By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
photo credit: sportsworldreport.com Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers
OAKLAND — At 6-7, the Raiders have a chance to reach the .500 mark this late in the season for the first time since finishing 8-8 in 2011 but it will be a tall order with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers visiting O.co Coliseum Sunday for Week 15.
Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. PDT with rain predicted for the forecast. This the first meeting between the two teams in Oakland since 2003, as each of the previous two match-ups occurred in Green Bay.
After a 1-4 stretch in November when the Packers found themselves behind the then first place Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North, Green Bay (9-4) has won back-to-back games and have overtaken Minnesota, who have dropped back-to-back games in December.
If there is ever a game where fans can see two exceptional quarterbacks that are eerily similar in playing styles, then the battle between Chico’s own Rodgers and Fresno’s own Derek Carr is the game.
Both quarterbacks are tied for fourth in the NFL with 28 touchdown passes, while Carr has the advantage in passing yards (3,313 to 3,175), Rodgers has thrown four less interceptions (five to nine) than Carr.
Seven of Carr’s nine interceptions have come in the fourth quarter. Fourth quarter interceptions have been Carr’s Achilles’ heel this season.
Carr and the Raiders had -12 yards of total offense in the first half, but turned things around in the second half with two touchdown passes to lead Oakland to a shocking 15-12 victory in Denver last Sunday.
Carr completed just 12 of 29 passes for 135 yards. His 41.4 completion rating was his lowest for any game this season.
Oakland held a very good Broncos’ offense to just 34 yards rushing, and have held eight of their last 11 opponents under 100 yards rushing. Dissecting the Raiders’ run defense further, they have yielded an average of 55.7 yards rushing per game in the last three games.
Amari Cooper, Oakland’s talented rookie wide receiver who came into the game with a team leading 920 receiving yards, was held without a catch against Denver’s tough secondary. Cooper might be hitting the rookie wall this late in the season, has been dealing with a foot injury this week.
The real story from Oakland’s victory in Denver was the tremendous play from defensive end Khalil Mack.
After being quiet in the first half, Mack was a house on fire in the second half tormenting Denver’s maligned offensive line by recording five sacks, seven tackles (six solo) and a forced fumble while being named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance. It was Mack’s third straight game with at least two sacks.
Mack, who leads the NFL with 14 sacks, is just two sacks away from Derrick Burgess’ franchise record of 16 sacks he set in 2006, will have the Packers’ full attention Sunday.
Rodgers and Co. are coming off a 28-7 home victory over the down-trodden Dallas Cowboys in Week 15.
Green Bay’s signal caller completed 22 of 35 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns against Dallas. The two-time NFL MVP has his lowest completion percentage (61.2) and passer rating (97.5) since becoming the team’s full-time starter in 2008.
Rodgers is hoping that facing Oakland’s 28th ranked pass defense (271.5) will improve those numbers, but Rodgers must be aware that Oakland has gotten to the quarterback as the defense has recorded 19 sacks in the last five games.
Rodgers has been sacked 31 times this season, fourth-most in the NFC.
Sunday will also be the first time that current Raiders’ safety Charles Woodson and Packers’ wide receiver James Jones face their respected former teams.
Woodson, 39, was released by Green Bay in 2013, returned to Oakland and has found the fountain of youth.
The 18-year veteran who helped Green Bay win the Super Bowl in 2010, has played steady this season tied for third in the NFL with five interceptions and ranks first with four forced fumbles.
Jones, who was released by Oakland last year after leading the team with 73 catches and six touchdowns, is tied with tight end Richard Rodgers for the team lead with seven touchdown catches, and second on the team with 660 receiving yards behind fellow wide receiver Randall Cobb’s 737 yards.
Jones’s 18.9 yards per catch leads all NFL wide receivers with 30-plus catches.