'07 Raiders Resemble '06 Packers

Coach McCarthy made an interesting point in Wednesday morning’s team meeting to hammer home the respect he feels his team should give its opponent this week. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Raiders Game Center Notebook: Rodgers Hurts Hamstring, Nall Gets Bulk Of Practice Work Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 5

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Oakland CB Fabian Washington picks off a pass against Denver last week, one of 15 interceptions by the Raiders' defense this year.

Not that he's overly concerned any of his players would be foolish enough to overlook Oakland, but Head Coach Mike McCarthy made an interesting point in Wednesday morning's team meeting to hammer home the respect he feels his team should give its opponent this week.

Simply put, McCarthy believes the 2007 Oakland Raiders are a lot like the 2006 Green Bay Packers.

"That's what I told the team this morning," McCarthy said. "If you remember where we were at this time last year, we were 4-8, and were able to make a run at the end of the season. It was the foundation of what we've been able to build off of for this season. That's how we view this team coming in here. We need to be ready to go."

On the surface, Oakland is 4-8 with a month to go under a first-year head coach, just like the Packers were a year ago. And delving a little deeper, whereas the Packers' late-season turnaround was founded in beating all three NFC North foes to close the season, the Raiders' have begun theirs by knocking off AFC West rivals Kansas City and Denver the past two weeks.

For the Packers that momentum carried through last December and into training camp and the start to this season. Clearly, the Raiders are hoping for the same thing.

"We'd obviously like to be doing a lot better in the win-loss column, but we've been extremely competitive in games, and we've been in every game this year in the fourth quarter, which is something to build on," said Oakland coach Lane Kiffin, who will be the youngest opposing head coach to bring a team into Lambeau on Sunday at just 32 years, 7 months old. "We feel we've made some progress."

Indeed, coming off a 2-14 season during which they lost nine games by double-digit scoring margins, the Raiders are a much more competitive group under Kiffin. Five of their eight losses this season, including four of their last five defeats, have come by a touchdown or less, and their current two-game winning streak avenged two of those close losses to the Chiefs and Broncos earlier this season.

"This squad seems to be on the upswing right now," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "They're playing better football than they have in the last couple weeks. You look at the film -- and that's how you really judge someone -- you look at the film, and they're playing good football. I think we'll see a good Oakland Raiders team this Sunday."

The Raiders have won the past two weeks with balanced offense, posting 328 yards rushing and 356 yards passing in the two victories. Justin Fargas (55 carries, 285 yards) has handled most of the rushing load, while Daunte Culpepper, Josh McCown and No. 1 overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell, who made his NFL debut last week, have shared the quarterback duties.

Oakland's starter for Sunday was still up in the air at midweek, and it likely will depend on the health of Culpepper, who missed last week's game with a quad injury. Russell could also see another series or two of action, like last week when he completed 4 of his first 7 professional passes.

The defense is highlighted by a tough secondary and pass defense, which has produced 15 interceptions, tied for fifth in the league.

"I think they're a team that's starting to discover what works for them," Kampman said. "It's a new coaching staff and all these things are getting comfortable with one another. So I definitely think they're a good opponent.

"Having said that, you give them credit, you give them respect, but the fact is that we're a pretty good football team too. You don't swing it to the other side of the fence and say, 'Wow, look out.' We also feel like we're a pretty good football team, and if we play the way we need to play, hopefully we'll get back on track."

{sportsad300}That's one of two goals for the Packers this week, and the objectives are intertwined. Should the Packers bounce back from the tough defeat in Dallas that snapped their five-game winning streak, they'll clinch the NFC North title for the first time since 2004.

Earlier this week, McCarthy expressed no doubts about his team's ability to respond positively to the loss, despite the fact that the team didn't play its best game back on Oct. 14 against Washington, one week after the season's first loss, to Chicago.

His players echoed that confidence on Wednesday.

"We've been pretty resilient up to this point," quarterback Brett Favre said. "I think we've handled success pretty good. We haven't had to deal with many adverse situations. This is one of them. That was a tough loss, but the attitude this week has been great."

As much as the focus moving forward has to be one game at a time, the perspective looking back has to be on the big picture.

"We're 10-2," rookie receiver James Jones said. "I mean, 10-2 at this point is a great place to be. Everybody in this locker room has lost before, more than once, so they know we have to bounce back, and we know where we want to get to. A loss shouldn't affect anything."

And the division title is conveniently within reach to make a sound recovery all the more meaningful.

"It's something I think is a rallying point," linebacker Brady Poppinga said. "That's what this game is about is to sew up our division so we can continue to progress toward what our ultimate goal is, which is to get in the championship."

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