This year is going to be a very difficult one schedule-wise for the Oakland Raiders. They face a number of excellent teams and a number of playoff teams from last year. The schedule is especially difficult when considering the opposing pass defenses. If you average out last year’s ranking for all of the pass defenses the Raiders will face this season, it comes out to a little over 13.6. Of the top ten pass defenses in the league, the Raiders will face six of them, including three of the top four.
That being said, teams can only effectively defend what they have scouted on film and prepared for, and the Raiders have a brand new offensive (and defensive) system that none of the rest of the league has seen them execute as of yet. The league has also not seen Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden play together and may be surprised by how explosive and balanced the Raiders will turn out to be. For fantasy purposes, here are three games wherein Carson Palmer is a good bet to put up serious numbers:
Week 9 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: As mentioned in the Darren McFadden article, the Bucs are terrible defensively against both the run and the pass. Their best corner, Aqib Talib, is constantly in legal trouble and isn’t really reliable. All their good secondary players got old and retired. They have a shell of a defense, which Is why they drafted S Mark Barron in the first round this year. He is a ballhawk and a terrific player, but the Raiders have a ton of weapons and Barron can only be in one place at a time.
Week 11 vs. New Orleans Saints: We all know about the bounty scandal that sent shockwaves through the league, cost HC Sean Payton a year and may have cost DC Gregg Williams his career. It also implicated a number of defensive players including LB Jonathan Vilma, DE Will Smith, and other players who have moved on to other teams. The Saints were never that good on defense even when they won the Super Bowl, but without their coaching staff and Vilma they’re going to be downright brutal this season. Last year, the Saints ranked 30th against the pass, giving up nearly 260 yards a game through the air. Even Alex Smith was able to pick them apart in the NFC Championship game- while he’s improved as a player, it’s no surprise his best game came against this team. The cupboard is bare in the secondary and in Week 11 Carson Palmer will be able to pick them apart like a vulture cleaning a carcass. Since Drew Brees is still a Saint, that doesn’t guarantee a Raider victory, but in fantasy it doesn’t matter what team wins as long as YOU do.
Week 16 vs. Carolina Panthers: This game is liable to be a shootout, considering the presence of Cam Newton under center for the Panthers. The Panthers have little on either the defensive line or the secondary; their strength is their LB corps. The Raiders would be wise to take their shots deep early and often. That spells good things for Palmer in week 16, championship week for many fantasy leagues. All Raiders except the defensive unit are strong plays in week 16. Ride as many as you can to your league title!