Raiders Won't Be Overlooked

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Presently the Green Bay Packers are tied with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks for potential playoff spots.

But by the time the Packers kick things off against the Oakland Raiders at Network Associates Coliseum, things will have changed.

Saturday, the Vikings will host the Kansas City Chiefs, and Sunday the Seahawks welcome to Seattle the Arizona Cardinals.

So, by Monday night the Packers will be looking to move ahead in the race to the post-season or hoping to just keep pace. Not that their goal changes either way.

"I really don't think it matters one way or the other," offensive tackle Mark Tauscher said of the Minnesota and Seattle outcomes, "because if we lose we're screwed and if we win, we're right were we want to be."

On paper, the 4-10 Raiders seem like the ideal opponent to be facing in a must-win scenario such as this. But there's another way of looking at it, too.

While the Packers have a lot to play for in terms of their playoff goals, they also have a lot more to lose than a Raiders team that has been out of post-season contention for weeks.

That combination is enough to give the Packers pause, especially coming off a weekend in which they fell behind the 3-11 San Diego Chargers despite mounting a 14-point lead, while the Raiders were busy upsetting the 8-6 Baltimore Ravens, 20-12.

"With the Raiders you don't know what you're getting," center Mike Flanagan said. "You watch film on them where sometimes they look like the team that went to the Super Bowl last year, and you watch the next week and they look like the team that didn't go to the Super Bowl last year.

"So you've got to prepare for that best team because you don't know what you're going to get. If you get a couple guys (thinking), 'Oh, they're not that good,' I think that's what happened with Baltimore last week. They went out there and got their butts kicked because they weren't ready for them. That's something we have to make sure we don't do."

Since Mike Sherman became head coach in 2000, the Packers are 14-2 in the month of December.

One can assume that being in the playoff hunt each of the past four seasons -- although the Packers ultimately fell short in 2000 -- has had something to do with that late-season success.

But if the Raiders have nothing to lose Monday, that doesn't mean they're without something to gain.

Packers fullback Nick Luchey spent the first four seasons of his career on a Cincinnati Bengals team that went 16-48 from 1999-2002.

But, perhaps surprisingly, seven of those 16 wins (43 percent) came after the month of November.

"It's going to be huge for them," Luchey said of the Raiders' approach to Monday's game. "Those guys want jobs next year. They're going to come hungry and ready to play.

"What more can you ask for in a disappointing season? You get the Packers at home and try to blow them out (on national TV). So they're going to come hard with it."

The Packers hardly need to look back on the Bengals' history to take playing a losing team seriously.

Already this season the Packers have disappointing road losses to a pair of last-place teams in the NFC West's Cardinals (3-11) and the North's Detroit Lions (4-10).

Looking to put together a three-game winning streak for the first time all season, the Packers feel they have something to prove as well Monday night. But they won't be the only team looking to make a statement.

"Everybody knows in this locker room and (the Oakland) locker room that the whole country is watching," Flanagan said. "Regardless of records it's the only thing on TV ... and it's the last chance for both of us on a national stage to show what we can do."

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