The Oakland Raiders enter Sunday’s home-opener as a 4.5 points favorite.
Here are three ways Oakland can answer this expectations with a home victory and their first 2-0 start since 2002.
Handle their business at the line of scrimmage
The Oakland Raiders managed the No. 2 overall offense in week one. Despite the points and yards, the Raiders were not flawless with the ball.
However, they always seemed in control because of their guys up front. The offensive line generated push and seems in the running game.
In the passing game, they did not allow a sack and helped quarterback Derek Carr control the game.
This week, Oakland must keep dominating the line of scrimmage. They will most likely be without two tackles starter Menelik Watson and backup Matt McCants. Hopefully, Austin Howard can return to form as he was the starter last year. He lost the role to Watson in a close race this offseason. The Silver and Black will lean on Howard to maintain balance when running to either side. They will also need him to maintain the momentum this group built last week.
Secondary must rebound
Against the Saints, everyone remembers Sean Smith getting dusted on a Brandin Cooks touchdown. Even before that play, Smith struggled with the acceleration and crafty route running of the New Orleans receivers.
Smith was not the only one, as D.J. Hayden and T.J. Carrie also left much to be desired during their snaps.
I mean Keith McGill was the highest grades defender according to PFF.
Really, our best defender was a safety who played corner a few months ago? Even after we invested all that money into the secondary via free agency and the draft.
This week, the entire group must rebound as they face the prototypical size and speed of Julio Jones and Marvin Jones – Jones to a lesser degree. Smith as well as David Amerson bring the size and ball skills to rival those two players. It should make for a fun matchup.
Improved middle of the defense
This next key ties into both of the last two. The same way Oakland needs to control the line on offense, the defense needs to do the same with stout tackle play.
The Saints stopped running the ball because their strength is passing. However, they exposed some deficiencies in our linebacker’s abilities to tackle and shed blocks. Some of that lands on the shoulders of the linemen upfront.
Further, the defensive line did not do the secondary a lot of favors. Outside of Bruce Irvin, the Raiders could not sack Brees. Granted, Brees is not easy to sack as he gets the ball out fast. Nonetheless, effective tackle play can help push the quarterback into the lanes of edge rushers. It can also mess up passing lanes. Irvin called out the guys in the middle in practice this week:
For the upcoming game, Oakland will need their interior defensive line to step up. The Falcons will try running the rock hard with Devonte Freeman and Telvin Coleman. Defensive tackles can make it easier for Ben Heeney and Malcolm Smith to make plays on them.
Plus, the Raiders will need to make Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan uncomfortable. This could lead to turnovers and sacks. Either way, it starts with improved play from the defensive tackles.
Oakland plays Atlanta at 1:25 P.M. PST on Sept. 18.