Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 12:
Raiders need to get running again: It is clear the Raiders’ best chance of winning is on the ground. Oakland, which is ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards per game behind Kansas City, was stuffed on the ground in a 32-point loss at Pittsburgh. Darren McFadden, who was leading the NFL in per game yardage average, had just 14 yards on 10 carries. Oakland and McFadden have to find a way to get the ground attack going against visiting Miami. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Oakland is second in the NFL with 14 runs of 20-plus yards. McFadden has eight runs of 20-plus yards himself. A key for the Raiders is re-establishing the inside running game. It led the NFL with a 5.5 per carry average on inside runs. However, in Pittsburgh, the Raiders averaged just 2.0 yards per carry on inside runs. It seemed to stifle the entire offense.
What could have been: Steve Spagnuolo will see a very changed Denver Broncos team Sunday when he visits for the first time since he interviewed for the head-coaching job in January 2009 after Mike Shanahan was fired. Spagnuolo was a runner-up for the Denver job, along with Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris and Minnesota interim coach Leslie Frazier. The job went to then-New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Spagnuolo, who was the Giants’ defensive coordinator and was credited with stopping McDaniels' offense in the Giants' stunning Super Bowl win in 2008, soon became the head man in St. Louis. The attraction of a defensive coach like Spagnuolo in Denver was that he might improve the Broncos’ weak spot and keep the same offense that was atop of the NFL under Shanahan. Instead, Denver went with a young offensive mind in McDaniels. In his second season, McDaniels has altered the team both offensively and defensively. McDaniels is 5-15 after starting 6-0 last season. There’s no guarantee that Spagnuolo would have fared better in Denver than McDaniels has, but I’m sure the roster would be extremely different than it is now starting with quarterback Jay Cutler, who was shipped to Chicago after feuding with McDaniels.
The Brothers Turner: I don’t like our chances of seeing San Diego coach Nov Turner dressing up like his brother, Ron, and making fun of him in anticipation of the Turner family reunion Sunday in Indianapolis, as the Jets’ Rex Ryan did before playing Cleveland and his brother, Rob, earlier this month. But I’m sure the game means as much to the Turner brothers as it did to the more high-profile Ryans. Ron Turner is in his first season as Indianapolis’ receivers coach. He was previously the Bears’ offensive coordinator.
Todd Haley is Mr. Challenge: When Todd Haley throws the red flag, he must know something. Heading into Sunday’s road game at Seattle, Haley is a perfect 3-for-3 on official challenges this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He is the only coach in the NFL who is perfect this season. So, if you see Haley yank out the challenge flag out Sunday, Chiefs fans, you’ll have to like his chances.
AFC West reunion in Oakland: When they host Miami on Sunday, the Raiders will see two familiar faces -- quarterback Tyler Thigpen and receiver Brandon Marshall. Thigpen will start if Chad Henne can’t play. Marshall is dealing with a hamstring injury and it now looks like Marshall may not play. Still, Oakland will be ready for both players. Thigpen started two games against Oakland for the Chiefs in 2008., going 1-1. His win over Oakland was Thigpen's only win as an NFL starter. Thigpen was 29-for-55 for 313 yards against Oakland in the two games. He threw one touchdown, and he was intercepted twice. Marshall, who started playing extensively in his second season, played five games against Oakland from 2007-09 while he was with Denver. He had 27 catches for 373 yards and two touchdowns in the five games.