The Oakland Raiders welcome division rival Kansas City Chiefs this week. The top three match-ups for the Raiders may be different than you expect.
This week is the most pivotal game of the Raiders’ season to date. The Kansas City Chiefs will visit Oakland Coliseum for the third divisional match-up for this year. They’ve already lost their first two meetings against the LA Chargers and the Denver Broncos. After dropping four games in a row, there is a lot to prove for this young team, and even more to prove for the young rookie offensive coordinator to silence doubters that are screaming from the rooftops of Twitter, Facebook, and any other medium they can get their hands on.
The main thing that the masses are screaming for is scheme. Scheme, scheme, scheme. It’s been lacking this year, to say the least. Todd Downing has been criticized not only by a faceless online mob, but by people the caliber of Amy Trask and even head coach Jack Del Rio. These are not the people you want to disappoint. Especially being a rookie.
Thursday night provides Downing an important opportunity to make adjustments by identifying and addressing the most beneficial match-ups on the offensive side of the ball. In order to have any hope to win this game, here are a few key players that need to be integrated against their defensive counterparts as much as possible and as early in the game as they can.
Amari Cooper vs Marcus Peters
Criticism has been rampant for Amari Cooper this year because he leads the league in dropped passes, a habit he seemingly broke in year two but has reared its ugly head again this season. Even so, Cooper has an uncanny ability to run all over Marcus Peters in one on one coverage. Take a look at last year’s games and you’ll see how accurate that is.
If Downing deploys Cooper on go-routes and some bubble screens, mixing it up with play-action, he can make a comeback. Cooper is faster than Peters and has the ability to regain his confidence, if he can just catch one ball. Just one. That might be all it takes for him to hear the chant: Coooooooooooooooop.
Gabe Jackson vs. Justin Houston
Say what you will, but Gabe Jackson is one of the most elite guards in pro football. He was one of only four guards to not give up a sack last year and he’s in good company. He’s been injured and has been a victim of the poor zone blocking scheme that the offense has been deploying, so his numbers this year are weak, just like everyone else’s it seems. But up against a nasty pass rusher like Justin Houston, Jackson can win that battle. Power blocking is the key here, and if the Raiders go back to their 2016 form, Jackson and company can take over the trench.
Derek Carr vs. KC Secondary
Derek Carr is an elite passer. Say that again: Derek Carr is an elite passer. Unfortunately, he’s also been a casualty of the “Downing Way”, which is proving to be a death sentence for the deep pass and the run game. Take the leash off of the White Mamba and he can shred the Chiefs’ secondary. They have Marcus Peters and a smattering of other players back there, none of which are at a level to match or exceed the arm strength and accuracy that Derek Carr possesses. Confidence and play-calling will be crucial for Derek, and if he takes over on the field, the battle may be an easy win for him.
What it takes – Just be better
Oakland has all of the talent and know-how to be the top of this division. The fact that they’ve been stymied to the extent that they look like a shell of their former selves is a process they can ill-afford to maintain. Todd Downing has been so criticized these last few weeks, hopefully, he’ll take this constructively and make the necessary adjustments. It’s ok to admit that you’re wrong when it will benefit the team as a whole. Pride is never too big to swallow.