NFL Preview – Oakland (1-10) at St. Louis (4-7) (ET)

By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) – The St. Louis Rams have as much right to strut as any
4-7 team.

The Rams have 2014 wins over both teams that appeared in February’s Super Bowl
– Seattle and Denver — as well as the team that was beaten by the Seahawks in
a dramatic NFC title game, San Francisco.

Those three teams came into Week 13 this season with a combined 22-11 record.

Problem is, the Rams have gone just 1-7 against the remainder of their
schedule, and missed a chance to take a step toward relevance when they
dropped a 27-24 decision at San Diego last week, a game that ended with a
Shaun Hill interception at the Chargers’ 4-yard line with 63 seconds
remaining.

“We’ve got a great locker room, and a great group of guys who have every right
to be disappointed,” St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said. “They’ll come back.”

The Rams have alternated wins and losses in their last six games and will try
to continue that stretch against an Oakland team that had lost 10 straight
this season – and 16 in a row across two years – before upsetting Kansas City
on Monday night.

Hill will retain his starting role in spite of the late misfire in San Diego,
a game which included a touchdown pass and another INT. It was his second
start since regaining the starting role from a skidding Austin Davis. In
Hill’s first start after that transition, he led the 22-7 upset defeat of the
Broncos.

Against the Chargers he hit rookie receiver Stedman Bailey for seven
receptions and 89 yards, both career-best numbers, and the aforementioned TD
pass, which was the youngster’s first.

“The mark of a true pro is somebody that can take all the pats on the back one
week and then take all the ridicule the next week and still be the same guy
after both,” he said. “Hopefully, that’s the example I’m going to set for this
team and I think this team is built to do just that. That’s been the way we’ve
picked ourselves up in the past and I wouldn’t expect anything different.”

As for the Raiders, they don’t seem content to stop after a single victory.

Oakland had gone 368 days since defeating Houston in Week 11 of 2013, and it
hasn’t won two straight games since toppling Jacksonville and Kansas City,
respectively, on Oct. 21 and 28, 2012.

“Hopefully there’s many more to come,” quarterback David Carr said. “Because I
like this feeling better than the other one, that’s for sure.”

Carr hit James Jones with a nine-yard pass with just less than 2 minutes
remaining against the Chiefs last week, which capped off a dramatic 17-play
drive that covered 80 yards.

It was also the first win under interim coach Tony Sparano, who replaced
Dennis Allen after he was let go four games into the season. Oakland had gone
0-6 under its new boss, but had been within range of wins in the fourth
quarter of all but one of those losses prior to breaking through last week.

The Raiders scored 14, 14, 9 and 14 points in the 2014 games under Allen, but
have scored 24 three times and averaged 17.9 with Sparano in charge.

“He’s one of the bright spots out of this season,” offensive tackle Donald
Penn said. “Even though our record doesn’t show it, everybody has to see that
since he’s taken over we’ve gotten better and better.”

Oakland gashed the Chiefs for 179 yards on the ground in the victory,
including 112 on four carries by rookie Latavius Murray. The Raiders, though,
are still last in the league with a 73.5-yard rush average.

“We finally said as a line enough is enough,” Penn said. “We came out and we
did it. We can’t just do it one game. We have to do it more. I want more. This
isn’t enough. We need more.”

Murray, who had a 90-yard TD run, sustained a concussion later in the game but
is still listed as probable. Also with a chance to return is wide receiver Rod
Streater, who broke his left foot in Week 3 against New England and hasn’t
played since.

“These things can take time or they can be very fast, just depends on the
player and the severity or any of those type of things,” Sparano said.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Reveal Yourself

The Raiders entered the week at No. 12 in the league when it comes to pass
defense, though the number is clouded by the reality that opponents have
chosen to run the ball against the instead.

In fact, teams have thrown 364 passes against Oakland – seventh-fewest in the
NFL. Either way, it’s a chance to St. Louis to put wide receivers Bailey and
Kenny Britt on the first page of the game plan to find the truth.

Where’s Your Head At?

As mentioned earlier Oakland is the league’s worst running team, even with the
179-yard breakout against Kansas City that led to the first win. Making it two
straight good games on the ground will depend a lot on the health of Murray.
St. Louis has allowed nearly 116 yards per game on the ground and could be
less than steadfast in its preparation against a would-be inferior opponent.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Coach Jeff Fisher has done well to get his Rams up for the big matches against
the aforementioned trio from last season’s playoff final four, but he’s also
just 1-7 against the rest.

There are clearly no playoff implications this week and the Raiders are hardly
a team that players get revved to face, so it wouldn’t be a shock if the
Raiders made it two straight. But we’ll assume it’s just a close game, not an
upset.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Rams 20, Raiders 17