TE Brandon Myers recovers a fumble to set up the Raiders game-winning field goal. AP Photo
The Oakland Raiders travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals in 2012 Week 12 action. QB Carson Palmer will return for the first time to face the team for which he played for eight years. The Raiders will also face their 2011 head coach and 2010 offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who is now the assistant special teams and assistant defensive backs coach for the Bengals.
The two teams first met in 1968 and have faced off 26 times in the regular season with the Raiders holding a commanding 18-8 all-time series lead. The Raiders beat the Bengals in the 1990 AFC Divisional game to advance to the AFC Championship game against the Buffalo Bills. The last time the two teams met in 2009, Palmer was the Bengals quarterback, but the Raiders came out with a 20-17 win at home.
Heading into Cincinnati to face a .500 team, the Raiders know they will be challenged by the Bengals who have won their last two games. "It's a huge challenge," said Head Coach Dennis Allen. "I think offensively they have some weapons. The wide receiver A.J. Green is an outstanding talent. The tight end [Jermaine] Gresham is a heck of a ball player. They're able to run the football. [QB] Andy Dalton I think is really improved. As he's gotten into the second year of his career, he's gotten a lot better. Defensively, they're very active, very fast, outstanding front four, which gets after the quarterback. So they're a well-rounded team. They were a playoff team last year and there's a reason why they were a playoff team last year."
Coach Allen understands the importance of getting a win this week. "That would help tremendously," said Coach Allen. "This league is a lot about what have you done for me lately. A win makes everybody feel better. Listen, we're working hard to try and win football games and as long as the guys are working, we're going to get things turned around."
Although Palmer will head into a hostile environment after leaving the team last year, he's more concerned with the caliber of players his offense will be facing. "We're playing against a good team, a good team in a good division that has beat good teams," said Palmer. "I think probably they would say they should have a better record than they do, because they're better than their record shows. We feel that we're better than our record shows. We have to go in there and find a way to get a win."
The offense will have to matchup with LBs Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict as well as veteran safeties Nate Clements and Reggie Nelson. "Execution; we have to go in there, it's going to be a hostile environment, a lot of crowd noise, go out there, stick to our game plan, execute, make no mistakes and make sure we control the ball," said WR Rod Streater. "No turnovers and things like that."
They also want to get the run game going like they did last week with FB Marcel Reece in the backfield. Reece had 103 yards rushing and 90 yards receiving in the Raiders matchup with the Saints. "Marcel is a triple threat for us," said T Khalif Barnes. "He's a matchup problem for linebackers. He has good vision. He can run the ball. He's a back and he can go and block against a linebacker if you need him to do and pass protection. He has great hands. He's making plays for us in the run game and passing game, so he's a big part of what we're trying to do with the absence of Dmac [Darren McFadden] and Mike Goodson. He's been playing his tail off and can't say enough about how important he's been to us."
In order to get Reece going, the offensive line will be challenged by the Bengals defensive line. "They're a good front four from what I've seen on tape," said Barnes. "I know they get after it pretty well. They have a good corps of linebackers that play tough downhill. They have a backfield that's really experienced and a lot of draft picks back there so they know how to get out there and play some ball too. Overall a good defense and looking forward to playing."
Meanwhile, the defense has been preparing to stop veteran RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, TE Jermaine Gresham and second-year players QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green. Raiders DE Andre Carter is familiar with Green-Ellis from their time with the New England Patriots. "He's playing at a high level," said Carter. "The stuff that he learned from New England, he applied that to his running game in Cincinnati. He's just a smart player. He knows where to run, definitely as far as just knowing where the gaps are, and just never stops his feet. He's definitely a hard running back to tackle."
The defense can't forget about the Bengals passing attack, led by Green who has 820 receiving yards and nine touchdowns and Dalton who has thrown for 18 touchdowns and 2,329 yards. "They're just playing well together," said Carter on Dalton and Green. "I think when you have a group of young guys that started from the beginning as rookies, you can tell the level of maturity of having to understand the game has grown tremendously. That can be very dangerous, so it's important for us just to play great football because they're smart and know when it's time to make big plays."
DE Matt Shaughnessy wants to get after Dalton and slow the passing attack. "They're all playing well," said Shaughnessy. "Dalton's throwing the ball well, being mobile in the pocket. That's more of a challenge for us and we always look forward to a challenge. You always want to disrupt the quarterback and throw off his rhythm."
Although the Raiders have a 3-7 record, they are not giving up, and desperately want to get a win this weekend. "We're working hard and we need to finish," said Streater. "Regardless of the record, we're going to work hard and the morale is still high. Obviously, it [hasn't gone] how we wanted it to, but we're pros and we have to finish and continue to fight hard and try to get these wins in the last six games."