Raiders need convincing win over Chicago

 

            The Oakland Raiders saved their season, at least for the moment, by beating the San Diego Chargers 34-31 in overtime last Sunday.

            That win, while critical, does not mean that all of the Raiders problems are solved. Give Oakland, which overcame a 31-17 deficit with just under six minutes left in regulation, credit for rallying to win a game that seemed hopelessly lost but it is not out of harm's way yet.

            The Raiders are favored to beat the winless Chicago Bears Sunday on the road but a loss here would take some of the shine out of last week's win. While Chicago is a bad team, it has played slightly better since getting thoroughly embarrassed in its season-opening 49-7 loss at San Francisco. Realistically, the Raiders need a convincing win over Chicago to truly feel like it is back in form. Oakland, however, has just enough problems to where it should not consider Chicago a slam-dunk victory.

            The good news for Oakland is that its offense began to rediscover the form it showed last season in an AFC Championship campaign. The return of center Barret Robbins to the starting should not be overlooked.

No one is suggesting that the Raiders would have won the Super Bowl last January if Robbins did not go AWOL the night before the game. His return to the lineup Sunday also coincided with the team's best offensive performance since they beat Tennessee 41-24 in the AFC Title Game. Oakland amassed 448 total yards, including 120 on the ground. Most importantly, quarterback Rich Gannon looked more like his old self in completing 26-of-43 passes for 348 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The Raiders are still without wide receiver Jerry Porter. Oakland has not given more emphasis to the ground game as it might like but this week might be hard to resist that temptation. The matchup of Oakland's rush offense versus Chicago's run defense would thrill Isaac Newton: the immoveable object against the resistible force. Oakland is averaging 81.4 yards on the ground while the Bears yield a league high 183.7 yards rushing.

Oakland's run defense, however, has been subpar as well in three of its first four games. San Diego's LaDainion Tomlinson rushed for 187 yards on the ground last week. Good thing for Oakland that Chicago tailback Anthony Thomas is not close to Tomlinson's quality.

The Raiders, however, need to address their run defense if they want their problems solved.

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