Head Coach Jon Gruden has said multiple times that the team refuses to tank, and that winning will always be the main priority. At 1-8, getting back in the playoff picture is a stretch, but stringing together a couple wins could do wonders for the morale of the team.
This week the Raiders will fly south to Arizona for a duel with the 2-7 Cardinals. Their record might not reflect it, but the Cardinals have plenty of talented individuals on the roster. From cornerback Patrick Peterson, to running back David Johnson, there are playmakers on both sides of the ball, and finding ways to render them ineffective won't be easy.
Let's take a look at three matchups I'll have my eye on this Sunday:
Raiders offensive line vs. Chandler Jones
When the New England Patriots traded Jones to the Arizona Cardinals a few years ago, I was surprised – but not too surprised because that's kind of what the Pats do; trade away key players right before they get paid – and ever since he landed in AZ he's been a beast. In the last three years, the former Syracuse alum has totaled 36.5 sacks, 136 tackles, nine forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries. Jones is coming off a two-sack performance last week, and he'll face a Raiders offensive line that features two rookie tackles. Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker have faced their fair share of talent this season, and they'll have to fend off another premier pass rusher this Sunday. Keeping Derek Carr upright has been difficult the last couple weeks, and it won't be easy to keep him unscathed in Week 11.
Raiders defensive line vs. David Johnson
As I mentioned earlier, the Cardinals might be 2-7, but they have some bonafide studs on their roster, and Johnson is arguably the best one. The 27yearold might not have staggering numbers this season, but his versatility can keep defenses guessing. He's an explosive weapon out of the backfield, and he can also create mismatches in the passing game. For three weeks now, the Raiders defense has given up over 100 total yards to running backs, and Johnson is capable of the same; however, the Cardinals have one run, just one run of over 20 yards this season. The Raiders defensive line is going to need to get some push in the trenches, and hopefully the Raiders are leading by a decent enough margin where the Cardinals will have to air it out in order to catch up.
Raiders wide receivers vs. Cardinals secondary
The Cardinals defense has allowed 11 touchdown passes this season; that's tied for first in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. The Raiders haven't scored a touchdown in nine quarters of play – see where I'm going with this? Putting points on the board isn't going to be easy this week, and in the Raiders' last two games the team has failed to score more than six points. Not only will Carr be throwing against a tough Cardinals secondary, but he'll be without many of his regular wide receivers. Wednesday, Gruden announced that Martavis Bryant would miss Sunday's game, and that Jordy Nelson would likely be listed as questionable with a bone bruise in his knee. Rookie wide receiver Marcell Ateman will try to fill the void in his first career game, and he'll need the assistance of Brandon LaFell, and Seth Roberts to help alleviate some pressure. Between facing a stout pass rush, and a physical Cardinals secondary, Carr and his receivers will have to navigate some rocky waters this week.
Take a look through the top images from the Raiders' game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 10 at the Coliseum.