GREEN BAY, Wis.
The Raiders' final practice before departing for Wisconsin was full of the high energy that Jon Gruden has brought to the soon-to-be Las Vegas franchise.
Obviously, a team needs more than just high energy to deal with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. It has to be at close to full strength, and the Raiders are getting closer to that.
The good news: The Raiders' offensive line, which has been the key to their success this season, should be at full strength. Guard Gabe Jackson, who has been out with an injury since the preseason, worked with the "ones" Friday. And massive tackle Trent Brown took his normal spot at starting right tackle. Gruden went out of his way to welcome Brown back from the medical room.
Running back Josh Jacobs is proving his worth as a first-round draft choice, and running the ball successfully Sunday is the key to limiting Rogers’ offensive opportunities.
The Raiders are still short-handed at receiver. Tyrell Williams remains sidelined with a foot injury. Gruden spent hours working with newcomer Zay Jones, who was acquired from Buffalo, but it remains to be seen how much he will be able to help. Look for Darren Waller and slot man Hunter Renfrow to be the keys to the Raiders’ passing game.
On the other side of the ball, defensive end Clelin Ferrell is back, but the team is short-handed at linebacker after the season-long suspension of Vontaze Burfict.
Kick coverage should be improved against the Packers with the return of Dwayne Harris, who was all out at the Raiders’ final practice before departing Oakland.
I’m optimistic about the Raiders’ chances, but I never know how to read a young team coming out of a bye week. They are catching the Packers off a short week with myriad receiver problems themselves.
But there’s that man at quarterback.
Rodgers is so smooth at avoiding pressure in the pocket, and his game-management skills are at the top of the league. For many of us who had been counting on the Packers to rally and cover four Monday against the Lions, we could not have been surprised that Rodgers killed the final six minutes, told his running back to sit down and not score the touchdown that the Lions were giving him, thus setting up the game-winning, non-covering field goal.
Nothing comes easily in the NFL, but know this. Since the Raiders beat the Bears in London, it is worth noting that the last nine teams that have won games in the U.K. have gone on to make the playoffs.
As for winners this week, I’m taking Minnesota in Detroit and the Giants to cover against the Cardinals. My two team, six-point teaser: Jets plus 15.5 and Dolphins plus 23.
Good luck and cash some tickets, because that’s what it’s all about.