Series: The Packers lead 6-5, not including their first meeting — a 33-14 romp in Super Bowl II. The Raiders won the first five regular-season matchups; the Packers have won the last five by a resounding 181-54. The 28-0 win in 1993 marked Leroy Butler’s inaugural Lambeau Leap. The 28-24 win in the 1999 opener reduced Brett Favre to tears after his 1-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Thomason with 11 seconds to play. The 41-7 romp in 2003 was Favre’s famous game on the night after his father’s death.
Last time: In their last meeting, Green Bay romped 46-16 on Dec. 11, 2011, to improve to 13-0. Ryan Grant rushed for two touchdowns, including a 47-yarder to get the Packers on the board, and Green Bay picked off Carson Palmer four times. One of those was by Charles Woodson, who will be starting for the Raiders at safety.
Noteworthy: Other than going 8-8 in 2010 and 2011, the Raiders haven’t won more than five games since going 11-5 and reaching the Super Bowl in 2002. Last year, they went 3-13 and were outscored by 199 points. So, they changed coaches for the seventh time since that Super Bowl, hiring Jack Del Rio, who went 68-71 with two playoff berths in nine seasons with Jacksonville.
They hope Derek Carr, a second-round pick last year, will be the answer at quarterback. He started all 16 games with a rating of 76.6 but had seven touchdowns and one pick in his final four games. A rebuilt receiver corps could help — so long as veteran Michael Crabtree ever gets past the torn Achilles sustained in May 2013 — and the offensive line isn’t too bad. What Carr needs is a running game. The Raiders finished last in the NFL with 1,240 rushing yards last season. Five individuals put up more yardage. Latavius Murray, a sixth-round pick in 2013 who provided a spark with 413 yards in his final six games, will enter training camp atop the depth chart.
Defensively, the Raiders should be able to stop the run after ranking eighth in yards per carry last season. Last year’s first-round pick, Khalil Mack, had a brilliant campaign, and defensive tackle Dan Williams was signed away from Arizona to provide an impressive run-stopping duo with Jamal Ellis. The secondary, however, will be ripe for the picking. Cornerbacks D.J. Hayden and T.J. Carrie and safeties Charles Woodson and Nate Allen provide a not-so-fearsome foursome. That Woodson, who will turn 39 in October, is the best player in the unit speaks volumes.
3-13 (last, AFC West)
Offensive rankings: 31st in points (15.8 per game). 32nd in yards (282.2 per game). 26th in passing (204.7 per game). 32nd in rushing (77.5 per game).
Defensive rankings: 32nd in points (28.3 per game). 21st in yards (357.6 per game). 16th in passing (238.1 per game). 22nd in rushing (119.4 per game).
2015 Comings and Goings
Hello: WR Michael Crabtree, C Rodney Hudson, RB Trent Richardson, TE Lee Smith, QB Christian Ponder, NT Dan Williams, LB Curtis Lofton, LB Malcolm Smith, S Nate Allen
Goodbye: WR James Jones, RB Maurice Jones-Drew (retired), RB Darren McFadden, C Stefen Wisniewski, DE LaMarr Woodley, DT Antonio Smith, S Tyvon Branch, CB Tarell Brown.
Draft: By this point in the seasons, the Raiders could have five rookie starters. They rebuilt their receiver corps by releasing Jones, signing Crabtree and using the fourth overall pick on Alabama’s Amari Cooper. He played only three seasons yet ranks third in SEC history with 228 career receptions. He had a monster junior campaign with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns to win the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver. Second-round pick Mario Edwards is penciled in as a Day 1 starter at defensive end, and third-round pick Clive Walford has a chance to unseat Mychal Rivera at tight end. Fourth-round guard Jon Feliciano and fifth-round linebacker Ben Heeney could replace veterans Khalif Barnes and Curtis Lofton at some point in the season.
2015 Personnel in Focus
Pro Football Focus, that is. PFF has a color-coded rankings system for each team’s 24 “starters,” with the extra player to account for a key substitution package such as a third cornerback or third wide receiver. Green Bay has four blue/elite starters (Rodgers, Cobb, Nelson and Sitton), six green/high-quality starters (Lang, Lacy, Hayward, Peppers, Daniels and Matthews), four green/good starters (Linsley, Bulaga, Shields and Burnett), six yellow/average starters (Bakhtiari, Quarless, Kuhn, Hyde, Perry and Clinton-Dix) and four orange/below-average starters (Adams, Guion, Raji and Barrington). The Packers don’t have any starters rated poor and they don’t have any rookies projected to be starters.
The Raiders have ...
Blue/elite (0): None.
Dark green/high quality (1): OLB Khalil Mack.
Green/good (5): LT Donald Penn, LG Gabe Jackson, C Rodney Hudson, DE Justin Tuck, DT Dan Williams.
Yellow/average (10): WR Michael Crabtree, WR Brice Butler, FB Marcel Reece, RT Austin Howard, DT Justin Ellis, OLB Sio Moore, CB D.J. Hayden, CB T.J. Carrie, S Nate Allen, S Charles Woodson.
Orange/below average (3): QB Derek Carr, TE Mychal Rivera, RG Khalif Barnes,
Red/Poor (1): MLB Curtis Lofton.
Silver/Not enough information (2): RB Latavius Murray, CB Keith McGill
Purple/Rookie (2): WR Amari Cooper , DE Mario Edwards
CB Charles Woodson said: "I think this is the first time in my 18-year career that I've been to every practice. I sat down with Jack before it all started and we talked about the importance and what he wanted from this team and him wanting me here. I honestly didn't plan on being here at every practice, but I'm here. I understood completely what he was talking about."
New defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said: "I learned that I need to approach games, approach practice, approach meetings just the way I played the game hard and with everything I have. I think the players appreciate that, appreciate the honesty. A lot of times players have a tendency to become like their coach. I wouldn't mind having a lot of energetic, feisty, smart and enthusiastic guys who really care about what they're doing. I'd like to have players like that."
Coach Jack Del Rio, on second-year standout Khalil Mack: “He’s gone from that top prospect, in terms of a guy who may be able to come in and play, he’s established himself as a guy that can play. Now, we’d like to take that performance to another level. He showed signs of being dominant in certain things, in particular, stuffing people at the line of scrimmage and putting up that stop sign and telling people they’re not coming that way. Then, some of the ability to finish on the edge. We think we can help with some of those things. And some of the opportunities where you get people in must-pass situations where he can flourish. I’m excited about a young talent like that.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.