Saints-Raiders preview

The Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints meet at the Coliseum in a battle of two teams whose season has fast hit the danger zone after a promising start.

Both clubs are 2-4 and have gone identical routes in getting there – lose the first game, win the next two and lose the next three. Someone will break that trend Sunday. Both teams are also three games behind their division leader. The Oakland Raiders are three games behind the Denver Broncos and one back of San Diego while the New Orleans Saints are in second place and three games behind the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South.

Here's a closer look:

Raiders on offense: Oakland has scored just 34 points in its three game losing streak while the Saints have given up 92 points in their three game skid. New Orleans also has the NFL's worst defense.

Turnovers have been a major problem for the Raiders, specifically quarterback Kerry Collins, who has thrown eight interceptions. The Saints are plus-two in turnover ratio while the Raiders are minus-10. One bright spot for the New Orleans defense, however, has been defensive end Charles Grant, who is the NFL sack leader.

Oakland's offense was supposed to have a running game revival after Norv Turner replaced Bill Callahan as the head coach. So far, that has not materialized. Granted, the Raiders have been trailing most of their last three games but 90.3 rushing yards per game was not what Turner had in mind. The Saints give up an average of 151.2 yards on the ground. So what gives in a matchup that Sir Isaac Newton would love – the immovable object against the resistible force?

Not having starter Tyrone Wheatley in the lineup has not helped. Amos Zereoue is a decent change-of-pace runner but is not the physical presence of Wheatley.

Saints on offense: This unit cannot be lumped into a problem area for the Saints. The Denver Broncos amassed 445 total yards against Oakland and New Orleans, in terms of talent, is equal to Denver. Much was made of how the Raiders defense was going to be more aggressive under first-year coordinator Ron Ryan. Oakland's defense has not been fooling, or stopping, anyone in the last three games. The Raiders defense got off to a good start but keep in mind that the two teams they beat (Buffalo and Tampa Bay) are offensively-challenged.

It won't get any easier against an offensive unit that features running back Deuce McAllister, quarterback Aaron Brooks and wide receivers Donte Stallworth and Joe Horn. The Saints have an offensive line, led by center LeCharles Bentley, which has given up just 10 sacks in six games. That's not a good sign for a Raiders defense that has offered little pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Special teams: As is the case with most of their opponents, the Raiders get the edge in the kicking department with punter Shane Lechler and kick Sebastian Janikowski. Oakland has a dangerous, but inconsistent punt returner in Phillip Buchanon.

Bottom line: The winner will not have all of its ills cured but getting a victory would at least be a start at righting the ship. The loser, however, will fall deeper into the abyss. The saints are a talented but enigmatic team. The Raiders made some flashy moves in the offseason but so far are no better than 2003.

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com


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