Top 5 Raiders vital to beating Buccaneers
Sunshine State sweep?
The Raiders have been in Florida all week preparing to play Tampa Bay. They’re hoping to sweep this Sunshine State swing, a goal made possible by a victory over Jacksonville. That would put them in great position with the season half gone, heading toward a massive Week 9 home game against Denver. The Raiders are thrilled with their current 5-2 record and knowledge that there’s better football to be played.
“You know what’s better than 5-2?” cornerback DJ Hayden asked. “6-2.”
The Raider will try to reach that mark on Sunday. Here are five players vital to making that happen. --Scott Bair
5. P Marquette King
The Raiders punter has become a real weapon for this team, someone who helps win the battle for field position. He has been excellent this season, with a 42.4-yard net average, 15 punts inside the 20 and just three touchbacks. His efforts were key to beating Jacksonville, and they will be against a Tampa Bay offense with explosive qualities. The farther the Bucs have to travel, the harder it will be for them to find the end zone. --Scott Bair
4. S Reggie Nelson
The veteran safety has a nose for the football. He has been involved in four of the team’s 13 takeaways, with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries through seven games. That opportunistic mindset has helped keep points off the scoreboard and mitigate massive yards allowed by the Raiders defense. Part of that is due to big plays from the other side, typically passes that get cornerbacks and Nelson in center field. If he makes smart decisions and provides help in the middle of the field, Tampa Bay won’t get any cheap scores. If they have to grind out drives and work for every inch, the Raiders could be in good shape. Nelson will be key spearheading that effort. --Scott Bair
3. LB Bruce Irvin
The Raiders pass rush has started to ramp up in recent weeks, with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin making plays off the edge. Irvin has flashed some nifty moves getting to the quarterback, though he wants his sack count to increase for the first time since Week 4. Irvin’s sacks often come with forced fumbles, as he’s adept chopping the ball out of a quarterback’s hands. Those are game-changing moments the Raiders need more of from the prize free-agent signing. He must remain disciplined in the run game, and make Jameis Winston throw some errant passes. That would set the Raiders up well for another big win. --Scott Bair
2. WR Amari Cooper
The electric Raiders receiver didn’t catch many passes against Jacksonville, as quarterback Derek Carr found favorable matchups with Michael Crabtree on the other side. This might be a solid game for him, considering the Buccaneers cornerbacks. He knows one of them well. First-round pick and Florida alum Vernon Hargreaves III is a talented player, but Cooper might have his number. When the Alabama product played the Gators in 2014, the pair squared off regularly when Cooper had 10 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns. A big day from the Raiders’ big-play threat would certainly help the Raiders come out on top. --Scott Bair
1. Latavius Murray
The Buccaneers are vulnerable against the run, allowing 113.2 rushing yards per game this season. Murray would love to exploit that weakness, and should get the lion’s share of the touches as he did against Jacksonville. He had 59 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in his return from a bout with turf toe. The Raiders split carries between Murray, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington early on, but Murray is expected to be more of a central figure in the running game against Tampa. The Raiders are tough to beat when their run game is going well and they can commit to it, making the offense unpredictable moving down the football field. --Scott Bair