Key Matchups: A coaching duel and the battle of first-round picks

The Oakland Raiders are back in business after returning from the bye week feeling rejuvenated and eager to face the Green Bay Packers this Sunday at historic Lambeau Field. Several players used their time to relax and decompress, while others visited their alma maters and watched some college football.

After defeating the Packers’ division rival — the Chicago Bears — in Week 5, the Silver and Black will see if they can best the NFC North once again in Week 7. The NFC foes might reside in the same division, but they have their fair share of differences. For starters, the Raiders faced Chase Daniel in London; this week they’ll get one of the best signal-callers to play the game in Aaron Rodgers on his home turf.

Rodgers is just one of the several playmakers the Raiders will need to stop if they hope to extend their winning streak; let’s take a look at the Key Matchups prior to Sunday.

Clelin Ferrell vs. Rashan Gary

When the 2018 regular season concluded, NFL analysts speculated and debated which pass rusher the Silver and Black would select with the No. 4 overall pick, especially because there was wealth of talent at the position.

Back and forth the rumor mill swirled, but it eventually came down to Clelin Ferrell as the player General Manager Mike Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden wanted the most. Among the list of players mentioned, though, was Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary, who is a member of the Green Bay Packers now. Both are talented individuals, no doubt, but let’s take a moment to compare their numbers thus far.

Gary has played in six games and totaled one sack, one fumble recovery, eight tackles, and one tackle for loss. Ferrell has played in four matches, after missing Week 5 with a concussion, and has one sack to go along with two passes defensed, 10 tackles, and two tackles for loss. Ferrell was back at practice this week and appears to be good to go for Sunday. I’ll be checking the box score to see who outperforms the other in the battle between the first-round picks.

 Josh Jacobs vs. Aaron Jones

Packers running back Aaron Jones might lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns, but Josh Jacobs has more rushing yards, and that’s with a bye week factored in. The rookie phenom has been sensational from the start, averaging 4.9 rushing yards, compared to Aaron Jones 3.9 yards per carry. One might try and make the argument that Josh Jacobs has been used more, but the two are practically equal in terms of rushing attempts, Jacobs has 88 while Jones has 89.

The Packers undeniably have a true threat at quarterback, but they rely a lot on running the ball as well, and if Davante Adams is unable to play Sunday due to his lingering turf toe injury, expect Jones and Jacobs to be the keys to success.

Jon Gruden vs. Matt LaFleur

Jon Gruden has been around the block a few times, but he’s still finding ways to lead his team to victory. With a decimated receiving corps, Gruden employed three unexperienced —but talented — receivers to start for the Raiders against the Chicago Bears, and it worked. Trevor Davis, Hunter Renfrow, and Keelan Doss all played important roles in the team’s win, but Gruden deserves a lot of credit for also nullifying Khalil Mack and a stout Bears pass rush. The point being, Gruden will face a first-year head coach in Matt LaFleur who has found early success, but who will outwit the other come Sunday?

Gruden helped groom Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay, and LaFleur is one of the many coaches connected to McVay who’ve seemingly been rewarded with head coaching jobs because of it. Aaron Rodgers seems to be enjoying life with his new head coach, but I’m excited to see the mind games that take place on Sunday between Gruden and LaFleur.

The Raiders return to Alameda, Calif. after the bye week to get ready for their Week 7 matchup versus the Green Bay Packers.

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