With the Green Bay Packers set to take on the Oakland Raiders in Week 7, we spoke to Just Blog Baby site expert Brad Weiss.
A few months ago, this may have looked like a comfortable game for the Packers. One they’d have no trouble winning at home. Well, not so fast. The Raiders are a much-improved team, and they visit Lambeau Field fresh from their bye and a victory over the Packers’ division rivals in London.
The Packers have started 2019 on a roll, however, winning five of their opening six games. But with four of their next five being played away from Lambeau Field, winning this one and sitting 6-1 would be huge for Matt LaFleur’s team.
To get a better idea of what we can expect from the Raiders this week, I spoke to Brad Weiss of Just Blog Baby, FanSided’s home for everything Raiders.
The Raiders have been a surprise team in the opening six weeks of the season. What has been the key to the turnaround?
BW: The Raiders utilized their draft to bring in some talented pieces, including running back Josh Jacobs. In addition, they have paid close attention to bolstering both sides of the line via the draft, and free agency, which has been the biggest difference from last year’s team, to the one who has won their last two games.
Aside from being stronger up front on both sides of the ball, the Raiders also improved their team speed, which has been a big boost to the defense, specifically. Overall, they have a solid quarterback in Derek Carr, who is finally in the same offense for the second straight year, which is something that he has had only one other time in his career. The last time that happened, he nearly won the MVP in 2016.
With the Chiefs losing two in a row and the Chargers off to a slow start, the Raiders are suddenly very much in the AFC West mix. How far do you think this team can go?
BW: Oakland already has a divisional win against Denver, but they also have a home loss to Kansas City on their resume. If they can continue to stack wins, and believe me, the schedule gets much easier once they return home in Week 9, there is no reason why they cannot win 10 games and challenge for a Wild Card.
Kansas City has been the class of the division for some time now, but all of a sudden, those Chargers games later on look like wins, as do the matchups with the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, and Tennessee Titans for sure. If they can stay healthy, and continue to take care of the ball, they could catch the Chiefs, who have more than their fair share of issues on the defensive side of the ball right now.
What is the Raiders’ biggest strength and weakness?
BW: The biggest strength on this Raiders team is their offensive line, as they have spent high draft picks, and big free agency money on it. Bringing in Trent Brown from New England to play right tackle was huge, and Richie Incognito has done a nice job as well in his first season in the Silver and Black.
In addition, Rodney Hudson is one of the better centers in the game, while Kolton Miller has been strong now that he is healthy at left tackle. Finally, the Raiders could get Gabe Jackson back for the Packers game, adding the final piece to an already impressive puzzle.
The biggest weakness for this team right now is depth, as they are depleted at linebacker and wide receiver to name a few. In their win against the Chicago Bears, the Raiders were without their starting middle linebacker in Vontaze Burfict, as well as their top two wide receivers in Tyrell Williams and J.J. Nelson.
They have tried to piece the two position groups together in recent weeks, and were successful against Chicago, but those two areas could come back to hurt them later on.
What will be the key matchups in this game?
BW: While the Packers did a nice job against Kerryon Johnson on Monday night, they did come into that game allowing 140 yards per game on the ground. The biggest matchup when the Raiders have the ball will be how the Packers defense does against Josh Jacobs, who ran all over a very good Bears defense the last time out.
On defense, the Raiders have to deal with future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers, who should be able to have his way at times against a young Oakland defensive backfield. Oakland has done a nice job getting after the quarterback this season, and they will have to continue that on Sunday, because if A-Rod has time, he could be in for a 300-plus yard passing day for sure.
Finally, how do you see the game playing out?
BW: Not to be a homer, but Jon Gruden is a fantastic coach, and has been game-planning for two weeks heading into this matchup. In addition, the Packers are on a short week, having played on Monday night, so I actually like the Raiders to escape Lambeau with their first win against the Packers since 1987.
To be clear, I have not picked the Raiders to win since Week 1, so this is not just the local website showing love to the Silver and Black. This is a different Raiders team than years past, and I like them going into Green Bay and winning the game, 24-21.