Savage: You learn to never really doubt Sapp, I guess. His best days are behind him and I had little faith he could perform last year. He proved me wrong. Sapp is still a player but must get help to be successful. Double teams will tie him up and he does not have that jump off the ball he had in the past.
Q. The Raiders were third in the league in total yards allowed last season but have given up a lot of yards so far this season; what's been the problem?
Savage: A combination of factors, tackling being first and foremost. Yards after first contact for the opposition has been through the roof and if Oakland can't learn to wrap it will not matter what strides they make on offense. The defense also got some pressure on the quarterback last year but has not been able to hurry the quarterback this season. Less pressure equates to more time a cornerback has to do his job and we all know what happens when any quarterback is sitting in a protective pocket.
Q. Nnamdi Asomugha isn't a well-known player, but he had eight picks last year; how good is he?
Savage: It is a little bit of a catch-22. Is Asomugha a one-year wonder or a star on the rise? He had a fantastic year last year and in fairness to him they have picked on Fabian Washington a lot this year. But Asomugha has also been taken for a ride this season and has to continue to perform to become an elite cover corner. He took steps last year towards that end but has to do it again.
Q. What kind of difference has new coach Lane Kiffin made, and is he the answer for a franchise that has struggled for the last several years?
Savage: Huge difference. This is the brightest move the organization has done in years. Kiffin brings accountability with him and that is huge for a team looking for an identity. Veterans aren't cut any slack and he offers a fair environment to work under. Work smart and play hard and you have a job. Lack the tools he covets and you hit the streets.
Q. Finally, who do you think is going to win Sunday, and why?
Savage: This is a game that will be won in the trenches. The Dolphins and Raiders haven't done particularly well in this area on defense and it could mean a lot of yards for the ground game. With a bye week on the horizon for Oakland, the Raiders go out in a tough environment and steal one on the road, 31-27.