Oakland Raiders: Storylines Vs Chicago Bears
Bret Armstrong – Nov 26, 2011When the Chicago Bears enter the O.co Coliseum on Sunday to face the Oakland Raiders, it will be a squaring off of two of the top teams in their respective conferences. It will be just the 13th time the two teams have played in spite of their long NFL history. The series is tied at 6 games a piece. Here's a little glance of what you can expect to see in the tie-breaker.
Depleted wide receivers
When Head Coach Hue Jackson addressed the media on Friday the injury list just went on and on. He jokingly said, "So as you can tell, we are getting healthier."
One area stood out more than others though, that being the wide receiver corp. Including three guys that were considered to be the top three on the depth chart with Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford, and Denarius Moore.
More than likely, the Raiders will hold out at least Moore and Ford. DHB could be extremely limited in his reps. That means for the first time all season, we will see a heavy dose of Louis Murphy, T.J. Housemandzadeh, and Chaz Schilens.
However, when the Raiders hit a four-wide set, it could be Kevin Boss, David Ausberry, or fullback Marcel Reece instead of DHB.
The X Factor: Marcel Reece
When you look at these two teams there are a lot of similarities that can be pointed out, such as they both are on their second quarterback of the season, the defenses are both stout, they like to run the ball and control the clock, and they are both playoff contenders this season.
For the Bears, they are coming off a season where they went to the NFC Championship game and everyone still doubted them coming into this season. For the Raiders, everyone doubts them all the time and they haven't been to the playoffs in a very long time.
But the Raiders have a weapon that not very many times can say they have. "Marcel is a three-dimensional player and at that position, itâ€™s really special to have a guy like that," offensive coordinator Al Saunders explained Thursday.
"He catches the ball extremely well," Saunders continued. "He can run the ball and he can also do a very efficient job of blocking. Heâ€™s had a nice season this season, number-wise probably hasnâ€™t been as much as it would normally be because we havenâ€™t gotten the ball to him quite as much as we anticipated earlier in the year."
Reece had a career-high eight touches in the game against the Vikings last week for a total of 61 yards. According to Saunders, the Raiders wanted to use him more earlier this year, but because of an injury, Reece was unable to fulfill expectations.
I expect the Raiders to get the ball to Reece a lot again this weekend. He presents a match-up nightmare for even the talented linebackers of the Bears. Marcel Reece is the ultimate X-factor not only in this upcoming game, but also going down the stretch run to the playoffs.
Old Fashioned Slobber-Knocker
Of course we know the Raiders are going to run the football to set the tone for their offense. Prior to succumbing to injury, Darren McFadden led the league with 113 carries for 614 yards and 4 TD's. As of Sunday's game, he will have missed a quarter of this season.
But his replacement, Michael Bush, has pretty much picked up the slack with hisÂ 109 carries for-490 yards and four touchdowns. Combined through ten games, these two men are averaging just over 110 rushing yards per game, which has a lot to do with why the Raiders are atop their division.
You can also factor in 39 catches for 409 yards and two touchdowns between the two. It doesn't take long to realize what the Raiders do well when you look at these stats. The Bears defense has their hands full.
On the flip side, the Raiders defense will have their hands full containing Bears' running back Matt Forte. He could very well break 1,000 yards rushing in this game as he only needs a 74-yard performance to do so.
He's also added 46 catches for 465 yards this season. His career numbers this season are no surprise as he is just hitting the stride part of his career in his fourth NFL season. Also note that Forte is playing for a new contract.
With Jay Cutler out for the Bears, Forte could see even more touches than normal against a Raiders team that has a recent history of struggling against the run.
The Caleb Hanie Experiment
The Raiders know exactly what it is like to lose your starting quarterback when you are hitting your stride. At 4-2 with the Cleveland Browns in town, Jason Campbell broke his collarbone and was sidelined for a majority of the season. He still has not returned to practice.
For the Bears, they had won five games in a row when they got the news that Jay Cutler would not be making his 11th start of this season. He would be sidelined for the remainder of this year with a broken thumb that required surgery.
For both teams, their original starters would be back with them if they are able to make the playoffs this season. For the Raiders, Campbell would most likely back-up Carson Palmer, for whom the Raiders traded potentially two first-round draft choices.
For the Bears, they tried to make a play for their former starter, Kyle Orton, only to be let down when the Kansas City Chiefs pulled him off the waiver wire before they could. Thus, the Caleb Hanie experiment hath begun.
The Bears got a mild dose of Hanie in the NFC Championship game last year. Hanie was not the back-up, however, he was the emergency quarterback for the team and the Green Bay Packers managed to knock out the first two guys.
Hanie is in his third season with the team and his second season under offensive coordinator Mike Martz. The Bears clearly like him enough to make him Cutler's primary back-up. But, then again, the Raiders had Kyle Boller as their primary back-up and we all saw how that went. The Bears, though, honestly believe Hanie can come in and start without much drop-off from Cutler.
They could be right, because opponents are going to be hard pressed to find game tape of this kid in action. It's not like the Raiders with Palmer, because this guy already knows the system and the language. It just remains to be seen what kind of pro he is and (perhaps) unfortunately that experiment begins Sunday at Oakland.
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