Two playoff hopefuls battle it out on Sunday when the Oakland Raiders (7-6) host the Detroit Lions (8-5) at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in a pivotal matchup for both teams.
Something has to give as the Lions are trying to avoid a third consecutive road loss, while the Raiders have lost their last two games.
Detroit's Matthew Stafford has been more accurate lately, as the young quarterback completed 69 percent or more of his passes in the last four games. However, Stafford continues to throw interceptions. The third-year star didn't have an interception in a close win over the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday, but he had 10 interceptions in the four games prior to that.
In any case, his offensive line will be needed to open more holes for the running game. The Lions have failed to rush for a total of 100 yards in their last two games, and they might be feeling the effects of losing running back Jahvid Best for the season.
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will be back for Detroit after serving a two-game suspension. A rested, and perhaps more cautious, Suh might be just what the Lions need with rookie tackle Nick Fairley sidelined with a foot injury. Detroit conceded 425 yards to the lowly Vikings, making the game far more close than it probably should have been.
While the Lions' defense is bolstered by Suh's return, the Raiders' offense welcomes back wide receiver Denarius Moore, who practiced on Thursday. The rookie has had two excellent games, and will likely be the second option on Sunday as Darrius Heyward-Bey is expected to play despite a heel injury.
Oakland could use a substantial boost in offense. The Raiders have averaged only 15 points in their last two games, and the last time Oakland put up more yards than their opponent was against the Chargers on Nov. 10.
The Raiders also need to limit their turnovers. Quarterback Carson Palmer has thrown five interceptions in the last two games, which might be due to a predictable offense. Oakland would like to turn to their running game, but Darren McFadden, who hasn't played since Oct. 23, remains listed as questionable for Sunday. Against the Dolphins on Dec. 4, Oakland managed just 46 total rushing yards.
The Raiders still have a chance to win the American Football Conference West division despite the surge by the Denver Broncos. On Sunday, the Broncos (8-5) host the Patriots (10-3), and then travel to play Buffalo, who have proven to be strong at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Obviously, we're still in the thick of this thing, said Raiders head coach Hue Jackson, according to ESPN. It's still all out in front of us. It doesn't feel that way, obviously, after the last two weeks. The reality is that's what it is. So on we go.
LINE: The Lions are favored by 1 point.
OVER/UNDER: 48 points.
PREDICTION: These are two penalty-prone clubs, but the Lions will likely get a more disciplined performance out of Suh, and the rest of the squad should rebound from their close call against the Vikings last week. The Raiders' defense will need to contain the Lions' running game, which is due for a breakout after two subpar performances. This game will likely hinge on the performances of receivers Heyward-Bey and Moore, and whether Palmer can take advantage of a banged-up Lions' secondary. Expect the Lions' offense to outperform the Raiders in a second-half shootout.
PREDICTED SCORE: Lions 28, Raiders 24