Wanted to take on the Raiders game for a minute before it starts.
Oakland - you can't completely sleep on the 4-10 Raiders. They've had better play on the OL recently, and they have Greg Knapp's WCO running allright at this point. Carson Palmer, without an amazing cast around him, has taken a lot of heat for being not worth his trade, which isn't his problem. Right now, Palmer's having as good a year as he ever has, though he's a few TDs short of his 2005-07 years (and that's OK, hopefully Carolina puts an end to future scoring). Darren McFadden isn't putting his part in, though.
I don't put a lot of stock into what happens with Terrelle Pryor. Just one of the various awkward and expensive QB options for the Raiders in recent history, Pryor is athletic, but has so very little experience in the NFL. He can do things in the wildcat, or they might play him in regular snaps - not sure. But, it's a gimmick thrown in for this week that probably has as much to do with using something in a game they'll use to scout Cam Newton as anything. .
New head coach Dennis Allen (John Fox's DC last year, Saints DBs coach before that) helms the defense ahead of first-time coordinator Jason Tarver. It's a basic 4-3 scheme that runs away from the long years of the Rob Ryan teams, but brings some blitz pressure. Carolina gets a break with Richard Seymour out for the game. Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston are allright ends, but neither are producing at a high level. Andre Carter, who had a very productive 2011 with the Pats, has 2 sacks as a backup.
Behind them, Omar Gaither (last year's utility LB in Carolina) starts at MLB, but former Colt Phillip Wheeler is the differencemaker on the second level, doing a bit of everything (3 sacks, 7 passes defensed, leading the team with 104 tackles). SS Tyvon Branch, when healthy, can make a lot of difference, but he's banged up and may not even go this week.
This is a very winnable game and Carolina's on a 2 game win streak. But, Oakland's a tough place to play; there's not a lot of forgiveness for mistakes there. Carolina has done a good job the last few weeks getting ahead and staying ahead; Oakland's not that physical a team but I don't see Carolina just muscling them around, either. It's not time to get cocky, it's time to finish strong.