The Oakland Raiders (2-6) advanced to the Super Bowl in 2002 only to get their doors blown off 48-21 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Oakland still has not recovered, going a combined 4-12 since that time. The Carolina Panthers (1-6) were one of the surprise teams in the NFL last season and represented the NFC in the Super Bowl only to lose 32-29 to the New England Patriots. The season might not yet be half over but the Panthers appear well on their way to falling into the abyss.
Carolina, like Oakland, enters Sunday's matchup with a five-game losing streak and has already landed seven players on injured reserve. The Raiders can attest to such a fall from grace.
"It's a funny game, I'll tell you," Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins said. "Momentum is so much a part of it. You look at the Panthers last year. Everything was falling their way. They were winning close ballgames. It's tough. As great as it is when it gets rolling that's how hard it can be to stop when it gets going the other way. It's a tough game. It can really play with your mind."
Collins can relate to the Panthers fall from grace. Collins played on the 2000 New York Giants team that represented the NFC in the Super Bowl only to get manhandled 34-7 by the Baltimore Ravens. The ensuing season, the Giants were 7-9. In 2001, the St. Louis Rams went to the Super Bowl and lost to New England 20-17. Like the Giants, the Rams went 7-9 the next season.
"I'm willing to bet it's the same thing there," Raiders linebacker Travian Smith said. "They went to the Super Bowl and have loads of talent but they have guys over there that are probably not getting the job done."
In the Grove
It is looking highly likely that Jake Grove will play his first game in a starting assignment Sunday.
Grove, a second-round draft pick as a center, could start at right guard in place of Ron Stone, who is doubtful because of a knee injury. Grove was an All-America center at Virginia Tech but started 10 games at right guard as a junior.
If he starts for Stone on Sunday, the Raiders would have two rookies in the starting lineup. First-round draft choice Robert Gallery has started all but one game at right tackle.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com