The Oakland Raiders may be without their top running back this weekend, as they host the Denver Broncos on Sunday at 4:05pm ET. McFadden has a foot injury and was unable to practice on Wednesday or Thursday, and is expected to miss the game.
That’s a big blow to the Raiders, who have the 2nd best rushing attack in the game, but are ranked 23rd in passing. Their passing game already took a blow when they lost starting QB Jason Campbell for the season, but now that Carson Palmer has had the last two weeks, through the bye week, to learn the offense and work with the receivers; big things are expected from him.
“He’s had two really good days; three really good days of practice,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “I mean he’s running the offense the way I think the offense has to be run. I think he’s doing a great job.”
The Raiders also went out this week and signed veteran wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh this week, who played with Palmer in Cincinnati, combining for four straight 73-plus-reception seasons. The Raiders are hoping that the chemistry between Palmer and Houshmandzadeh and the extra time in the offense will put Palmer on solid footing for Sunday’s game.
His first outing left much to be desired, as he was thrown into the second half of their game against Kansas City only 5 days after being signed. Palmer went 8 of 21 for 116 yards and 3 INTs, as the Raiders quarterbacks combined for no TDs and six INTs against the Chiefs.
They Raiders will also be relying on a combination of Michael Bush and Taiwan Jones at running back in relief of McFadden. Bush was one of the few bright spots in the Raiders last game, as he racked up 99 yards on just 17 carries, for a 5.8 yard average, after McFadden left the game.
“[Bush] plays behind arguably, in my opinion, one of the best running backs in this league,” Jackson said. “But, I think Bush is a really, really good player himself.”
“If he has to play, I feel very comfortable with him playing.”
The Raiders are facing a Broncos team which is also looking for its identity. They finally pulled the switch and gave Tim Tebow the starting job two weeks ago. In his first outing, he played poorly for the first 55 minutes, but rallied the Broncos for an overtime victory over the Dolphins. His second game, against the Lions, didn’t go so well as they Broncos lost 45-10. Detroit recorded 7 sacks and Tebow was just 18 of 39 for 172 yards, with 1 TD and 1 INT.
The Raiders defense is good, although not as good as the Lions, and the Broncos are going to have to establish a running game and provide Tebow better protection to have a chance. Against the Lions, Denver managed 195 yards rushing, but 63 of that was from Tebow.
Ultimately, the Raiders have a strong defense and a stronger running game, even if McFadden is out. Both teams have big question marks about the play of their quarterbacks, but Palmer has a much more talented roster to lean on. We expect the Raiders to come away with the win, unless Tebow can pull off another late game miracle.