Let's get going:
1. From the outside, it looks like both the Bucs and Raiders are mirror images in terms of competitiveness Both teams registered impressive victories against winning teams while being competitive in their losses (Oakland's game against Denver the exception). Other than home field advantage, what do you believe separates these teams?
The Buccaneers have a superior run game at the moment. As we know from years past, the Raiders have a potentially great run game but they aren’t playing like it this season. Darren McFadden found some yards late in the game versus the Chiefs and the Raiders sound like they will try and go with what worked there but there are no guarantees it will work. The Raiders defense of late has been very solid lately across the board and that could separate the two teams as well.
2. In the past four games, the Bucs have found a dynamic deep passing game with Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. How have the Raiders fared against the deep ball and how do you think they will defend the Bucs' dynamic duo?
The Raiders have been two different teams this season. In the first four games they were terrible against the pass but in the past three games they have played quite well. The past two games were against Blaine Gabbert and Matt Cassel respectively so that doesn’t really say much. But the previous game was against Matt Ryan and the undefeated Falcons with great results for the Raiders. They have found a new nickel package that works well for them and until an offense can crack it, I suspect it will continue.
3. Statistically, it looks like Carson Palmer has had a decent year. What is your opinion of his performance this season?
Early in the season he wasn’t playing well. The whole offense wasn’t playing well. But he has showed steady leadership and a surprising ability to work out of the no-huddle offense that is rare. His protection has not held up but he continues to stand strong in the pocket and take hits while not letting it affect his game. The result is he is on pace for a career year. And unlike early in the season, he is finishing drives. Even though he is getting almost no help from the run game.
4. Darren McFadden doesn't seem to be having his normal dominant season, averaging just 3.3 yards a carry. What's been going on there?
It the new zone blocking scheme. The offensive line has not caught onto it yet and McFadden is not a good fit in it. Coach Knapp as well as center Stefen Wisniewski said today that they were going to mix in more power run blocking plays to try and get McFadden going. We’ll see if that happens and if it works.
5. Which player on the Raiders may Buc fans not know about but will after Sunday?
Miles Burris. The rookie linebacker was forced into starting from game one and has turned into a star on the Raiders’ defense. He and Philip Wheeler have played so well, the team has been taking Rolando McClain off the field in nickel. Burris and Wheeler play every snap regardless of the situation. Burris has great instincts and a high motor. Expect to hear his name called quite a few times on Sunday.
Bonus: Who wins and why?
I have the Buccaneers winning this one. They are playing really well right now. It wasn’t just that they beat the Vikings but the way they beat them. Doug Martin looks like the real deal. The Raiders have difficulty with mobile quarterbacks like Josh Freeman. I expect some long QB scrambles from Freeman as well as some completions after he escapes the pocket. The Raiders will put some points on the board and their run defense should do well to keep Martin from running wild. But in the end I see the Bucs pulling out a close one.
Thanks again to Levi Damien, be sure to check out Silver And Black Pride