Raiders-Bears: Matchups to watch

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Raiders-Bears: Matchups to watch

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders seemingly have Chicago right where they want them.The Bears are breaking in a new quarterback in Caleb Hanie. The Raiders are returning home to their sixth straight sellout crowd to play before the Black Hole for the first time since Nov. 6. Oakland's relatively new quarterback, Carson Palmer, has feasted upon the Bears in his career, going 2-0 in two starts in completing 36 of 47 for 402 yards with eight touchdowns, no interceptions and a 141.1 rating.Sounds like everything's lining up perfectly for Oakland, right? Well...The banged-up and first-place Raiders (6-4) control their fate in the AFC West; the Bears (7-3) are in second place in the NFC North, but are leading that conference's Wild Card race.A look, then, at some key on-field matchups to watch Sunday afternoon from the O.co Coliseum:Raiders punter Shane Lechler (9) vs. Bears punt returner Devin Hester (23).
TALE OF THE TAPELechler: 6-2, 225, Texas A&M, 12th seasonHester: 5-11, 190, Miami, sixth seasonNow, we've already gone over how the last time Hester was in town, in 2007, the Raiders challenged Hester by having Lechler punt the ball right at him. And how the gamble paid off in that Hester returned six of nine punts for a total of 14 yards, even if the Bears won that day.And we mentioned how while so many of the younger Raiders, specifically Mike Mitchell, want to go after Hester again, Lechler has misgivings about that philosophy this time around. After all, Hester has now returned an NFL-record 12 punts for touchdowns.And with the Bears starting a new quarterback in Caleb Hanie because Jay Cutler is out with a broken thumb, Lechler does not want to give Hester a chance to energize and jumpstart the Bears with big returns.So what makes Hester so special?"He's got top-notch vision," Lechler said. "He sees cuts way down the field. He sets up blocks very well, probably one of the better guys that sets up blocks across the league. He's just a guy that we want to try to neutralize and not let him hit the home run against us."I'm going to try to at least make him run sideways early, and we'll go from there."Hester missed two practices this week with a shin injury but is expected to play. He is averaging a career-best 21.2 yards per punt return this season and has already returned two for scores. The Raiders, meanwhile, are allowing 14.5 yards per punt return, fifth-worst in the NFL.Bears coach Lovie Smith said it would be a defeatist attitude for a coach to tell a team to not kick it to Hester because it's essentially telling a punt coverage team it's not good enough."So, I assume a lot of teams have kicked it to him and I think they'll continue to do that, because he's just an NFL player, like everybody else," Smith said. "And believe me, we love it every time that they do decide to do that."Other matchups worth watching: Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer (68) vs. Bears defensive end Julius Peppers (90) -- Fresh off his shutout of what was then the NFL's leading sackmeister in Minnesota's Jared Alled, things get no easier for Veldheer.At 6-feet-7, 287 pounds, Peppers has 95 career sacks since entering the NFL out of North Carolina in 2002, which ranks fourth in the league in that time frame, and he is currently leading the Bears with six sacks this season.In 2008 for Carolina, Peppers had three sacks and forced a pair of fumbles against the Raiders. In two career games against Oakland, Peppers has five sacks."A real physical rusher, looking to not just go around the guy but go through the guy, go inside the guy, go outside," Veldheer said of Peppers. "So he's got a versatile array of moves. You've got to be real disciplined within the technique of the sets. It's going to be great challenge Sunday."It's rare to see that combination of size and speed."The 6-8, 315-pound Veldheer has given up just two sacks this season, a year after giving up 7 12 as a rookie, and has been flagged a mere six times, after being called for 15 penalties last year. And he just had to gain confidence from his showing against Allen in Minnesota, right?"I think it's an every-game type thing," Veldheer said. "Not just last game, but the games before. We played some good edge rushers. Every one of those games, when you see something different and you're able to meet the challenge, that just kind of keeps everything building. Not just from an individual's standpoint but from a line's standpoint."As long as we keep growing, keep getting better, we do feel a sense of accomplishment. We carry that into the next game and we fuel off of it. We don't get satisfied with it, but we yearn to build off of it, so to speak."Raiders offense vs. Fourth Quarter Blues -- The Raiders have not scored a fourth-quarter touchdown since Jason Campbell hit Chaz Schilens with an 18-yard pass 10 seconds into that final stanza at Houston on Oct. 9.They have not scored a single point in the fourth quarter since Sebastian Janikowski's 42-yard field goal with 10 minutes to go in that game.That's 20 series without a fourth-quarter score, a stretch in which the Raiders have run the ball 42 times for 130 yards (a 3.1-yards per carry average, with 30 of those yards coming on one Michael Bush carry at San Diego) while completing just 21 of 46 passes (45.7 percent) for 294 yards with five interceptions and three sacks.And yet, the Raiders have won four of those six games in that stretch.Talk about living on the edge."It starts with me," said Raiders coach Hue Jackson. "I have to, as the primary playcaller and the emotional leader of this team, I have to make sure I'm on my 'A' game at all times. I'm not saying that I'm not, I'm not saying that I'm not looking at it, but I have to go back and at halftime as I address them about making sure they finish, coach Jackson has to make sure he finishes."For some reason we have not been able to score points in the fourth quarter. I mean, we had a field-goal attempt that got blocked (at Minnesota). I mean, man, are you kidding me? So somebody doesn't want us to score in the fourth quarterbut it's not from a lack of trying, I will tell you that."I think the players are working hard, and we know it's an issue. I know it's an issue. But I'm not going to make it too big of an issue. Look, I'll trade all that to keep winning, OK? Let's just keep winning. And once we put this thing together, as I said, we haven't played a whole football game yet, two halves. When we do, we have a chance to be something special."

Raiders head to NFL owners meetings looking for Las Vegas approval

Raiders head to NFL owners meetings looking for Las Vegas approval

PHOENIX -- All signs point to the Raiders being approved for relocation to Las Vegas. It could happen as early as Monday, when the topic will be discussed at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. It could be Tuesday. Or in May. Or at any point in a conference call.

The timing is less important than the ultimate outcome. The when is uncertain. The what seems likely, though not guaranteed, at this stage.

The Raiders need 24 of 32 approval votes to relocate and start construction on new digs.

The Raiders have presented a solid application to the NFL, centered on a stadium proposal in Las Vegas that includes $750 million in public funds for stadium construction. Bank of America, who is financing the project, is expected to loan the Raiders money to complete a financing plan that includes the public contribution and $500 million from the team and the NFL.

The Sports Business Journal reported on Sunday that the estimated stadium cost has dropped to $1.7 billion, and will receive $200 million in infrastructure improvements not included in their construction contribution.

League sources continue to say approval is expected. There is great confidence within the Raiders organization a vote will go their way.

Some issues remain, though none are significant roadblocks. A stadium lease hasn’t been finalized and a site hasn’t been formally announced – it’s reportedly set for a spot just off the Las Vegas Strip near Russell Road – so approval would likely come with conditions that could be met in time.

The Raiders worked a sweetheart deal that mines significant money from the public. They don’t have investors with direct ties to gambling. And, as important as anything else, the NFL doesn’t believe Oakland has a viable plan to keep the Raiders in an otherwise attractive, booming market.

That includes the latest proposal from the Oakland and financial partner Fortress Investments announced on Friday that makes certain concessions aimed at getting the Raiders back to the table.

The Silver and Black haven’t worked with East Bay officials in more than as year, as they’ve shifted complete focus to their Las Vegas quest.

The revised Oakland plan didn’t move the needle, a league executive said. That point was made crystal clear in a letter NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent to Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf.

“The material that we reviewed earlier today confirms certain information that had previously been communicated orally, such as a willingness to bring bank financing to a stadium project, and a proposed valuation of the land at the Coliseum site,” Goodell wrote in a letter obtained by Bay Area News Group. “It also confirms that key issues that we have identified as threshold considerations are simply not resolvable in a reasonable time. In that respect, the information sent today does not present a proposal that is clear and specific, actionable in a reasonable timeframe, and free of major contingencies.”

That virtually eliminates the prospect of Oakland planting doubt in NFL owners’ minds heading into a pivotal discussion on the topic Monday at the Arizona Biltmore hotel.

It’s possible the stadium and finance committee will make a formal recommendation on the Raiders application to relocate. That could precede a vote, and generally holds significant weight among undecided owners.

A league source said the new Oakland plan will be a talking point, though it may not be viewed in a flattering light. That’s especially true in light of Goodell’s letter.

“At this date, there remains no certainty regarding how the site will be fully developed, or the specific and contractually-defined nature of the participation by Fortress or other parties,” Goodell wrote. “In addition, the long-term nature of the commitment to the A’s remains a significant complication and the resolution of that issue remains unknown. Other significant uncertainties, which we have previously identified, remain unaddressed. We had hoped that the past two years would have allowed both of us to develop a viable project.”

Peterson blasts report over salary demands, outlines main objectives

Peterson blasts report over salary demands, outlines main objectives

Adrian Peterson played defense on Friday night.

Hours after a report suggesting that the four-time All-Pro running back was still a free agent due to salary demands, the former Viking posted a lengthy statement on Instagram along with a video of his running an agility drill.

"YOU CANT BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ OR HEAR PEOPLE. The last thing I'm worried about is playing ball this coming season ... that WILL HAPPEN! It's not all about the money as EVERYONE is speculating here lately. You'd THINK these analysts spoke to me directly. When you don't know what's going on people will say anything to create or make a story! How prideful is it for me to put out ... I won't play for anything less than 8 million! But see, when you don't know a person or what they stand for it's easy to paint YOUR OWN PICTURE. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in! Here is something Straight from the horse's mouth ... finding the best fit & helping a team in a major way win a championship is my main objective! I'm in no rush. Let me eliminate questions or speculation as to why... I believe whole heartedly my God will land me right where I need to be to accomplish what I've asked from him PERIOD"

Early in the free agency period, the Raiders were linked to Peterson, but nothing came of those rumors.

The Raiders, in need of a feature back after Latavius Murray signed with the Vikings, are reportedly pursuing the possibility of luring Oakland-native Marshawn Lynch out of retirement.

Peterson was scheduled to make $18 million in 2017, but the Vikings declined to exercise his contract, making him a free agent. The 2012 NFL MVP turned 32 on March 21 and played in just three games in 2016 due to a major knee injury.

According to the ESPN report, Peterson was looking for a contract that paid him over $8 million in the first year of the deal.

YOU CANT BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ OR HEAR PEOPLE. The last thing I'm worried about is playing ball this coming season ... that WILL HAPPEN! It's not all about the money as EVERYONE is speculating here lately. You'd THINK these analysts spoke to me directly. When you don't know what's going on people will say anything to create or make a story! How prideful is it for me to put out ... I won't play for anything less than 8 million! But see, when you don't know a person or what they stand for it's easy to paint YOUR OWN PICTURE. Unfortunately, this is the world we live in! Here is something Straight from the horse's mouth ... finding the best fit & helping a team in a major way win a championship is my main objective! I'm in no rush. Let me eliminate questions or speculation as to why... I believe whole heartedly my God will land me right where I need to be to accomplish what I've asked from him PERIOD

A post shared by Adrian L Peterson (@adrianpeterson) on