ALAMEDA, CA - The Oakland Raiders couldn't have gotten off to a worse start to the 2012 season. An opening night nightmare against their AFC West rival Chargers, followed up by a cross-country butt kicking at the hands of a Dolphins team many predicted to be picking first in next year's draft.
Now,the perennial powerhousePittsburgh Steelers are on their way to the Black Hole in a game few people are giving the Raiders much chance of winning.
While a daunting task indeed, the Arizona Cardinals proved last week in New England that nothing is impossible in the N.F.L. But the Raiders hopes of pulling off a similar upset weighs heavily on the following 5 key areas, some of which have looked good this season, while others have been reflective of an 0-2 football team:
Darren McFadden - Plain and simple - if he can't better his 22-yard outing against Miami, the Raiders chances go from slim to none.
Tight Ends - Outside of the Mike Goodson breaker, the tight ends were the most impressive part of the passing game versus Miami. They'll have to build on their performance and help Oakland pick up crucial third downs - something the team only did once against the Dolphins.
Pass Rush - Matt Shaughnessy dominated Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long for stretches last week. He'll have a chance to repeat the effort against a weaker offensive line this Sunday. Shaughnessy will need some help from his mates this week getting to Ben Roethlisberger to disrupt the Steelers passing game though.
Sebastian Janikowski - If the raiders are to beat the Steelers, it's not going to be in a blow out. Janikowski will need to be his usual, dependable self and provide points at every possible opportunity.
The Return Game - Let's face it, the Raiders are going to struggle moving the ball consistently on offense as they continue to develop chemistry. That being said, the kick returners aregoing to need to give them a boost up the field so they're not looking at going 80-90 yards against one of the league's elite defenses.