NFL: Raiders-Lions preview

The Examiner breaks down the Raiders-Lions game.

THREE KEYS TO A VICTORY

1. And so Daunte Culpepper’s Redemption Tour can begin. At least we think so. While the Raiders are holding the name of their starting quarterback a secret much like the code for a nuclear launch, Culpepper performed better during the preseason. The only way Josh McCown goes is if first-year coach Lane Kiffin wants his QB to have a shot at his old team right away. McCown was acquired by the Raiders in a draft-day tradewith the Lions. McCown may be a better game manager (meaning he won’t fumble away the snap), but Culpepper gives the Raiders a game-changing quarterback — a rare commodity.

2. QB is just one part of the offense the Raiders hope improves. Of course, it can’t get much worse than last year, when the offense generated an NFL-low 12 touchdowns (the defense scored four times). A revamped offensive line is the key to better production — the unit allowed 72 sacks, easily the worst in the league.

3.The unsung hero of last year’s misery was the Raiders’ defense, led by middle linebacker Kirk Morrison. It finished No. 3 overall and No. 1 against the pass, which should come in handy since the Lions and offensive coordinator Mike Martz love to throw it.

KEY MATCHUPS

BOSS BAILEY vs. LAMONT JORDAN

Bailey: Speedy strongside linebacker is out to improve a defense that ranked near the bottom last season.

Jordan: Running back has a lot to prove and a short time to do it — a replacement is waiting if he struggles early.

GEORGE FOSTER vs. DERRICK BURGESS

Foster: Acquired via trade, former Denver tackle makes his Lions debut and is very familiar with his foe this week.

Burgess: Pro Bowl defensive end begins his quest for a third consecutive season of double-digit sacks.

FERNANDO BRYANT vs. JERRY PORTER

Bryant: Cornerback steps into spotlight after Lions traded away Dre Bly. He figures to need plenty of help.

Porter: After a tumultuous 2006, receiver will finally be unleashed — and he will be the featured wideout.

COACHES' CORNER

The youngest coach in the NFL at age 32, Lane Kiffin faces a tough task rebuilding the Raiders. But the offensive whiz kid has been given the reins to revamp a team that just five years ago was in the Super Bowl.

Rod Marinelli has had a year to mold the Lions into his vision. The defensive guru still has work to do with that unit, but Marinelli is looking to his Jon Kitna-led offense to produce a ton of points.

THE EXAMINER PREDICTS …

Unlike Art Shell’s debut of a year ago (on national TV vs. San Diego), Lane Kiffin coaches his first game for the Raiders with an easier opponent. While several Lions are predicting 10-win seasons, they are going to have to come elsewhere. RAIDERS 20, LIONS 17

LIONS at RAIDERS

Sunday, 1:15 p.m.

TV: KTVU (Ch. 2)

Radio: KSFO (560 AM)

NFLOakland Raiders & NFLsports

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