Originally created 09/12/98

Raiders need protection from Giants



A team can't play much worse than the Oakland Raiders did in the first quarter of their NFL opener. Not that things improved much in the next three periods at Kansas City, either.

After allowing 10 sacks and losing 28-8 to the Chiefs, the Raiders came home, licking their wounds and hoping for a turnaround. Unfortunately for them, the defense they face Sunday is no less intimidating.

The New York Giants had eight sacks against Washington in winning their opening game. They just can't wait to get a shot or two -- or eight or 10 -- at Jeff George, and the Raiders know it.

"We hope not to get into a desperate situation where every down is an obvious passing situation and we are suspect to every blitz under the sun," said new Oakland coach Jon Gruden, making his home debut. "If we can keep the game where we want it to be in the fourth quarter, maintain some balance and not get into those predictable situations, that will help us more than anything."

What won't help is a repeat of the myriad mistakes Oakland committed in Kansas City, including five lost fumbles and 15 penalties for 134 yards. The Giants had a plus-25 turnover differential last season and had three takeaways last week in beating Washington.

"The way the defense is playing -- they keep making plays and giving us field position," quarterback Danny Kanell said. "It makes my job a whole lot easier."

The Giants could be without one of their prime defenders. All-Pro linebacker Jessie Armstead has a sprained right ankle.

"I am going to give everything I have to go out there and play," Armstead said. "I want to play. I look forward to playing. I don't want to stand on the sidelines. I haven't missed a game since '90."

Last season's top defensive player, Dana Stubblefield, gets to face the team he earned that honor with as San Francisco visits Washington Monday night. Stubblefield left the 49ers as a free agent to sign with the Redskins.

"When San Francisco's defense is on the field, I'll feel like I should be out there," he said. "Because a lot of those guys, they've been there with me through thick and thin."

Stubblefield's absence was felt by the Niners, who allowed 415 yards passing to the New York Jets, but still won their opener 36-30. They generated little pass rush against New York and know how disastrous that can be against first-line passers.

But Washington is starting a third-stringer, Trent Green, who was 17-for-25 in relief of injured Gus Frerotte and completed nine straight passes at one point against the Giants.

"He doesn't have as much experience," receiver Leslie Shepherd said. "But he's going to run around and make some stuff happen if the line breaks down."

Elsewhere Sunday, it's Baltimore at the Jets, Carolina at New Orleans, Chicago at Pittsburgh, Cincinnati at Detroit, Kansas City at Jacksonville, Minnesota at St. Louis, Philadelphia at Atlanta, Tampa Bay at Green Bay, Arizona at Seattle, Dallas at Denver, and Indianapolis at New England.

The Oilers make their regular-season debut in Nashville where they face San Diego at Vanderbilt Stadium. They're not complaining about yet another temporary home, because at least they don't have to commute to Memphis for home games, as they did last year.

And by next year, their 67,000-seat stadium near downtown Nashville will be ready.

"This is a Nashville team now," quarterback Steve McNair said. "We're looking forward to the fan support and the support they are going to give us throughout the year.

"It's amazing to me all the things we've been through the last three, four years that we're finally here and finally get that momentum at home -- the field advantage has shifted to our favor."