When the two teams take the field Monday night, the game is a series of matchups between individual players and groups of players. Me against him, us against them. There are some matchups that can be important and can lead into problems or opportunities.
1. At the LT position, Denver is starting a rookie.
Ryan Clady came from a very successful program at Boise State. Boise is in a weaker conference, and he has not had much experience against some of the best in college football, week in and week out. How will his first NFL game be?
Can he play well off the "smurf turf?" Can we exploit that with a fast rush with Burgess and maybe Kalimba Edwards? Hit Cutler a few times and see what happens there. Get two picks like last time?
2. Raiders' O-line against Denver's D-line.
Can we get the running game going? Last year, we were very successful. We ran for 175 yards and literally ran Sam Adams out of the league. Can we grind them down over the course of four quarters?
We better not get any false-start penalties at home. The running game will make the strong safety bite on play action, and Zack Miller can have a big game.
3. Special teams can be huge in any game.
Especially if mistakes are made. Fumbles change field position. Can we force one? Please, no fumbles by us. With both of our kickers having been hurt, my biggest concern there is the timing on the FG kicks. Can JLH break one? Long snappers can and will win or lose a game. They no longer have Jason Elam kicking.
4. Raiders D-line against their O-line.
We all know how their offense works. Can we continue to stop it? Hopefully Rickey Brown at SAM can fill out the partnership in the Law Firm. They need to stay in their discipline and make tackles. We have greatly improved the tackling in the secondary, so hopefully that will prevent those big explosions.
5. J-Russell against Denver's DBs.
Their corners are top shelf and can clamp on receivers. McCree is fast enough to pick off a deep pass if the QB does not look him off. J-Russ needs to be able to read their defenses and make good audibles.
Walker and newly acquired Ashley Lelie know this team, and that can he a huge asset. Mainly, J-Russ needs to make good decisions.
6. Our young, skill-positions players against Denver's defense.
Besides J-Russ making good decisions, D-Mac needs to be sure to play well. Minimize mistakes. No turnovers. J-Russ needs to keep his composure if things start to go bad.
7. Our DBs against Cutler.
He is a young QB that has had his ups and downs. We need to keep him down. We got two picks in both of the games last season. Three of the four were by linebackers dropping back into coverage, so we had him confused last year.
Brandon Marshall is suspended, so their WR corps is thin. They are starting Eddie Royal, a rookie WR. Will he make a mistake?
I am so ready for next week's game. Let's all go out there and enjoy a Raiders win.