LONDON – The Raiders flew nine hours to play Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks believing their travel itinerary will eliminate aftereffects of such a long trek.
If that’s in fact the case – color me skeptical on that – then this game will come down to talent and performance under pressure. The Raiders need better from so many and consistency from all to get back in the win column.
Here are four key players to watch against the Seahawks at Wembley Stadium, the final bout before the Raiders bye week:
RB Marshawn Lynch
The veteran running back made it through the week without discussing his expectations for playing the Seahawks, team he represented over six seasons. No surprise there.
Lynch doesn’t speak much publicly, but Seahawks and Raiders players extolled his virtues as a player, man and locker room leader. Even with all the love on both sides, it’s doubtful Lynch will let emotion impact his performance.
He’ll still run with trademark violence and dedication, running over or through defenders at every turn.
“He was the heart and soul of the Seahawks and, in a lot of ways, he’s the heart and soul of the Raiders right now,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s still running with incredible physicality. He's durable and, behind the scenes, he’s one of our leaders. He’s a bit misunderstood by some, but if you were coaching a football team, he’s one of the first guys you would want on your team.”
Lynch is as important to the Raiders attack as anyone, and needs steady carries to beat a Seahawks defense without injured linebacker K.J. Wright. If his carry count is high, that means the Raiders are doing something right. If they’re doing the right things, then Marshawn gets the ball on the 1-yard line in perpetuity.
LT Kolton Miller
This year’s first-round pick clearly wasn’t 100 percent last week against the Chargers. Miller was and still is nursing a significant right knee strain, something evident on all three sacks allowed in Los Angeles. The ailing joint didn’t have normal strength and it got him beat while he gutted the injury out.
The Raiders are thin at tackle with Donald Penn now on injured reserve, and they need Miller to perform again against Seattle and do a little better under adverse circumstances.
That’s a tough ask, but one that must be made to emerged from London with a victory.
CB Daryl Worley
The 23-year old cover man returned from suspension last week, and wasted no time getting right back in the mix. He took significant snaps away from Gareon Conley, and his tough play in doing so likely earned more playing time against the Seahawks. He wasn’t perfect, but showed the grit Raiders coaches wanted from cornerbacks.
The Raiders hope to find two three-down outside cornerbacks, and Worley could put himself in great position to get one with a strong performance against Seahawks receivers Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett.
Rashaan Melvin and Conley will also be important here, and slot man Leon Hall must return to form from the first few weeks to slow the Seahawks passing attack.
WR Amari Cooper
The Raiders’ best receiver has yo-yoed through this early season, alternating good games and bad. He’s in for a monster showing on Sunday if the pattern continues, considering he had but one 10-yard catch against the Chargers.
His targets are way, way down this year, as quarterback Derek Carr is throwing passes to several quality options. The Raiders offense is at its best with Cooper is the passing game’s centerpiece.
He makes life easier on others when he’s going strong and demanding extra attention. A few early touches could get him and the entire offense in sync.
“I think Amari has been playing well,” fellow receiver Jordy Nelson said. “He has been making plays when given the opportunity. If he keeps doing that, he’ll be fine.”