Both the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders made coaching changes, but only the Silver and Black produced a genuine blast from the past. Can either of these teams who aren't all that far away, take the steps that are needed to make their way back to the playoffs? That is the question as they get together on Thursday night. 

Matt Patricia, who had been the New England Patriots' defensive coordinator for the last six seasons, was hired by the Lions, as management was not altogether confident going forward any longer with Jim Caldwell. Of course, the defense in the Motor City needs work, but one of Patricia's principal orders of business will be to re-establish the running game, which had disappeared. 


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The biggest news in the Bay Area was the return of Jon Gruden to coach the Raiders, who are planning the 2020 move to Las Vegas. Gruden has stayed close to the game as a commentator for ESPN, but there is little doubt that he will be experiencing a few speed bumps as he brings himself back into a business that has changed since he last prowled the sidelines for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The rumor was that Gruden was set to come back to the Bucs, but Oakland owner Mark Davis (son of Al) came with a lucrative ten-year offer. 

So Gruden is at it again, and in front of Raider Nation in the pre-season opener at the Coliseum. 

TV: 10:30 PM ET, NFL Network. LINE: Raiders -3.  O/U: 36

ABOUT THE LIONS: Detroit (9-7 straight-up, 8-7-1 against the spread last year) proved it was serious about the ground attack in the off-season by signing LeGarrette Blount, a guy with plenty of playoff experience, as a free agent and drafting Auburn's Kerryon Johnson in the second round. They are also doing a great deal of re-tooling along the offensive line, with rookie first-round pick Frank Ragnow the likely starter at left guard. The idea with all of this is that they can take the pressure off quarterback Matthew Stafford if they can run the ball with some authority. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who was kept on the staff by Patricia and has a great rapport with Stafford, talked a lot about the run game a year ago, so now we'll see if this finally happens. Darius Slay is the firmly entrenched starter at one corner position, but Patricia feels as if he will let individual situations dictate who is used at the other corner spot at any given time. And as a result, the team may wind up keeping more defensive backs than usual. Ezekiel Ansah. the team's best pass rusher, who had knee surgery in the off-season, started camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list but has now been activated and will travel with the team to Oakland. The Lions are currently priced at +500 to win the NFC North and +3500 to capture the Super Bowl title. 



ABOUT THE RAIDERS: Oakland made the playoffs two years ago but limped into the post-season when Derek Carr got hurt, and they went quietly against Houston. Last season they were 6-10 straight-up and 4-9-3 ATS. Carr is a priority for Gruden, a former college quarterback who has his own particular motivational methods. You're going to see some new receivers this season; Martavis Bryant (who calls Gruden a "mastermind")  has moved over from the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Jordy Nelson, who had thrived for years in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers, will essentially fill the void left by Michael Crabtree's departure. If you were following that story, you know that Rodgers was not at all happy to see Nelson go. So Amari Cooper may have better people to compliment him in this West Coast-style attack. Giorgio Tavecchio, who made 76% of his field goal attempts last season, was cut, and rookie Eddy Pineiro, who was not drafted, is considered the favorite to win the job. Marshawn Lynch has caught the favor of Gruden very early. “I love him. I love being around him,” the head coach says about the veteran back who came out of retirement last season and ran for 3.7 yards per carry. Connor Cook, who started the Raiders' playoff game a couple of years ago, and former Buffalo first-rounder EJ Manuel are the other quarterbacks listed on the depth chart. Oakland is priced at +250 to win the AFC West title, and +2800 to win Super Bowl 53. 

EXTRA POINTS 

1. When Jon Gruden was previously a head coach, he was a 65% (30-16) straight-up proposition in the pre-season. 

2. Matt Cassel, who has 81 career starts under his belt and has been with seven different teams, is one of the quarterbacks who will see action for Detroit. His relationship with Patricia goes back to their days with the New England Patriots (2005-08). 

3. The Raiders have allowed fewer sacks over the last two seasons than any other team in the NFL (42). Over that period, the Lions have yielded twice as many (84). 

PREDICTION: Raiders 21, Lions 14