The Oakland Raiders do not know their AFC Divisional Playoff opponent yet and likely will not until Sunday so in the meantime, they must prepare for three potential foes.
Oakland, the AFC's top seed, will play the lowest remaining wild card team either January 11 or 12. The Raiders will play either the Indianapolis-New York Jets winner or Cleveland if it upsets No. 3 seeded Pittsburgh. The only way Oakland would play Pittsburgh, who lost to the Raiders 30-17 in Week 2, is in the AFC Title Game.
The Raiders spent Tuesday preparing for Indianapolis before turning their attention to Cleveland and the Jets.
"We continue to prepare on all aspects of each team we break down," Oakland head coach Bill Callahan said. "It's everything from computer reports, tendency reports and we work all facets and really try to zero in for every possibility."
Players and coaches will say it does not matter who they play. Theoretically, that notion is true since the playoffs are elimination games. There are, however, teams that provide more favorable matchups. Of the three potential opponents, Oakland only played the Jets, who they beat 26-20 on Dec. 2, but New York might be the least favorable matchup.
Here's a closer look:
New York: The Jets captured the AFC East title despite a horrendous 2-5 start. New York's offense, however, is much better since Chad Pennington was inserted as the starting quarterback over Vinny Testaverde. The Raiders had little trouble moving the ball against New York's defense in the first meeting but too often drives stalled. The Jets also boast two outstanding returners in Chad Morton and Santata Moss – not good news for a Raider special teams coverage unit that has been leaky at times.
Indianapolis: The Colts passing combination of Peyton Manning-to-Marvin Harrison is potent and could pose problems for an ailing Raider secondary. Indianapolis has improved greatly on defense under first year head coach Tony Dungy. The Colts have climbed from No. 29 to No. 8 in total defense since last year. Indianapolis, however, still gives the impression of a dome team that can be overpowered outdoors as evidenced by their No. 20 ranked run defense.
Cleveland: The Browns have done well to get into the playoffs but it doesn't look like they'll scare anyone. Even if they upset Pittsburgh, it's unlikely they can pull it off two weeks in a row – not with a Kelly Holcomb-led team. Holcomb will get the starting nod over the injured Tim Couch. Defensively, the Browns are decent but would get overwhelmed against Oakland.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org