This week, the Oakland Raiders face a unique challenge in the Bears' KR/PR Devin Hester. Hester is the greatest kick returner in NFL history, with 12 punt return TDs and 5 kickoff return TDs to his credit. It has for several years been an adage in football, 'Do not kick to Devin Hester' but for some reason, teams still do just that. This year alone he has two punt return touchdowns and a kickoff return touchdown.
Given the Raiders' propensity for boneheaded mistakes and a lack of discipline, one may easily conclude that this week's game is a perfect opportunity for Hester to add to his gaudy return totals. However, if there is one punter/kicker combination that can shut down Hester, it is the Raiders' own tandem of Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski. If they kick the ball in Hester's direction even once, it will be a grievous error. It falls to them this week to ensure that the Bears' most dangerous weapon never has a chance to impact the game. Given that Jay Cutler is out with injury, the Bears will likely have trouble moving the ball and the Raiders should have no problem trading field position in exchange for Devin Hester never getting the ball.
Of course, anything can happen in football, and as we all know, Janikowski is still struggling with a hamstring problem and may not be able to boot the kickoff for a touchback every time like we are accustomed to seeing. Lechler, though, is perfectly healthy and being the best punter in the game ought to be able to minimize Hester's impact on punt returns with long hang times and directional kicking. Hester is so dangerous that he can change the momentum of a game in a split second, so this particular battle may be the most important in the entire contest.