Oakland Raiders: 5 Critical Road Games in 2012
Luis Reyes – May 21, 2012
The Oakland Raiders will have one of the toughest schedules they’ve had in recent years, but that shouldn’t—and will not be an excuse in Reggie McKenzie or Dennis Allen’s eyes. They will be facing five different playoff teams outside the division. Out of those five games three are road games.
Expectations are high in Raider Nation, but one thing is certain, if the Raiders do make the playoffs this season it certainly will not be an easy journey. Every real contending team in every professional sport has to be dominant on the road and WIN THE GAMES THEY ARE SUPPOSE TO WIN. The Raiders are no exception.
This article will cover five of the toughest road games the Raiders will be playing this season that will be extremely critical for the 2012 success of the Silver and Black. Most of the divisional games will not be mentioned in this analysis since the Raiders have fared very well against division rivals the last couple of seasons.
(The games are in order of schedule, not difficulty.)
Atlanta Falcons: It’s no secret that most dome teams have the advantage when playing at home. The Raiders have faired pretty well versus the Falcons in history, but in recent memory they have not been able to beat them. The last time the Raiders beat the Falcons was in the year 2000.
The falcons are an extremely dangerous offensive team with a better than average defense. Oakland's two new cornerbacks will be put to the test with two of the most dangerous receivers in all of football. Also, the Raiders have had a horrible record when playing on the east coast. The key to winning this game will be playing sound defense and getting pressure on Matt Ryan.
The only advantage the Raiders have here is they will be coming of a bye week. Two weeks of planning plus a well rested team will help the Silver and Black. After four tough games to start the season, this will be a must win for the Raiders.
Baltimore Ravens: In the opinion of most "experts," this will be the toughest Road game for the Raiders all season. It’s an Eastern Time game in a cold weather environment versus a division champion. Not to mention the extremely dangerous defense and running game the Ravens possess.
The Raiders have won only one game all time against the Ravens and that was in 2003 at home. Terrell Suggs might even be back by this time, so that’s another problem the Raiders have to worry about. The Raiders key to beating the Ravens will be the same key that every team has used against them; find out how to stop Ray Rice from running the ball and force Joe Flacco to try and beat you with his arm.
There are very few advantages in this game since the Ravens are as complete as a team can be. The only way the Raiders can get out of this one is playing smart football and avoiding penalties. The offensive line will be key since they must find a way to stop the Ravens aggressive pass rush so Palmer can get the ball down the field.
Cincinnati Bengals: This game will be very interesting since it will be Carson Palmer’s first game back in Cincinnati since the trade that brought him to Oakland. Hopefully Palmer hasn’t forgotten how to play in cold weather because by this time of year it will probably be pretty chilly on the east side of the country.
Besides all the drama behind it, this should be a very interesting and close game. Two up and coming teams with great young talent battling it out against each other is one of the best football environments a football fan can ask for.
The Raiders have always played fairly well against the Bengals holding a 20-8 record against them all time, although it is only 6-7 when playing them on the road.
By this time of the year the Raiders should be in a serious battle for the AFC West title, so they must pull out a win to continue being contenders.
Carolina Panthers: The main reason this is marked as a critical game is because it is nearing the end of the season, it's on the east coast against one of the most dynamic mobile quarterback in the NFL right now. The Raiders have always struggled against mobile Quarterbacks, but hopefully coaches Allen and Tarver can figure out how to fix that.
The Panthers are not a better team than the Raiders right now, but don’t expect this game being a blow out as the Panthers have a very explosive offense to keep games close.
It’s never easy to close out the season with two away games, specially if one of them is in the East coast.
San Diego Chargers: The classic rivalry, Raiders vs. Chargers at its best. As much as Raider Nation hates the Chargers its no lie they are always a team in the hunt. And it's highly probable this game will have a playoff birth hanging in the balance.
This is an extremely close division and it's likely that whoever wins the division will not win it by more than a single game. This will be a win or go home game for the Raiders, so losing will not be an option.
The Raiders have played well against the Chargers the last couple of years, but with these two teams you never know who can win.
The key to winning this game will be pressure on Phillip Rivers. Last year the Raiders beat the Chargers easily by keeping Rivers on the ground, and lost pathetically in the last game when they never got to him.
In Closing: If the Raiders pretend to be a strong contender for not just the division, but for a Super Bowl they must learn how to win Road games. If you look back at any of the teams that are entrenched as elite, they all dominate on the road, or at least win the important games and the games they are suppose to win on the road.
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