For the third time this season, the Oakland Raiders are headed to primetime.
Sunday night, the Silver and Black will take the field at Hard Rock Stadium, and in desperate need of returning to the win column, will take on Jay Cutler and the Miami Dolphins, a team that has won three of its past four games.
Leading into Sunday Night Football, you had questions, and now, we have answers.
Here is this week's Raiders.com Mailbag.
From Jeremy A: Is this the week we see Obi Melifonwu?
EP:Well, Jeremy, it sure sounds like it. After being placed on the reserve/injured list September 5, Head Coach Jack Del Rio has given every indication that we will indeed see an active Obi Melifonwu Sunday when the Raiders take on the Dolphins. If that is indeed the case, the Silver and Black will still have the ability to activate one more player from the reserve/injured list if they so choose. Melifonwu's possible return to the active roster is exciting for multiple reasons; not only does he provide a healthy body for a Raiders secondary that has dealt with injuries for most of the season, but with his freakish athleticism, he'll be an interesting puzzle piece for Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. to utilize. The rookie safety said earlier this week that he's ready to contribute in any way he can, so I'm excited to see what that will look like on game day.
From John G: What does the return of Marshawn Lynch mean for this offense? Will things look different with him back in the mix?
EP:First things first, the return of Marshawn Lynch means that the Raiders have yet another playmaker back in the fold when they take on the Dolphins in primetime. When asked about Lynch's return, Derek Carr said that whenever you welcome a teammate back from being away, whether it was because of injury, or in this case suspension, that return is cause for celebration. With "Beast Mode" once again taking up residence in the backfield, the Raiders will have the full complement of their running backs, which will assuredly be music to the ears of Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing. As far as if the offense changes much with No. 24 back in the field, we'll have to wait and find out. Although they've struggled on offense this season, the Dolphins do boast a Top 10 defense, and have been especially strong against the run. The group allows just over 95 yards per game on the ground, so Lynch and Co., are going to be in for a challenge at Hard Rock Stadium.
From Dave G: How has the week in Florida been? Is the team locked in?!?
EP:Both on and off the field, it's been a good week in Sarasota for the Silver and Black. Head Coach Del Rio said Friday that the team's first two practices of the week were some of the best the team has had in a while, which is outstanding news headed into a critical road tilt against a solid Miami Dolphins team. Off the field, the week in Florida has almost acted as a mini training camp for the Raiders, granted without as much time on the field as the team has in late-July. The team has now been sequestered together for more than a week; eating together, living together, and spending their downtime together, and that type of time away from the distractions of a normal week should pay positive dividends for the group down the road. The NFL is a results-based business, so we'll find out Sunday night just how beneficial the time in Florida was for Head Coach Jack Del Rio's squad.
From Andrew R: Now that Jay Ajayi is in Philadelphia, does that change anything for the Raiders defense?
EP:A great question, Andrew, but truthfully the only thing that changes for the Raiders defense, is that they'll now game plan for Ajayi in late-December instead of this week. Head Coach Del Rio said that they're looking at Ajayi's absence as they would look at a player who was injured and unavailable to go. The now-Philadelphia Eagle is one of the better running backs in the NFL, and before he was traded, Ajayi was unsurprisingly leading the Dolphins in rushing yards. With him out of the mix now, Head Coach Adam Gase will have to rely on the tandem of the tandem of Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake, who have a combined 55 rushing yards in 2017. Like we said earlier, the Dolphins have struggled to find any type of offensive rhythm this year; hopefully the Raiders can ensure that trend continues.
**From Melissa A: Does playing in primetime change anything about the team's preparation headed into the game?
EP:Truthfully, not really. I think the only noticeable change is that everything in the schedule is pushed back a few hours. When the team's on the road and playing at either 1:05 PM or 1:25 PM, the buses from the hotel leave following breakfast. With the Raiders and Dolphins not set to kickoff until 8:30 local time tomorrow night at Hard Rock Stadium, that obviously won't be the case on Sunday. That being said, the players will arrive at the stadium with the same amount of time before kickoff as they usually do, and their pregame routines won't be altered at all. There will also be a walk thru Sunday morning which typically wouldn't happen if the team was playing outside of the national window. All in all though, the time that the game kicks off doesn't really impact how the Raiders prepare per se, it just changes their schedule ever so slightly. All these guys are professionals though, and they know how make the proper adjustments so they're ready to rock Sunday night.
From Rod K: Have you ever been to Miami? Do you like it?
EP:I must admit, this will be my first time not only at Hard Rock Stadium, but in Miami in general. I'm looking forward to seeing what the city has to offer, but mostly I'm looking forward to seeing the Silver and Black get to work tomorrow night.