OAKLAND -- Interim head coach Joe Vitt has taken statistics to the extreme to prove why his New Orleans Saints will have their hands full Sunday against the Raiders at O.co Coliseum.
The fact that the Raiders gave up 55 points to the Baltimore Ravens actually makes them more dangerous, and Vitt has the numbers to back that up.
"Since 2005, when someone allows 50 or more to be scored on them, and they come back home the next week and play, that team is 5-1," Vitt said by conference call with Bay Area media.
According to Vitt's calculations, those teams scored an average of 26 points gave up 20, rushed for 146 yards and gave up fewer than 300 yards of total offense to their opponent.
"Joe's got a stat for everything," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "I hope he's right."
The Saints, 4-5 after an 0-4 start, are coming off a 31-27 win over previously unbeaten Atlanta and are on the verge of re-entering the NFC playoff picture amid the "Bountygate" scandal that cost them head coach Sean Payton for the season and Vitt for the first seven weeks under suspension.
Based on Vitt's statistical model, it's difficult to envision the Raiders rushing the ball for 146 yards with Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson out of action, or holding Drew Brees and the NFL's most explosive passing team to less than 300 yards of total offense.
The Raiders (3-6) will again have Marcel Reece as their lead running back backed up by Jeremy Stewart, promoted from the practice squad last week. Chances are they'll depend on quarterback Carson Palmer keeping pace with Brees, as both teams have struggled mightily on defense.
In their past two games against the Bucs (42-32) and Ravens (55-20), the Raiders have given up 97 points, 934 yards and 45 first downs.
Brees is 6-0 against the Raiders without having thrown an interception, and leads the NFL with 2,847 yards and 25 touchdown passes, leading to a candid assessment from defensive tackle Tommy Kelly.
"Man, if Baltimore can put up 55, you don't even want to see what New Orleans can do," Kelly said.
With strong safety Tyvon Branch a game-time decision and defensive tackle Richard Seymour out with a hamstring strain, matchup problems are everywhere, and Brees is in the class of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers at exploiting mismatches.
Tight end Jimmy Graham, 6-foot-7, 265 pounds, is coming off a Pro Bowl season and has 45 receptions for 533 yards and seven touchdowns. A former basketball player at Miami, Graham was a teammate of Raiders reserve tight end Richard Gordon.
"We would always ask him to play football," Gordon said. "He wouldn't ever come out. Once he did, he was really good."
Gordon has seen Graham evolve from athlete to football player.
"He used to not want to get hit, but he'll hit you now," Gordon said. "He changed a lot. He's blocking and everything now."
Raiders players cited communication issues in the secondary after the Baltimore game. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said it was more a case of "sometimes there's a guy out of whack and the ball doesn't find him. Last week, the ball found him."
Tarver pointed to the three games prior to the Tampa Bay-Baltimore losses as evidence on film that says the Raiders can play solid defense when everyone does their job.
"You have to remind them, 'Here's how we are. You've done this. You do this. This is what you are. This is what we do,' " Tarver said. "Now put it on tape consistently."
On offense, Palmer understands keeping up with Brees will be paramount, but at the same time doesn't want the pressure to score to take him out of his game.
"I don't let myself go into a game thinking, 'We have to score on this drive,' " Palmer said. "You get yourself in trouble and your team in trouble doing that. But I understand what we're up against. I understand that we have to keep up with these guys."