Five matchups to watch in Bills-Raiders Week 13 showdown
Don't look past the Bills
The Raiders have a huge game against the division rival Kansas City Chiefs next Thursday night. It will have last implications on the AFC West race, one of the biggest games of the year. That’s in a few days, but the Raiders are not gazing into the distance.
The Buffalo Bills are coming to town on Sunday afternoon, and there’s a healthy respect for head coach Rex Ryan’s creative schemes and extreme physicality on both sides of his lines. The Raiders can’t get comfortable even at 9-2, not with the Chiefs a game back and Denver hot on their trail. Beating Buffalo is essential in their eyes, and several matchups will be key deciding this outcome.
5. Takeaways vs. Giveaways
The Raiders rarely lose possession. Same can be said for the Bills. Buffalo has committed an NFL low six turnovers, and the Raiders are third with nine. Both teams have excellent turnover ratios, making takeaways invaluable in this game.
Raiders safety Reggie Nelson has a nose for the football and Bruce Irvin is excellent forcing fumbles. They’ll need to snag a turnover or two, while the Raiders must make sure to take of the football on the ground and in the air.
4. Tyrod vs. Mack/Irvin
Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are on quite a tear rushing off the edge. They have four sacks between them over the last two games, creating havoc in the backfield even on plays when the quarterback doesn’t go down.
Extending that streak could prove tough against mobile Tyrod Taylor, an accurate quarterback who doesn’t make many mistakes and is more than willing to take off and run. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry, so the Raiders rushers must respect his speed and keep him in the pocket as it collapses. That’s no easy task, but an interior rush would certainly help Mack and Irvin keep feasting on the opposition.
3. Rex vs. Derek
Derek Carr’s NFL debut came in the 2014 season opener against Rex Ryan’s New York Jets. That’s a rough welcome into the league, facing a defensive mind well known for creative blitzes meant to disorient quarterbacks.
Carr is exponentially better diagnosing defensive front nearly three seasons later, and his football smarts (and a little help from center Rodney Hudson and play designer Bill Musgrave) should still put the Raiders in position to succeed. The linemen have their own physical battled ahead, but the mental chess should intrigue as the game wears on and both sides make adjustments.
2. Shady vs. Raiders defensive front
Raiders defense coordinator Ken Norton Jr. likened LeSean McCoy to Barry Sanders. That’s a bit hyperbolic, but his point was well received. McCoy is a pinball out there, one who bounces around and is extremely dangerous after finding the open field.
The Raiders must stay disciplined to stop Buffalo’s central figure from making chunk plays that drive the NFL’s finest run game. The Bills front is physical and effective opening creases, which must be closed quickly to keep McCoy’s per carry average down. That’ll be key if the Raiders want to win this one.
1. Bills pass rush vs. Raiders pass pro
The Buffalo Bills are second in the NFL with 33 sacks. No team has allowed fewer sacks than the Raiders offensive line. Derek Carr has been sacked just 13 times in 11 games, and a few of them are zero yard runs that count as sacks.
The Raiders hulking offensive line has fared well against top pass rushers this season, and must do so again against a Bills front that features Jerry Hughes, Marcell Dareus and former Raiders special teams player and Cal alum Lorenzo Alexander, who has surprised most everyone with 10 sacks this season.
Rodney Hudson, Donald Penn and the Raiders offensive line will be ready for exotic blitzes and unscouted looks, and must react well to keep their quarterback upright.