By Cedric Williams
The Rams are back home in St. Louis, still stinging from their 27-24 loss to San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
St. Louis was just one play away from possibly winning, or at least sending the game to overtime, when it got down inside San Diego’s 10-yard line with just over a minute left in the game. But, as it always seems to go for the starstruck Rams, they couldn’t make the final big play and wound up leaving Southern California with a loss that dropped their record to 4-7.
This week, the Rams will face a team that’s had even worse luck than them, when the 1-10 Oakland Raiders come to town for a high noon showdown, Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
Oakland, which hasn’t had a winning record since 2002, lost its first 10 games this season (and 16 straight dating back to last season) before picking up their first win last Thursday against Kansas City.
The once-proud Raiders are already on their second coach this season, as Dennis Allen was fired by the club in September and was replaced on an interim basis by offensive line coach Tony Sparano.
Oakland on Offense
As you might expect from a team with a 1-10 record, the Raiders have been terrible on offense, ranking dead last in the league in average yards per game (283.2). In fact, Oakland is the only team in the NFL this season that doesn’t average at least 300 yards a game.
The Raiders have been especially dreadful running the ball, where they also rank dead last with just 73.5 rush yard per game.
Veteran back Darren McFadden leads Oakland in rushing with 422 yards this season, while second-year man Latavius Murray has become a player to watch for the Raiders, after posting his first career 100-yard game last week against Kansas City.
Rookie second-round pick Derek Carr has played every game at quarterback for the Raiders, and has played the point man for a passing game that ranks 26th overall in average yards per game.
Oakland’s top receivers are WR James Jones (54 catches, 545 yards, 4 TDs), WR Andre Holmes (32 catches, 474 yards, 4 TDs), and TE Mychal Rivera (38 catches, 334 yards, 3 TDs).
Oakland on Defense
The Raider defense ranks near the middle of the pack at 18th overall in total yards allowed (360.5 yards per game).
Oakland is led by future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson, a terrific corner and now-converted safety who is tied with linebacker Sio Moore for the team lead in tackles this season.
Rookie linebacker Khalil Mack has been Oakland’s most dynamic performer on defense with 59 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and a team-leading 11 tackles for loss.
Oakland on Special Teams
The Raider kicking game is terrific, with punter Marquette King leading in the league in total punting yards and ranking eight overall in net punting this season.
Placekicker Sebastian Janikowski is in his 15th season out of Florida State and still ranks among the best in the league at making field goals with 12 makes on 14 attempts this season.
Janikowski’s only two misses have been from beyond 50 yards, though he did connect from 53 yards out in a game against Arizona back in October.
Murray is Oakland’s primary kickoff return man, with 19 runbacks and a 22.6 yards per return average.
When Murray isn’t back deep, the Raiders like to use rookie corner T.J. Carrie — an explosive player from Ohio — who averages 26.2 yards on kickoff returns and 9.7 yards on punt returns.
Oakland leads the all-time series 8-4, including a 16-14 win the last time the two clubs met in 2010.
St. Louis won the two meeting previous to that, including a 28-13 win back in 2002, which was the last time the Rams and Raiders met for a game in St. Louis.
For more Rams news and updates, visit Rams Central.
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a freelance reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the Rams and small-school college sports for Examiner.com and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can be found on Examiner.com.