Raiders-Packers: Matchups to watch

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Raiders-Packers: Matchups to watch

It would be unfair and, really, false to say the Raiders are playing with house money in taking on unbeaten and untied defending Super Bowl champ Green Bay in their house on Sunday.Besides, the Raiders (7-5) have a little something to play for themselves as they enter the fourth quarter of the regular season -- their very playoff lives. So it's not like Oakland is merely playing the role of spoiler on the Frozen Tundra.Still, the run the Packers (12-0) are on is impressive. Having won 18 straight games, dating to last year and including the playoffs, the Packers can join the 1998 Denver Broncos as the only other defending champ in NFL history to start a season 13-0 and they also clinch a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs by beating the Raiders.
The Raiders? They have the same record as Denver in the AFC West, but are currently behind the Broncos due to tie-breakers.A look, then, at some key on-field matchups to watch Sunday afternoon from Lambeau Field:Raiders strong safety Tyvon Branch (33) vs. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12).TALE OF THE TAPEBranch: 6-0, 205, UConn, fourth seasonRodgers: 6-2, 225, Cal, seventh seasonWhile Branch is having breakthrough, Pro Bowl-type of season, Rodgers is having a season for the ages.Not only is Rodgers the first quarterback in NFL history to post 100-plus passer ratings in 12 consecutive games, he has thrown at least two touchdown passes in all 12 games thus far, joining only Johnny Unitas and Peyton Manning, but Rodgers' current career passer rating of 103.8 is the best in league history.Thus far this season, Rodgers leads the NFL in passer rating (125.3), completion percentage (70.6), TD passes (37) and yards per attempt (9.42) and is third in passing yardage (3,844).Many have said Rodgers, the Chico and Cal Kid, is having the best season a quarterback has had. Ever."That's a pretty flattering comment," he said this week on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "I try and stay focused on what I've got to do to be successful each week, but the kind words are appreciated. I think you've got to keep it in the context of this season. It's hard to compare different years. I think if you look at it, I dont know that anybodys gonna be able to touch what (Tom) Brady did with his 50 touchdowns, and when Peyton (Manning) had 49 touchdowns."In a different time and era there were a number of good years before I was even, you know, an afterthought of being born. So I try not to compare years, but I appreciate the kind comments."It would be hard for any one player to slow Rodgers, let alone stop him. But Branch just might be the key, what with the way he can be used in hopes of keeping the quarterback off balance.The speedy and physical Branch has excelled against the run but has also played well in coverage this season and is always a threat to blitz."I take every game as a personal challenge, especially with a guy of his caliber," Branch said of Rodgers. "You know you've got to spend a couple more hours watching film, trying to pick up any little tips you can. Because he's that good of a player."With a guy of his caliber, there's a little more spotlight on it. But week in and week out, we want to do the same thing."Other matchups worth watching:Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (85) vs. Packers cornerback Charles Woodson (21) -- No Jacoby Ford and no Denarius Moore -- again -- means DHB will not be able to hide.No wonder the grin on his face only grew wider when asked what he saw when he watched film of Woodson, who is "probable" to play as he is recovering from a concussion suffered last week."Shoot, the (2009) NFL defensive player of the year, that's what I see," Heyward-Bey said. "I mean, good player. Smart. He's a vet. He knows football. He knows offenses and being a DB who can play safety, nickel, outside corner, I mean, he brings everything together for them."Woodson, who was the Raiders' No. 4 overall draft pick in 1998 and spent eight seasons in Oakland before signing with Green Bay in 2006, is tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions. He has a league high 24 picks since 2008.More than a few observers thought Woodson was entering the twilight of his career when he left Oakland. Instead, he's tapped into his Hall of Fame talent."Well, the fact that you mature as a player, you mature as a person," said Raiders defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan, who also had Woodson in Oakland in his first tour. "Charles had his first child, and he even said it, that when that happened to him, the sense of responsibility changed. And his whole life changed. I couldnt be more proud of Charles. I sit back and watch him every game. I love to pull (tape of) him out in the offseason and study him because the things that he does now, that he's getting all the recognition for, are things he still did here"The way he causes turnovers, the way he tackles, the ferocity in which he tackles, and goes after the ball, the strip, every single time, and the playmaking ability. It was a couple of weeks ago, that interception where he came over the top, he's the only guy that's going to make that type of play. It's fun to watch him, and I wish him wellbut not too much luck this weekend."Raiders fullback Marcel Reece (45) vs. Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) -- WIth their three most explosive offensive playmakers -- Ford, Moore and Darren McFadden -- still sidelined by injury, Michael Bush and the offensive line are going to need a lot of help. Namely, from Reece.A converted receiver, Reece is a matchup nightmare for defenses. Which is why Chicago and Miami gameplanned exclusively for him and limited his touches the past two weeks.Matthews may draw the assignment of bird-dogging Reece, whether he lines up as Bush's lead back, as a tight end, or even wide. The Dolphins, in particular, shut Reece down."Yeah, they had a good package for him," said Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer. "We got him loose a couple of times, but obviously not enough. He's one of the best mismatches you'll find in the NFL as far as the position he plays and what he can do. But they had a good plan for him and we'll have a good counter for that plan this week and figure out more ways to get the ball in his hands."

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