Quarterback Derek Carr breaks the huddle
Sitting with a 1-0 record after their Week 1 road trip to New Orleans, the Oakland Raiders return home this week to host the Atlanta Falcons in their first home game of the season at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
The Silver and Black will have their hands full Sunday with Matt Ryan and Co. flying into Northern California in desperate need of a win after starting the season with a 31-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Raiders will look to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2002, so heading into the matchup with the Falcons, here are five questions I would like to see answered in Sunday's contest.
1. How will the offensive line hold up?
Just a week ago, one of the perceived strengths of the Raiders was the potency and depth along the offensive line.
Now, after Menelik Watson and Matt McCants were forced to leave last week's contest early due to injury, that depth will be called upon in the early stages of the season.
Neither Watson nor McCants has practiced so far this week, casting doubt that either will be able to suit up against the Falcons, so if that is indeed the case; how will offensive line coach Mike Tice respond?
Will Donald Penn move back to the right side, with Kelechi Osemele shifting outside and playing left tackle? Will rookie lineman Vadal Alexander find himself in the mix? There are a multitude of questions surrounding the offensive line, but if the group is able to rally together, and put together another performance like last week's, the Raiders offense should be in good shape.
2. Does Sean Smith bounce back?
After being pulled in the second half of the win over the Saints, cornerback Sean Smith didn't make any excuses for his bad day at the office – he just wasn't good enough Sunday.
"I was getting killed, I'm not going to lie to you," Smith said. "It was bad out there. I was costing our team points. Coach did what he had to do. Obviously, I would have loved to stay in, fight that thing out, but coach made a decision about what's best for the team, so I ride with it. It's over. It's football. It's just like any other job. I had a bad day at work. I'll come back the next day and get ready to roll for Week 2."
The athletic corner will no doubt want to bounce back in a big way Sunday, especially considering it's the home opener, but he and the rest of the Raiders defense will have a tough task in containing Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and the rest of the Falcons offense.
Smith is a veteran cornerback who knows what it takes to get back to business, and if he's able to find his typical form, he and David Amerson provide a tough matchup out wide for any quarterback and wide receiver.
3. Can the run game keep rolling?
I don't think there will be many games in which the Raiders will find themselves on the losing end, if they run the ball for 167 yards and three touchdowns like they did last week in New Orleans.
All three running backs, Latavius Murray, DeAndré Washington, and Jalen Richard, were effective handling the rock, and fullback Jamize Olawale also got in the action, pounding in a two-yard touchdown as well.
Since becoming head coach, Jack Del Rio has said time and time again that the team wants to be able to control the line of scrimmage, and the run the ball with authority. The group certainly did that last week, and I'll be curious to see if they can keep it up against Vic Beasley and the Atlanta defense.
4. Can the defense limit Matt Ryan?
Last week Drew Brees, this week Matt Ryan.
After opening the season against Brees, the Raiders defense is tasked with limiting another Pro Bowl quarterback this week during their home opener.
"Good quarterbacks present problems for opposing defenses," Head Coach Del Rio said. "I saw a stat where he [Ryan] has 40 games in a row with over 200 yards on the road. That's pretty impressive. We have our work cut out for us."
Defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. and his group would love to put an end to that impressive streak, but even if Ryan is able to crack the 200-yard mark, but remain relatively in check, it would go a long way in securing a home win for the Silver and Black.
5. Will the team take advantage of playing at home?
The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum will be rocking Sunday afternoon, as the stadium hosts a meaningful football game for the first time last December.
The fans will be excited, and the team will be looking to give them something to cheer about, as they try to start a season with back-to-back wins for the first time since 2002.
"Home openers will never get dull to me," quarterback Derek Carr said. "They won't be boring, especially playing in front of our fans. Our fans are the best in the world. Being able to play in front of them, it's always exciting."
The New Orleans Saints fans were able to provide a raucous environment for their season opener, and I expect Raider Nation to do that very same thing Sunday as the Raiders open their home slate of games.
How will the Falcons respond? That's another thing I'll be keyed in throughout the Week 2 bout.