranks just 31st in the NFL.
Palmer, says Simms, looks sharp and capable of putting up big numbers.
Also, says Simms, the way the Raiders looked in their loss to Miami – flat – should give them some incentive to come out firing Sunday.
“They should be motivated to erase what they did the previous week,” Simms told Wolfley.
Added Simms: “(The Raiders) offense has to be a little more daring, and they have to take chances because they have to score points. You’re not going to go in there and keep the Green Bay Packers under 20 and slow the game down. It really does you no good. You can only do that if you can control Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense and so far, nobody has. If you’re playing percentages, your mindset has to be, let’s go. You have to take chances on both sides of the ball.”
With Ford and Moore likely out, the Raiders will start wideouts Darrius Heyward-Bey and Chaz Schilens, with Louis Murphy and T.J. Houshmandzadeh as backups