Oakland, CA - Coach John Fox can only hope his Carolina Panthers play as well in their final eight games of the season as they did through the first eight.
The Panthers look to start the second half the same way they ended the first, aiming for a third straight victory Sunday in a road matchup against the lowly Oakland Raiders.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made the Panthers –9.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 89% of bets for this game have been placed on the Panthers –9.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Carolina (6-2) headed into last week's bye after posting consecutive home victories, most recently rallying from a two-touchdown deficit for a 27-23 win over Arizona on Oct. 26.
The NFC South-leading Panthers return from their week off with the second-best record in the conference behind the New York Giants, who are 7-1.
"I liken it to being on the road to a final destination. We are on the path, we haven't gotten lost," said Fox, whose team went 7-9 last season to miss the playoffs a second straight year. "We've definitely not gotten there yet, but at the halfway point we are on schedule."
Fox's team has held opponents to 15.9 points per game, but opens the second half following one of its worst defensive performances. The Panthers have allowed an average of 305.6 yards per game, but gave up a season-high 425 to Arizona. They also allowed 375 passing yards - their most since surrendering 396 versus the Cardinals on Oct. 9, 2005.
But Carolina overcame those inefficiencies behind quarterback Jake Delhomme, who went 20-for-28 for 248 yards and two touchdowns - including the go-ahead 65-yard pass to Steve Smith with 2 seconds left in the third quarter.
"Guys are excited. Guys feel good, and we should be," said Delhomme, who has a 122.3 passer rating over his last two games. "But there are still a lot more things that we think we can get done."
Delhomme, though, has struggled in his last two road games, leading to both of Carolina's losses. He did not have a touchdown pass while committing five turnovers in those defeats, and Carolina was held to a combined 87 yards rushing as it was outscored 47-13 at Minnesota and Tampa Bay.
Visiting an Oakland team in turmoil presents the Panthers with a good chance to avoid a third straight road loss. Following this game and next week's matchup with winless Detroit, however, Carolina plays four of its final six games on the road and none of those opponents have a losing record.
"We've been in the low spots; we've been in the high spots," Fox told the Panthers' official Web site. "It's all hard - whether you're the team or it's the team you're playing. The best you can do is just prepare and be ready to execute the best you can on game day."
The Raiders (2-6) have not been executing well, getting outscored 100-29 in four games since Al Davis fired coach Lane Kiffin in favor of offensive line coach Tom Cable.
In another personnel shakeup, the Raiders cut ties with former Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall on Wednesday, waiving him less than eight months he was acquired from Atlanta and given a $70 million contract.
Hall was beaten 40 times for 552 yards on 66 passes thrown his way, part of an Oakland defense which allows 373.9 yards per game to rank 28th in the NFL.
The offense has been no better, with a league-low 13.4 points per contest and an average of 282.6 yards.
Oakland gave up a season-worst 453 yards, and managed just 77 of their own - its fewest in 37 years - in a 24-0 loss to visiting Atlanta on Sunday.
Quarterback JaMarcus Russell went 6-for-19 for 31 yards with an interception and was sacked four times - the worst start of his young career.
"You just keep grinding and pushing forward," Cable said. "We don't like the steps back by our football team. JaMarcus is just part of our football team. In the big picture, as a team, we took a step back. So, we have to address that."
Oakland is 2-1 all-time versus Carolina, winning 27-24 on the road on Nov. 7, 2004 in the teams' most recent matchup.
Top Betting Trends
All games in this series since 1992
OAKLAND is 2-1 against the spread versus CAROLINA since 1992
OAKLAND is 2-1 straight up against CAROLINA since 1992
3 of 3 times in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.
All games played at OAKLAND since 1992
OAKLAND is 1-0 against the spread versus CAROLINA since 1992
OAKLAND is 1-0 straight up against CAROLINA since 1992
1 of 1 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Key Player Injuries
[DL] Darwin Walker missed last game, "?" - Neck - 10/26/08
[WR] D.J. Hackett missed last game, "?" - Knee - 10/26/08
[WR] Ryne Robinson IR - Knee - 10/08/08
[C] Ryan Kalil missed last game, "?" - Ankle - 10/26/08
[LB] Dan Connor IR - Knee - 09/22/08
[OT] Jeff Otah missed last game, "?" - Ankle - 10/26/08
[LB] Adam Seward missed last game, "?" - Thigh - 10/26/08
[DE] Derrick Burgess is downgraded to expected to miss - Tricep - 10/29/08
[FB] Justin Griffith IR - Knee - 10/27/08
[OL] Paul McQuistan IR - Knee - 09/10/08
[T] Seth Wand IR - Knee - 09/26/08
[LB] Jon Alston missed last game, "?" - Foot - 10/26/08
[RB] Oren O'Neal IR - Knee - 08/24/08
[RB] Darren McFadden missed last game, "?" - Toe - 10/26/08
[TE] Ben Troupe IR - Foot - 10/22/08
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Posted: 11/05/08 9:18 PM ET