Should Raiders panic after loss?

On the FOX NFL Sunday pregame show, I said how great it would be for the Steelers and Raiders to be meeting in the playoffs again. They were such a big rival for me when I played, and the last time they met in the playoffs was 1984, when Howie Long was playing for the Raiders in Los Angeles.

Now, that’s a long time ago, folks.

Well, that matchup looked possible before Sunday’s games. The Steelers took care of the Bengals for the second time this season, but the Raiders got whipped down in Miami.

They really weren’t in the game. Mike Nolan really has been dialing up the right defenses for the Dolphins as they have turned around their season. I don’t believe they have saved Tony Sparano’s job, but they are playing for pride and dominating.

Nobody has stuffed the Raiders’ running game like the Dolphins did. Michael Bush had 18 yards on 10 carries. Yep, I think they need Darren McFadden back as soon as possible.

I have no explanation for how the Raiders and Carson Palmer played. I was thinking Palmer had turned a corner with this offense and had everything under control.

Now, the Raiders have to worry about Tim Tebow. He’s coming after them right now. The Raiders seemed to have the AFC West locked up, but that’s over now. Tebow gets a Bears’ team without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte next Sunday, and that sounds like another win to me.

Tebow is 6-1 now as a starter, and he’s thrown only one interception in the last six games. Yes, even though his receivers seem to be wide open, he’s hitting them in stride. Eric Decker used to be his man, but Sunday Demariyus Thomas caught four long passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders appear to be in serious trouble.

The only thing that could save the Raiders is that Denver still must play New England, and that figures to be a loss. This is assuming the Raiders can find their winning ways.

Yates shows confidence

What Texans rookie quarterback T.J. Yates did Sunday was pretty impressive. If you have to start a game, especially a big game against a team like Atlanta that has had a winning streak, it’s good to start it at home. I thought it was great thing for Yates to hear his teammates say how cool you are and how they believe in you.

And believe it or not, you feed off of that. That lifts you up as a young quarterback.

Because you don’t want to go into a game like that — with so much riding on it, with you having the first opportunity to win a division and make the playoffs — and let those teammates down.

I think all of the praise definitely had an impact on Yates. I thought he played great. The coaches opened it up early for him and made a lot of big throws that set the tone.

I think Yates will be able to build on this game. The big reason is that he has a running game. That’s always a rookie quarterback’s favorite sidekick. Arian Foster and Ben Tate are very good runners. But one of the problems he has now will be the loss of Andre Johnson.

When he fell to the ground with that hamstring, it didn’t look good. That’s going to hurt Yates a lot. It’s going to hurt his passing game. Johnson being out means it will take defenses out of double coverage. So now the Texans will have to focus their offense around their tight end and running backs. That’s not bad, but it’s not ideal for a rookie or any quarterback for that matter.

This was a tough loss for the Falcons. Before the game, I wasn’t convinced they were tough enough to simply blow the Texans off the ball and they didn’t. Wade Phillips has done a great job with that Houston defense and it’s not No. 1 for nothing. They put enough pressure on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to make him uncomfortable and also hurry a lot of his throws.

Get a load of this stat: Ryan was intercepted twice and Yates, the rookie in his first start, not a one.

A lot depends on the health of Johnson for the Texans. It may be asking too much for a rookie quarterback to win a lot of games down the stretch, but this was a great start, and the main thing is, he didn’t mess up. He definitely wasn’t shell-shocked or anything. He played like he belonged out there.

That’s a huge plus going into practice this week. The bottom line to me is that Houston still has that defense and they are this much closer to a playoff berth.

Final thoughts

I really do love the Patriots, but not their defense. They beat the winless Colts by a touchdown, and Dan Orlovsky completes 30 of 37 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns. I can’t explain those numbers because most of you don’t even know who Dan Orlovsky is.

Tyler Palko beat the Bears. What? Palko throws up a Hail Mary at the end of the first half and Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher jumps up and bats the ball back toward the goal line. Bad idea. Dexter McCluster of the Chiefs caught it for a touchdown. Game over. Caleb Hanie was intercepted three times and the Chiefs played their second straight great defensive game.

Baltimore’s Ray Rice is a running back I love. The Ravens haven’t been feeding him a lot this season, but they did in Cleveland. Rice got 29 carries and ran for 204 yards. That’s all Baltimore needed to keep pace with the Texans and Patriots.