I'm trying to contain my confidence despite the fact that the Tampa Bay Bucs and Baltimore Ravens just poured 42 and 55 respectively on this Raiders defense. But when two decent offenses break the 40 barrier, you have to feel decent about the Saints doing it, right? On top of that, the Raiders' top two backs, Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, aren't practicing as they continue to battle high ankle sprains. The Saints are such heavyweight favorites, they are almost destined to lose. I think the Max Hall led Cardinals, Colt McCoy led Browns, and A. J. Feeley led Rams should serve as painful reminders that the statistically worst defense is NFL history can never assume a victory under any circumstance. If you've been a fan the last five years you know exactly what I'm talking about. So let's stop short of assuming victory, but take a closer look at how the Saints can take advantage of mismatches.
The Raiders feature Carson Palmer at quarterback who has really racked up substantial yardage in the passing game. Much of that is playing from behind which causes them to throw every play, but Palmer has gotten hot at times. The Raiders are currently 5th in the NFL in passing, with tight end Brandon Myers leading the team in receptions. Darrius Heyward-Bey is the explosive deep threat that stretches the field and is making big plays, and Denarius Moore has been playing extremely well too. Palmer does a good job of spreading the ball around and keeping all his targets involved, but he will make mistakes and turn it over. The Raiders running game is in shambles with the injuries. They rank 31st in total rushing yards and 31st is yards per carry, only getting 3.5 yards a pop. The offensive line has been poor for them, particularly at right tackle where Willie Smith has been a disaster. Cam Jordan should be licking his chops. Center Stefen Wisniewski is a decent player but the rest of the line is very up and down. If there's any offense the Saints can stop, this could be it. Still, the Raiders can throw the rock and have some explosive playmakers, so the biggest fear is getting consistently gashed, per usual, in the passing game. This could also be Spagnuolo's coming out party, though, because the Raiders are so one dimensional with Goodson and McFadden out.
The Raiders are 21st against the run, 24th against the pass, and 31st in points given up. They've played very poorly on defense, like the Saints, and they've been giving up even more points. The last two weeks as mentioned previously have been a horror show with 97 points yielded in 8 quarters. Their best player, nose tackle Richard Seymour, has been battling a hamstring issue and he may be out of this game as well. He's missed all practices so far this week and that's a big blow for the Raiders. Sarting safeties Tyvon Branch and Matt Giordano haven't practiced this week either, so you get the idea, the Raiders are really banged up. Without Seymour, who has 3 sacks, the rest of the team has mustered just 8 sacks this season. Getting to Brees won't be easy and because of that the Saints' offensive line should dominate in protection. Corner Michael Huff is decent, but the other corners have been very up and down, so covering the Saints' plethora of weapons will be near impossible. The Raiders do have decent linebackers in Rolando McClain and Philip Weaver. Overall, though, this is a huge mismatch on paper. The Saints should be able to do whatever they want if they execute properly and don't hurt themselves. The only thing that stands in the way of a huge output for the Saints are penalties, turnovers and mental mistakes.
The Sebastian Janikowski/Shane Lechler combo is outstanding. Give the Raiders credit, they have a great kicker and an even better punter. When they make mistakes, though, their coverage units on horrible. Too bad because even if Sproles is cleared to play I doubt he'll be able to handle special teams. The Raiders' return game isn't a big threat, so that should be a walk in the park for Thomas Morstead.