(Sports Network) - The newest of the many recent new eras in Oakland Raiders history began last week with a thud, as quarterback Jason Campbell could not help the Silver and Black avoid a 38-13 thumping at the hands of the Tennessee Titans.
One week later, as the Raiders welcome the St. Louis Rams to town for their 2010 opener at the Oakland Coliseum, Campbell and company will try to prove that the preseason optimism was not unfounded.
Campbell completed 22-of-37 passes for 180 yards with a touchdown and two turnovers in his formal Raiders debut (one INT, one lost fumble), also absorbing four sacks while working behind a still-developing offensive line.
Injuries to two of the team's top offensive weapons - running back Michael Bush (thumb) and wide receiver Chaz Schilens (knee) - certainly didn't help Campbell's case, nor did a defense that became the 12th consecutive Tennessee opponent to allow running back Chris Johnson to top 100 yards.
Johnson carried 27 times for 142 yards on the day, more than half of that total coming on a 76-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The Titans accumulated 205 ground yards in the game, a disappointing total for a Raiders defense that beefed up its front seven with rookie middle linebacker Rolando McClain (6 tackles) and linemen John Henderson (5 tackles) and Lamarr Houston (3 tackles) in the offseason.
The Raiders have now lost eight consecutive season-openers.
The Rams may have offered up a few more positive signs in Week 1 than did the Raiders, but in the end, St. Louis moved to 0-1 in exactly the same manner.
Making his first career NFL start, rookie and No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford gave St. Louis a chance to win but ultimately failed to get the Rams over the hump in a 17-13 home loss to the NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals
Bradford was 32-of-55 for 253 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions in the game, which was his first meaningful contest since the then-Oklahoma star suffered a shoulder injury last October. Fellow newcomer Mark Clayton, acquired in a trade with the Ravens following the preseason, made an immediate impression with 10 catches for 119 yards in his own Rams debut.
The rookie Bradford was outdone by his counterpart, Derek Anderson, who threw for 297 yards, including a game-winning touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald in the fourth quarter.
With the loss, the Rams dropped to 6-43 (.122) since the start of the 2007 season, including nine consecutive losses since winning at the Detroit Lions last Nov. 1st.
The Raiders lead the all-time series with the Rams, 7-4, but have dropped the last two head-to-head meetings with St. Louis. The Rams blanked the Raiders, 20-0, when they visited the Oakland Coliseum in 2006. The Raiders' most recent win over the Rams came in 1997, a 35-17 triumph at home.
The Raiders and Rams shared the now-vacant Los Angeles market from 1982 through 1994.
The Rams' Steve Spagnuolo and Raiders' Tom Cable will be meeting each other, as well as their counterpart's respective teams, for the first time as head coaches.
WHEN THE RAMS HAVE THE BALL
Clearly, having a rookie quarterback put the ball in the air 55 times is not the Rams' game plan for offensive success in 2010. Though Bradford did play reasonably well in his debut, and Clayton and fellow wideout Danny Amendola (6 receptions, 67 yards) aided the attack as well, St. Louis needs to be able to run the ball effectively with Steven Jackson to have a chance to win. Jackson carried 22 times for 81 yards in Week 1. The Rams allowed just two sacks of Bradford against the Cardinals, another positive given the youth being served on the St. Louis o-line. Rookie second-rounder Rodger Saffold (Indiana) will make his second NFL start at the all-important left tackle spot this week. Wideout Laurent Robinson (3 receptions, 18 yards), who was the recipient of Bradford's first meaningful NFL TD pass on a one-yard play to end the first half, is considered a question mark for this week due to an ankle problem.
Perhaps the most disconcerting element of Oakland's blowout loss to the Titans was the play of a surprisingly beefed up front seven, which allowed 205 rushing yards to Tennessee. Newcomers like McClain, Henderson and Houston will have to be better in Week 2. and the club is also going to need tackle Richard Seymour (5 tackles) to shake off a hamstring problem to make a difference on Sunday. The Silver and Black weren't exactly lights-out against the pass in Week 1 either, allowing Vince Young to connect on 13 of his 17 pass attempts with a pair of touchdowns. Cornerback Nnadmi Asomugha figures to have primary responsibility on Clayton this week. Elsewhere in the secondary, safety Tyvon Branch had a team-best eight tackles last week. The Raiders did manage a couple of sacks in their limited opportunities to chase Young, with new Oakland pass rusherKamerion Wimbley (5 tackles) and end Matt Shaughnessy (3 tackles) both breaking through.
WHEN THE RAIDERS HAVE THE BALL
After being punished by an underrated Titans defense last week, Campbell should look more like the player the Raiders expect him to be in the team's home opener. That expectation, of course, is predicated on a young Raiders offensive line playing better football than it did last week, when Campbell was sacked four times. If he has time to throw downfield, the ex-Redskin will look to wideouts Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey, along with trusty tight end Zach Miller. Murphy and Miller each caught four passes against the Titans, while the former first-rounder Heyward-Bey continued to disappoint with one catch for 11 yards. The silver lining for the Oakland offense in Week 1 was the play of running back Darren McFadden, who had one of the best games of his career in the absence of his teammate Bush. McFadden carried 18 times for 95 yards in the win, also catching a team-best six passes for 55 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter. Bush's status for Sunday is unknown, though he has been practicing with the team.
Though they did give up the late touchdown pass from Anderson to Fitzgerald last week, and surrendered close to 400 yards when all was said and done, the Rams defense did some things against the Cardinals that suggested that side of the ball can be a credit to the winning cause in 2010. The unit forced seven fumbles on the day, four of which the Rams recovered. Linebacker Larry Grant (4 tackles) forced two of the fumbles, while safety Oshiomogho Atogwe recovered one of the miscues to go along with eight tackles. A St. Louis pass rush that mostly struggled in 2009 received good signs in the form of sacks for defensive end C.J. Ah You and tackle Fred Robbins (4 tackles) versus the Cardinals. A major key for the Rams this week will be the work of a run-stopping group that gave up 112 yards last week. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (5 tackles) will spearhead the effort to slow McFadden and perhaps Bush.
Those owners who started McFadden last week were rewarded for that risk, but Bush's possible return to the lineup on Sunday means starting either Oakland RB is a shaky proposition. Tight end Zach Miller could be the only decent Raider play this week as kicker Sebastian Janikowski infuriated owners with a missed field goal in Tennessee last Sunday.
The Rams' Clayton was a major waiver-wire pickup this week, and while 10 more catches and 119 yards is probably not in the cards against the Raiders, he's worth playing given his early chemistry with Bradford. Jackson remains a bona fide fantasy starter at the running back position, but otherwise you'll want to steer clear from Rams.
Barring the unlikely event of a tie, one of these teams will come out of Sunday's matchup at 1-1 and carrying some hope into the end of September. The other will be 0-2, and will be dealing with a fan base stuck in a "same as it ever was" avalanche of negativity. If the Raiders lose to the Rams at home, they're going to be feeling that negativity long before they leave the Oakland Coliseum turf. With that in mind, look for the Silver and Black to come out focused and driven to win on Sunday. The Raiders know they're further along with the veteran Campbell behind center than the Rams are with the still- developing Bradford, and will exploit both the youngster's inexperience and St. Louis' long-standing road troubles.