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PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush presents the first of five key matchups in the Packers' Week 14 game against the Raiders Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Raiders RBs Michael Bush, Marcel Reece and Darren McFadden (check status) vs. Packers LB corps
In the best-case scenario for the Raiders, McFadden would be good to go this Sunday. He is easily Oakland's most explosive offensive weapon, possessing excellent breakaway speed and an ability to bust big plays both inside, outside and also catching the ball out of the backfield. But after missing at least three games due to injuries in each of his previous three seasons, McFadden is once again having problems staying healthy this season. He has missed the last five games with a foot injury and is considered questionable at best for this week's game.
If McFadden can't play, the onus will again be on the normally dependable Bush to carry the rushing load. After being limited to only 18 yards on 10 carries last week in Miami — the Raiders had only 14-46 rushing total — Bush has carried the ball 173 times for 686 yards (4.0 yards per carry) and six TDs with a long of 44. Bush has also caught 23 passes for 300 yards and a TD. Bush hits the hole hard and plays with good lean. He does not have a strong second gear, but he is powerful and normally very effective in short-yardage situations and on the goal line. While Reese primarily fills a blocking role, he has been a surprisingly strong offensive weapon on occasion, particularly as a receiver. Occasionally splitting out wide, he has 17-240 receiving (14.1 ypc) with two TDs.
The Giants' ground game pounded away between the tackles for 100 yards in 20 attempts last week and caused some concerns for a Packers LB corps trying to get by without its normal starting inside ’backers A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop. The Raiders have shown a preference for running to the left side this season. Both Hawk and Bishoip sat out last week's game with calf injuries, and there won't be any concrete clues as to their status for the Raiders game until practices begin on Wednesday.
Raiders QB Carson Palmer best be very leery of Packers LOLB Clay Matthews, who displayed his off-the-charts instincts last Sunday on his 38-yard interception return for a TD on a pass in the flat intended for Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw. Subbing for Hawk, Robert Francois had trouble getting off blocks and was frequently tied up inside. Rookie D.J. Smith fared better subbing for Bishop, finishing as the Packers' second-leading tackler with eight. Smith struggled early but got more comfortable in the second half. While most of his tackles came downfield, his determined style and nonstop hustle is a plus.