Sunday Spotlight: Oakland's Secondary

The Raiders are a disaster on wheels and have been for a good long time, but one sub-squad has been showing up every week on a no-matter-what basis -- and it's proof positive that no matter how many mechanical parts they put in the man up in that Evil Laboratory on the Hill, Al Davis knows how to scout him some defensive backs. There's cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha(notes), the best at his position not named Darrelle Revis(notes). There's cornerback Chris Johnson, who replaced DeAngelo Hall(notes) halfway through the 2008 season and filled the canyon left by Mr. Hall's craptacular play. Johnson had to compete for his job in the offseason, but his competition was Stanford Routt(notes) -- not much to worry about there. The formerly disappointing safety Michael Huff(notes) shares the NFL lead in picks with three, and Tyvon Branch(notes) shows promise after impressing in training camp.

They'll face a major challenge in the Houston Texans today. Houston's improved offense (Now with actual touchdowns, not just yards!) spreads the ball all over the field, and Matt Schaub(notes) is sixth in Passing DYAR, fourth in quarterback rating, eighth in passing yards (823), and tied for second in passing touchdowns with Peyton Manning(notes) with seven. Andre Johnson(notes) is just as scary and underrated a receiving target as ever, and tight end Owen Daniels(notes) is a consistent threat in fantasy and reality football. It would help Schaub even more if the Texans could find a consistent running game -- Steve Slaton(notes) appears to be in the middle of a sophomore slump -- but Schaub appears to have no trouble taking the additional responsibility on his shoulders. We'll be back tonight to see who won this aerial battle.