SCOUTING REPORT

The Oakland Raiders have one of the oldest teams in the NFL, but they certainly haven't played lately like a team that's running out of gas.

On the contrary, the Raiders have been on a roll lately, winning five straight after a four-game losing streak had left them at 4-4.

Oakland will come to Pro Player Stadium this Sunday with a 9-4 record that is the best in the conference.

The biggest reason for Oakland's success has been an offense that ranks first in the league, both in total yardage and passing yardage.

The leader on offense is quarterback Rich Gannon, a leading contender for league MVP honors. The 37-year-old Gannon has been to the Pro Bowl the last two years but he has never played better than this season.

Gannon is threatening to break Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yards, doing it by completing a lot of short passes and letting his receivers do their magic after the catch.

Sacking Gannon is very difficult because he has a good offensive line in front of him, because he gets rid of the ball so quickly, and because he can move around in the pocket to get away from pressure.

Gannon has a lot of weapons at his disposal, starting with future Hall of Fame wide receivers Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. The list also includes third wideout Jerry Porter, an emerging player with tons of speed, rookie tight end Doug Jolley and star running back Charlie Garner.

On defense, the Raiders have come on strong lately after a somewhat shaky start but they will come to Miami with a banged-up secondary.

Starting cornerback Tory James has been ruled out of the game because of a leg injury, while former Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson is a question mark because of a leg injury.

But it's against the run that the Raiders have made great strides. The key there is defensive tackles Sam Adams and John Parrella, two of the better run stoppers in the league.

The Raiders also play an aggressive style on defense and put eight men in the box more often than not.

Also in the secondary, the Raiders have the ageless Rod Woodson, who leads the team with six interceptions, including two he has returned for touchdowns.

The Oakland special teams took some big hits this season, with both punt returner Phillip Buchanon and kickoff returner Terry Kirby getting knocked out by injury.

Punter Shane Lechler isn't having as good a season as he had last year, while kicker Sebastian Janikowski has a powerful leg but is somewhat inconsistent on field goals. The one thing about Janikowski is he will deliver more touchbacks on kickoffs than any other kicker in the league.


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