It was nearly four weeks ago when the Raiders last lost a football game, a painful setback to the division-rival Denver Broncos at the O.co Coliseum.
If there was anything worth salvaging from Week 9, it was that the Silver and Black was still, despite the 38-24 loss, in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West.
Oakland has since rattled off three straight wins, the latest of which was a 25-20 triumph over the Chicago Bears last Sunday, and now alone claims the division top spot.
“I think I’ve been saying it now for three weeks, ‘It’s winning time,’” Raiders coach Hue Jackson said. “Ever since we were 4-4, it’s time to win. In order to achieve our goals, I don’t care where we play; you’ve got to go win football games and we think we have a pretty good football team and we have to show that when we play.”
Jackson will have a chance to display what his team can do today as he takes Oakland’s talent to South Beach in what can be a pivotal game against the once-struggling but suddenly improved Miami Dolphins (3-8).
“It would be a huge step coming to be 8-4 ... after a long trip to Miami,” Jackson said. “But I think we understand no one is going to hand us anything.”
After starting the season 0-7, Miami mounted a three-game winning streak of its own before puzzlingly losing to Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. The Dolphins’ recent success behind coach Tony Sparano is hardly surprising to Jackson.
“He’s a finisher,” Jackson said. “I know a lot of things get said about coaches in the league, but I know what Tony Sparano’s made of because I’ve spent time with him and I knew eventually that this thing would turn because he’s too good of a football coach.”
While Miami has encountered its share of struggles, Oakland has continuously been plagued with injuries.
Wide receivers Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford have been sidelined in the preceding weeks, while running back Michael Bush continues to haul the load for the injured Darren McFadden.
But despite the mounting list of battered players, Jackson’s offense behind quarterback Carson Palmer is making do.
“We have an expectation here,” Jackson said. “I think we know how to play offense. We’ve just got to get some guys healthy, but ... we’re not going to make excuses. Once we get everybody back, I feel like we have a chance to be really good.”
Palmer hasn’t given much thought to how effective the offense may be once some of Oakland’s playmakers are in good health. Instead, his attention is on those currently in the lineup.
“We’ve had different guys have to step up,” Palmer said. “It doesn’t matter what the situation is ... when your number’s called, you got to run out there on the field and do your job.”
And if Oakland is to keep its one-game cushion over the surging Broncos, each man will need to continue to do his job.
Raiders (7-4) vs. Dolphins (3-8)
WHEN: Today, 10 a.m.
WHERE: Sun Life Stadium, Miami
TV: CBS (KPIX, Ch. 5)
RADIO: KITS (105.3 FM), KFRC (1550 AM)