Oakland host Philadelphia Sunday looking to reach .500

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By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — After gutting out a 21-18  home victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday, the Raiders can reach the .500 mark with a win over another team from the Keystone State, when they host the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at O.co Coliseum. This will mark the fifth straight sellout for the Silver and Black this season.

The game will be seen locally on Fox KTVU Channel 2 in the Bay Area.

Terrelle Pryor took the first snap of the game and blazed past a slow and old Steelers defense for a 93-yard touchdown. Pryor’s touchdown run was the longest in NFL history by a quarterback, and broke running back Bo Jackson’s franchise record 92-yard touchdown run set in 1989.

Running back Darren McFadden played a key role in the running, racking up 73 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.

But the strength of the team was the play of Oakland’s (3-4) 10th ranked defense. Oakland’s defense limited Pittsburgh (2-5) to 276 yards of total offense and intercepted Ben Roethlisberger twice and sacking the Steeler’s quarterback five times.

Philadelphia (3-5) is coming off a 15-7 home loss against NFC East rival, the New York Giants. The Eagles looked inept on offense, and was nearly shutout by the Giants if it weren’t for an Eagles’ touchdown on special teams late in the fourth quarter.

Nick Foles, who has been cleared after suffering a concussion against the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago, is expected to start for Philadelphia in place of Michael Vick. Vick left last weekend’s game  with a pulled hamstring after passing for 158 yards. Third-string rookie quarterback Matt Barkley finished the game for Philadelphia.

Let’s face it, the Eagles are a bad football team that has been playing musical chairs at the quarterback position. Oakland should feed off from a strong defensive effort and raucously loud crowd against Pittsburgh, and continue that intensity against Philadelphia.

.500 mark for Oakland? Could be in the cards.

Raiders, Steelers set to battle in Oakland Sunday

By. Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — Fresh off their bye week, the Oakland Raiders will look to get back on the winning track when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at O.co Coliseum.  The game is sold out and will be seen locally on CBS affiliate, KPIX Ch. 5. Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m.

Oakland (2-4), leads the all-time series, 11-9, and hold an 8-5 edge in home games over the Steelers. The Silver and Black have not lost to the Steelers at O.co Coliseum since 1995.

In last year’s meeting in Oakland, the Raiders dropped the Steelers 34-31 behind a 43-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski in the final seconds of a tough battle. Running back Darren McFadden had a great day, carrying the ball 18 times for 113 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown run.  Oakland will need a healthy McFadden against the sixth ranked Steelers defense.

Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor spent the bye week working with quarterbacks coach, Tom House refining his mechanics. Pryor worked with House during this past offseason, and House has worked with quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

Pittsburgh (2-4), started the season 0-4, but are coming along after winning their last two games, including a 19-16 victory over their AFC North foe, the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

It’s no secret that the Steelers will only go as far as the right arm of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can take them.

Roethlisberger is coming into Sunday’s game completing 66-percent of his passes for 1,655 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Owner of two Super Bowl rings, Roethlisberger is a top-five quarterback in the NFL and the Raiders are going to have their hands full with him, but if Oakland is going to have any success, it will be on the defensive front.

Defensive ends Lamarr Houston (team leader with three sacks) and Jason Hunter (two sacks), will have their chances to get their hands on Roethlisberger, especially with the anchor of the offensive line, center Maurkice Pouncy, on injured reserve with a torn ACL.

Roethlisberger has been sacked 21 times this season (third behind New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (25 times), and Miami Dolphins quarterback  Ryan Tannehill (26 times)). Oakland has been getting after the quarterback this season, sacking the opposing quarterback 16 times through six games.

In order for Oakland to have a chance at moving to 3-4, they will need to apply pressure on Roethlisberger and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver will need to be creative in concocting blitzes if Oakland is going to have chances at throwing Roethlisberger’s timing off to his wide receivers, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.

Sprinkle in a few timely plays by Pryor and the offense, Oakland has a legitimate shot at winning Sunday.

 

 

Playoffs for the Raiders? Pump the brakes Pryor.

By. Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — Following Oakland’s 24-7 road loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that dropped Oakland to 2-4, Raiders starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor made the boldest prediction to date in his young career.

“We have to come together and start creating…We’ll be back; 2-4; we’ll get to the playoffs,” Pryor said per CSN Bay Area.

As a die-hard Raiders fan, you got to love Pryor’s confidence following a tough battle with a bitter rival, but the playoffs for the Raiders this season is out of the question this season. There are too many hurdles for them to climb over.

Oakland winning the AFC West?

Not going to happen.

Denver and Kansas City both sit perched a top the division as the two lone undefeated teams in the league at 6-0 and Oakland is 0-2 against both this season.

Even though Oakland holds a 27-17 victory over the San Diego Chargers at home, San Diego is 3-3 after dispatching Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts 19-9 before a nationwide audience on Monday Night Football.

Clinching a wild card berth may be even tougher this season with a stacked AFC. Teams like Miami (3-2), Baltimore (3-3), Cleveland (3-3), and the New York Jets (3-3) all currently having better records than Oakland so enough with the playoff talk already.

Pryor should use Oakland’s bye week to figure out how he is going to survive the season behind a shaky and injury-plagued offensive line. Kansas City brutalized Pryor, sacking him 10 times and knocking him down 16 last Sunday but Pryor didn’t point fingers.

“This loss is on me. I’ll take it,” he said. “I’ll make sure we get better. As the leader of the offense, I have to make sure it happens. It will.”

With the 13th ranked defense in football, Oakland knows it will be in most games this season. Outside of the 37-21 loss in Denver in Week 3 where Pryor left the game with a concussion, Oakland has remained competitive in each game this season.

But again, the spotlight will be on Pryor to continue to “get better” and have Oakland heading in the right direction.

Give Pryor credit on one thing: he knows that in order for the Raiders to be better offensively (27th overall), it falls on his shoulders, but not his alone.

The continued growth of wide out Denarius Moore would be good. A healthy running back by the name of Darren McFadden would be an even bigger help.

It will be interesting when the Raiders take the field after the bye week when they host the 1-4 Pittsburgh Steelers because Pryor has but himself and the Raiders on notice.

It’s playoffs or bust.

But don’t get fooled.

Oakland has too many hurdles to climb and too many teams to overtake to make the playoffs this season.

 

 

Raiders head to Arrowhead looking for 7th Straight win in Kansas City

By. Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — After dispatching fellow AFC West foe the San Diego Chargers 27-17 last week at home, the Oakland Raiders (2-3) hit the road to take on another AFC West foe, the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) Sunday at Arrowhead. Oakland is seeking their seventh straight win in Kansas City, dating back to 2007.

With former incumbent quarterback Matt Flynn being released on Monday, the Raiders have officially become Terrelle Pryor’s team. On the Flynn experiment, head coach Dennis Allen mentioned “it just didn’t work” during the team’s press conference Monday.

Pryor looked good in the pocket while playing the best football of his career last Sunday night against San Diego, completing 18-of-23 passes for 221 yards and two first quarter touchdowns.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Pryor currently ranks fourth in the NFL in completion percentage, completing 72.7 percent of his passes from the pocket, which is higher than more accomplish quarterbacks such as Drew Brees (69.7), Matt Ryan (69.3), and Aaron Rodgers (66.4).

The one player that will give Oakland its best chance at collecting their seventh straight win at Arrowhead is wide receiver Denarius Moore.

In Oakland’s 26-16 victory last season at Arrowhead, Moore played a vital role in the win, hauling in 96 yards on five catches including a nine-yard touchdown grab. Over the past three games, Moore has 20 catches for 274 receiving yards (18 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. Moore is Pryor’s first option when he drops back to pass.

First-year Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has pumped new blood into Kansas City after their dismal 2-14 season a year ago.

Kansas City took down the Tennessee Titans, 26-17 in Nashville last week, and is playing great football which will be a huge challenge for the Silver and Black.

After playing musical chairs at quarterback, Kansas City traded a conditional second round pick in next year’s draft for former San Francisco 49ers’ No. 1 overall pick, quarterback Alex Smith. Smith isn’t your typical strong-armed quarterback (18th-best quarterback according to nfl.com), but has been very accurate for Kansas City. Smith has thrown seven touchdowns and only three interceptions, but the offense isn’t what makes this team click.

Its the seventh ranked defense (first in points scored against per game at 11.6) in the NFL that has Kansas City running on all cylinders.

Linebacker Justin Houston is the straw that stirs the drink for Kansas City’s defense. Houston is second in the NFL with 8.5 sacks and will no doubt be keeping his eyes on Pryor’s every move. Fellow linebacker Derrick Johnson leads Kansas City with 35 tackles (31 solo).

Kansas City’s has a very formidable defensive line led by defensive end Tamba Hali and rookie defensive tackle, Dontari Poe. Facing the Chiefs defense won’t be a day at the park for Oakland.

Oakland has got to play near flawless football if they expect to leave Arrowhead with a 3-3 record heading into their bye week next week.

Player to Watch for Oakland:

No. 24) Charles Woodson (FS) — The reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Week is still playing at a high level at this stage of his career. Against San Diego, Woodson tied the NFL’s all-time record for defensive touchdowns when he recovered a third-quarter fumble, giving him 13 for his career. Woodson’s fourth-quarter interception sealed the win for Oakland.

Player to Watch for Kansas City:

No. 24) Brandon Flowers (CB) — Flowers is one of the better cornerbacks in the league that no one really talks about since he plays in a small market like Kansas City. Flowers has the ability to take the opposing team’s best wide receiver and shut him down for the game. Expect Flowers to shadow Denarius Moore for much of the game.

 

 

Chargers invade Oakland under the lights Sunday night

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by Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — For the second time in three weeks, the Oakland Raiders will play under the lights, when they host their AFC West divisional foe, the San Diego Chargers, Sunday at O.co Coliseum at the special time of 8:35 p.m. PT, instead of the previously scheduled 1:25 p.m. PT, due to the MLB playoff game Saturday night between the Detroit Tigers and the Oakland Athletics.

Oakland (1-3), will have starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor back under center. Pryor sat out Oakland’s 24-14 home loss to the Washington Redskins after suffering a concussion against the Denver Broncos in Week 3.

Backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who was demoted to the third string quarterback behind rookie Matt McGloin this week by head coach Dennis Allen, started in place for the injured Pryor and didn’t look like the quarterback that Oakland sent two draft picks to the Seattle Seahawks this past offseason.

Flynn did finish 21-of-32 for 227 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception that was returned for a touchdown. Washington’s defense feasted on Flynn, sacking him seven times. Its no secret that Oakland’s offensive line has more holes than Swiss cheese, but there were times in the game that Flynn had guys wide open and decided to take the sack, even when the offensive line gave him time to throw.

The fact that Flynn’s starting backfield of running back Darren McFadden (hamstring) and full back Marcel Reece (knee), were knocked out the game made the task of leading Oakland to victory that much tougher. McFadden hasn’t practice this week and his status for Sunday remains in the air. Reece has been limited in practice this week, as well as starting center Stefan Wisniewski, who emerged from the Washington game with a knee strain.

Backup running back Rashad Jennings filled in admirably, finishing with 116 yards of total offense (45 rushing, 71 receiving), and rookie tight end Mychal Rivera scored his first touchdown, an 18-yard reception.

San Diego (2-2) is coming off a big win at home over the Dallas Cowboys, 30-21 and will pose a mighty challenge for Oakland.

Quarterback Philip Rivers has been playing lights out this season. Rivers has thrown for 1,199 yards, 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Rivers 11 touchdowns ranks second in the NFL behind Denver Broncos quarterback, Peyton Manning.

Against Dallas, Rivers was 35-of-42 for 401 yards passing, three touchdowns and one interception finishing with a 120.3 quarterback rating.

After nagging injuries have crippled his performance the last couple of years, perennial All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates appears to be healthier than ever this season. Gates continues to be Rivers’ most trusted target, racking up 25 catches for 364 yards receiving and two touchdowns in four games this season.

Gates finished with 10 catches for 136 yards, including the go-ahead 56-yard touchdown catch over the middle of the field against the Cowboys in San Diego last week.

Oakland ranks 17th in the NFL in defense and will have its hands full against San Diego’s eighth-ranked offense, who are averaging 27 points per game.

San Diego swept the season series against Oakland last year and hold a 57-47-2 edge all-time against the Silver and Black.

Players to Watch for San Diego:

  • No. 17) Philip Rivers (QB) — Rivers is enjoying a renaissance of a season under new head coach Mike McCoy. McCoy is an offensive mind and has given Rivers a renewed sense of confidence and Rivers is off to the best start of his career.
  • No. 39) Danny Woodhead (RB) — Woodhead isn’t a household name (or the Chargers starting running back), but is a proven chain mover and another trusted option for Rivers. Woodhead had five catches for 54 yards and two touchdowns against Dallas.
  • No. 85) Antonio Gates (TE) — With no legitimate No. 1 wide receiver, Gates is clearly Rivers’ first option on first, second, third and even fourth downs. Gates lost 25 pounds in the offseason and is faster and harder to bring down in the open field. Raiders’ defense has to make sure that they know where Gates is lined up at all times.

Players to Watch for Oakland:

  • No. 2) Terrelle Pryor (QB) — Pryor’s return to the line up gives Oakland’s 20th ranked offense an instant jolt. Pryor is completing 65% of his passes this season, and leads all quarterbacks with 198 rushing yards.
  • No. 17) Denarius Moore (WR) — Moore is Oakland’s leading wide receiver and gives Oakland the opportunity to stretch the field on San Diego. Moore has 15 catches for 233 yards and two touchdowns, Moore is averaging 15.5 yards per catch this season.
  • No. 99) Lamarr Houston (DE) — Houston is Oakland’s best pass rusher and it’s most active. Houston along with fellow defensive end Jason Hunter, leads the team with two sacks. Oakland will need to create a serious pass rush against Rivers and Co. Sunday.

Quarterback uncertainty with Washington coming to Oakland Sunday

Terrelle Pryor

By. Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — Oakland Raiders starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor has been medically cleared for full contact, but it’s still uncertain if Pryor or backup Matt Flynn will be under center when the Silver and Black take the field against the down-trodden Washington Redskins Sunday at O.co Coliseum.

According to CSNCalifornia.com Raiders’ insider Scott Bair, Oakland will not announce a starter before Sunday’s game, partially for competitive reasons.

This is the first meeting between the two teams since 2009.

Pryor, who sustained a concussion after taking a helmet-to-chin hit from Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard Monday night during Oakland’s 37-21 loss in Denver, was listed as questionable on the team’s injury report, but saw an increased workload after participating in practice Thursday and Friday.

Against the aggressive Denver defense, Pryor had a career-best quarterback rating of 112.4, completing 19 of 28 passes for 281 yards and, including a 73-yard touchdown catch and run by speedster Denarius Moore.

Whichever quarterback starts for Oakland (1-2), the game plan should feature a heavy dose of running back Darren McFadden. Washington is surrendering a league-worst 155 yards per game on the ground and has given up at least 130 yards rushing in two of their three losses on the season.

McFadden arguably had his worst game of his career Monday night, rushing for just 9 yards on 12 carries (0.8 yards per attempt). McFadden did have two touchdowns, one on a 1-yard run and the other, a 16-yard pass to fullback Marcel Reese, but he should be the Raiders’ workhorse come Sunday.

Washington (0-3) is off to a rough start to the season, to say the least.

Starting quarterback Robert Griffin III is coming off a third-straight 300-yard passing game, but Washington couldn’t overcome two critical fumbles in the fourth quarter and dropped a backbreaker to the Detroit Lions, 27-20 at home.

Running back Alfred Morris finished with 15 carries for 73 yards and  a touchdown.

The game is expected to be a sell out and will be seen locally on FOX/KTVU Ch. 2 at 1:25 p.m. PDT.

Players to Watch for Washington:

  • No. 10) Robert Griffin III (QB) – After not playing a single second during the preseason while recovering from offseason knee surgery to repair his ACL, Griffin is still shaking off the rust but appears to be playing better. The second-year quarter from Baylor is sixth in the league among quarterbacks with five touchdown passes.
  • No. 46) Alfred Morris (RB) – Outside of Griffin, Morris is Washington’s next best offensive weapon. Morris finished second to Adrian Peterson in  both rushing yards (1,613), touchdowns (13), and third in rushes (335) in 2012. Morris has rushed for 225 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries so far in 2013.
  • No. 91) Ryan Kerrigan (OLB) – Kerrigan, along with teammate Perry Riley, Washington has significant punch in the pass rushing department and Oakland has a leaky offensive line. Kerrigan leads Washington with three sacks this season and five quarterback pressures, while Riley leads Washington in tackles with 29.

Players to Watch for Oakland:

  • No. 17) Denarius Moore (WR) – Sure I said that Oakland needs to feed the ball to McFadden earlier, but Moore is starting to be the dependable wide receiver that Oakland is drastically looking for. Moore had six receptions of 124 receiving yards and a touchdown Monday night. Look for Washington’s veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall to shadow Moore.
  • No. 94) Kevin Burnett (MLB) – Burnett was very active in Denver, finishing with a game-high 10 tackles. Burnett will have his hands full keeping an eye on Morris.
  • No. 79) Tony Pashos (OT) – The veteran Pashos will draw the assignment of trying to block Kerrigan one-on-one. If Pashos is able to prevent Kerrigan from having a big day, Oakland has a great chance of keeping its quarterback upright.

Over/Under (for entertainment purposes only) 42 – Washington (-3) vs. Oakland according to vegasinsider.com

 

Raiders face tough test in Denver

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

OAKLAND — Looking to build off the 19-9 victory in their home opener Sunday over the pathetic Jacksonville Jaguars, the Oakland Raiders head into Denver to face the Broncos on ESPN’s Monday Night Football to wrap up Week 3 in the NFL. Oakland picked up their first win of the season behind a stellar rushing attack, racking up 226 yards.

Running back Darren McFadden was a monster, rushing for 129 yards, including three runs of 20-or-more yards. Terrelle Pryor added in 50 rushing yards, while finishing 15-of-24 for 126 yards passing. Fullback Marcel Reese scored Oakland’s (1-1) only touchdown, on a 11-yard run in the first quarter of Sunday’s game.

What does that say?

Oakland will need more from Pryor and Co. but if Oakland has any chance of winning Monday night, it’s fifth-ranked defense will have to answer the bell against Denver’s third-ranked offense. Oakland leads the NFL with nine sacks on the season after sacking Jaguars quarterback, Chad Henne five times Sunday.  With the news of stellar Broncos’ All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady being lost for the season with a Lis-franc sprain, Oakland’s defensive line could be the difference.

Manning and the Broncos (2-0) return home after beating the New York Giants 41-23 at MetLife Stadium Sunday. After passing for a career-high seven touchdowns in Week 1, Manning was virtually flawless completing 30-of-43 passes for 307 yards and two touchdowns in the road win. Denver’s offense totaled 416 yards.

Believe me after seeing that performance, Oakland will have it’s hands full against one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL, but Raiders head coach welcomes the challenge.

“This will be the best team we’ve faced and they’re very talented,” Allen said Monday, “so we’re going to have to do a good job of changing things up and mixing some things up, mixing up some looks and be able to play a good, team game.”

Players to Watch for Oakland:

  • No. 2) Terrelle Pryor (QB) — Pryor picked up his first home win (and first win of his career) against Jacksonville and will look to pick up his first road win of his career on national television Monday night. Pryor leads all quarterbacks with 162 rushing yards.
  • No. 24) Charles Woodson (FS) — The Raiders’ veteran starting free safety will be the one who will have to get Oakland’s secondary in place to defend a bevy of Broncos pass-catchers. Woodson finished with six tackles against Jacksonville Sunday.
  • No. 25) D.J. Hayden (CB) — Manning loves testing rookies and Hayden will see a lot of Broncos’ sensational wide receiver, Demaryius Thomas. Good luck.

Players to Watch for Denver:

  • No. 83) Wes Welker (WR) — You think that Tom Brady wishes he had the reliable Welker now?
  • No. 80) Julian Thomas (TE) — Looks like a younger version of San Diego Chargers standout, Antonio Gates. Thomas played power forward at Portland St. In his first start, Thomas recorded five catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
  • No. 11) Trindon Holliday (KR) — The reigning AFC Player of the Week  was a blur on his 81-yard punt return for a touchdown that put the final dagger in the Giants’ hearts. The return highlighted Holliday’s day, where he saw four punts and returning them for a 30.3 yards per return. Through two weeks, Holliday is averaging a league-high 19.6 yards per return.