The Raiders are hopeful an extra week of practice plus the acquisition of one of Palmer’s former teammates can help the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback get more comfortable with the offense.
The Broncos can only hope Tebow learns from his many mistakes.
After a much-needed bye, Palmer is expected to make his first start of the season Sunday for a Raiders team looking to win its fifth in a row over Denver.
Palmer had a bit of an excuse for a sloppy performance in a 28-0 home loss to Kansas City on Oct. 23. He was acquired five days before the game and only participated in three practices before being inserted for an ineffective Kyle Boller(notes).
“I put him in a very tough situation,” coach Hue Jackson said.
The unfamiliarity showed. Palmer matched Boller’s three interceptions with three of his own, finishing 8 of 21 for 116 yards.
“This bye week may be the most valuable to me of anybody in the league,” Palmer said.
Houshmandzadeh and Palmer were teammates in Cincinnati for six seasons. The signing also reunites Houshmandzadeh, who had been out of the league since playing with Baltimore last season, with Jackson, who was the receivers coach in Cincinnati from 2004-06.
Michael Bush(notes) rushed for 99 yards in that game and now will start in McFadden’s place. One of Bush’s best games was a 133-yard performance in a 2009 win at Denver, but the Broncos (2-5) should be happy McFadden won’t take the field.
McFadden led the NFL with 610 rushing yards through Week 6 and ran for 150 in a season-opening 23-20 win at Denver. He has amassed 508 yards with three touchdowns while averaging 7.3 yards per carry during the Raiders’ four-game winning streak in the series.
While Oakland feels Palmer can help lead the team to its first playoff berth since 2002, the Broncos are not yet convinced Tebow is their franchise quarterback.
After rallying Denver to an overtime win in Miami in Week 7, Tebow struggled mightily in last Sunday’s 45-10 loss to Detroit. Tebow completed 18 of 39 passes for 172 yards and an interception, fumbled once and was sacked seven times.
His lone touchdown pass came in the fourth quarter with the Broncos down by 42.
Following the loss, John Fox wouldn’t confirm if Tebow would get another start. A day later, the coach said he would give the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner another shot, but is not committing to him beyond this game.
“I think at the end of the day, we’ve got to see if he can improve and get better in the passing game,” Fox said.
So far, Tebow has been brutal when dropping back.
In two starts, he has thrown for 333 yards, completed 47.0 percent of his passes and has been sacked 13 times.
“I think they have confidence in me, but more than anything, I’ve got to have confidence in myself and my teammates around me and at the end of the day that’s what matters,” Tebow said.
Tebow was greatly frustrated by a Lions defense that crowded the line of scrimmage and blitzed frequently, forcing the inexperienced quarterback to beat them with his arm.
The Raiders could use a similar strategy against Tebow, who is completing 23.5 percent of his passes when being blitzed.
Oakland has been one of the most blitz-heavy teams in the league since Week 5, averaging 24.0 per game. The extra pressure has paid off, as its opponents are completing an NFL-low 35.7 percent of their passes against the blitz since Oct. 9.
“It’s just something I truly believe in,” Jackson said. “I think you have to get after people. If I’m going to go down, I want to go down bombing everything. That’s just the way I feel about it. I don’t want to be sitting back watching and having people go get us.”
Like the Raiders, the Broncos could also be without their top running back.
Willis McGahee(notes), who has rushed for 460 yards, sat out last week’s game after injuring his right hand against the Dolphins. Knowshon Moreno(notes), who has been slowed by a hamstring injury, got his first start since rushing for 22 yards on eight carries against the Raiders. He finished with 69 yards on 14 attempts.
McGahee practiced Thursday for the second straight day and was able to carry the ball in either hand.