Five games into their 1-4 season, the Oakland Raiders are struggling for relevancy in the AFC and staring up at teams in their division. With the equally desperate Jacksonville Jaguars visiting Sunday, Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer put it on the line.
"It's a must-win for us," Palmer told told ContraCostaTimes.com. "It's an AFC game and an opportunity to start climbing our way back into the race."
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Palmer has a gift for delivering up-tempo, motivational quotes from the deck of a sinking ship. But are they dead? The Raiders have been uneven this season, showing signs of life in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and in Sunday's narrow loss to the Atlanta Falcons. They also were outscored 72-19 by the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos.
One reason for Oakland's hot/cold act is the struggling ground game. The Raiders operate an offense that hinges on running the ball on early downs, but they rank 29th on the ground.
That has left Palmer -- not a sensational fit for this scheme -- in a bad spot on too many drives. Oakland is 30th in the NFL converting third downs, and that makes life tough, even against a team like Jacksonville.