The bye – while glorious – is officially behind us, and the Oakland Raiders are now counting down the days until their Week 7 matchup against the Green Bay Packers.
It feels like we haven’t seen Derek Carr and Co., take the field in forever, although it’s been less than two weeks, but nevertheless, excitement surrounding the 3-2 Raiders is palpable.
Kickoff in Wisconsin is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. PT; here are six things to keep an eye on once the action gets underway.
1. How do the Raiders start?
Look, there’s no way you can replicate game action throughout the week – much to the chagrin of the Silver and Black’s coaching staff – and prior to Sunday, let’s not forget that the last time the Raiders took the field was October 6 in London.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the Silver and Black will come out of the gates at more of a jog than a sprint, but I think seeing how the group starts Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field will be something to watch carefully.
Could that week away from the facility do exactly what it’s meant to do, and give the Raiders the spring in their step they’ll need for the final 11 weeks of the season? Absolutely it could, but we’ve seen time and time again throughout the league when teams come out of their first post-bye game a little bit flat.
In all three of the Raiders’ win thus far, the Silver and Black have struck first, starting the game on the right foot, and that same type of start against a dynamic Green Bay Packers team would go a long way, particularly on the road.
2. The reinforcements
The bye is a perfect time to heal, and, boy, did the Raiders need it.
While we’ll “technically” have to wait until kickoff to see who actually suits up against the Packers, all indications are that the Silver and Black will get some fresh bodies back in the mix –and not a moment too soon.
Gabe Jackson has officially returned to work, as has Dwayne “Gucci” Harris, and while that isn’t the case for all the banged up Raiders, getting some healthy bodies back on the field is nothing but a net positive for Coach Gruden’s group.
Particularly with Trent Brown’s status uncertain for Sunday – more on that later – Jackson’s return to the offensive line will be a much needed boost to the team’s offensive line.
3. Speaking of Trent Brown…
What does the right side of the offensive line look like at Lambeau Field?
The Raiders’ stud right tackle didn’t practice until Friday, and while he’s yet to officially be ruled “out” against the Packers, I imagine it’s a longshot that No. 77 straps on the pads and goes to work Sunday afternoon.
If The Greatest Underdog is forced to the sideline, conventional wisdom would suggest that Brandon Parker would be the next man up, and although he’s played sparingly in 2019, it’s important to note that he does have 12 starts under his belt.
The Packers do a good job at getting after the quarterback, so if Parker is indeed the one who gets the call, he – along with the rest of the offensive line – will have their hands full at Lambeau Field.
4. The Zay Jones Experience
Without a healthy Tyrell Williams, I’d expect that we get our first look at Zay Jones Sunday afternoon.
While the athletic receiver has technically been a Raider for nearly two weeks, we have yet to see No. 12 actually hit the gridiron, but I have a feeling that’s going to change in just a few days’ time.
Regardless of who the healthy bodies are for the Raiders, Jones was brought in for a reason, and now with a little bit of time to get comfortable with the playbook, I’m excited to see what he can bring to the table.
We hear all the time about how some fresh scenery can change things wildly for a player, and with a track record of producing in this league, here’s to hoping that’s exactly the case for Jones.
The former East Carolina Pirate’s stats aren’t going to jump off the page this year, but Jones finished 2018 on an absolute tear, hauling in five touchdowns over the final month of the season.
The Silver and Black are dying for some consistent productivity out wide, hopefully Jones can provide it.
5. The turnover battle
Looking at the stats, the Raiders’ offense is ranked higher than the Packers’ offense, as is the case for the defense as well.
So, how exactly are Aaron Rodgers 5-1? Well, having one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history certainly helps, but one thing that has been vital for the Packers’ success thus far in 2019 is winning the turnover battle.
Headed into the Week 7 clash in Wisconsin, the Packers have a plus-seven turnover differential – good for second in the NFL – while the Silver and Black own a minus-one.
If the Raiders want to earn yet another road win, they’ll have to find a way to not only protect the football, but force Rodgers into some ill-advised throws as well.
Let’s see if they can do just that.
6. Stop the run
Each week we talk about the importance of getting the Raiders’ run game rocking and rolling, but this week, let’s focus on the Green Bay ground attack.
While the Raiders have dealt with a plethora of injuries and ailments to their wide receivers, as crazy as it sounds, the Packers may have withstood even more, and it sounds like Aaron Rodgers will be without at least three of his top targets this weekend.
In Monday night’s win over the Detroit Lions, the tandem of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams ran for north of 150 yards, so finding a way to keep those dudes in check will be paramount.
The Raiders surrendered only 42 rushing yards the last time they took the field, so the battle up front is going to be one worth keeping an eye on.
Head out to the practice field in Alameda, Calif. as the Raiders get ready for their Week 7 game against the Green Bay Packers.