Through 10 weeks of the regular season the Oakland Raiders are 5-4 and can add to that win total this Sunday with a tantalizing matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. You should never count your chickens before they hatch though. In the NFL it's important to fear no one, but respect everyone. The Bengals might be 0-9, but any team can win on any given Sunday.
With that said, let's take a look at three important matchups to monitor.
Tahir Whitehead vs. Joe Mixon
As the man in the middle, Raiders linebacker Tahir Whitehead has a lot of jobs to account for, but none this Sunday will be more important than limiting running back Joe Mixon.
After amassing 1,168 yards, eight rushing touchdowns, 296 receiving yards, and one receiving touchdown in 2018, Joe Mixon has had a down year for his standards in 2019. Through nine games, Mixon has 434 rushing yards and zero rushing touchdowns, but he has found the end zone three times as a receiver. His 3.3 rushing yards per game is a career low and among the bottom tier of starting backs in the league. Not all of his struggles fall on his shoulders though, as the Bengals offensive line hasn't been superb.
The Oakland Raiders are allowing 98.4 rushing yards per game and Mixon is averaging 48.2 yards per game. Mixon remains one of the best young talents in the league and he should be treated as such, which is why Whitehead – who leads the team in tackles with 52 – will need to make sure everyone is in their gaps against this squad.
Paul Guenther vs. Brian Callahan
In 2018, the Raiders traveled to Cincinnati and Paul Guenther got to experience his first return since leaving the Bengals coaching staff and joining the Silver and Black. As he welcomes his former squad – with an entirely new coaching staff – to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, he'll go one-on-one with his former colleague and Raiders quarterbacks coach, Brian Callahan.
Callahan was a member of the Raiders coaching staff for one season before he departed for Cincinnati to take the reins as the offensive coordinator. Here's a couple stats to give you an idea of how the Bengals are performing this year offensively: 137 points scored, 316.1 yards per game, and a minus-11 turnover ratio. It's been rough year for the Bengals to say the least.
Paul Guenther has dealt with his own share of adversity this season too. Week 1 the Raiders lost their first-round safety in Johnathan Abram, Arden Key was recently placed on IR with a broken foot, Marquel Lee has been sidelined, and much more, but Guenther has found ways to get creative with his unit.
The battle between the six-year defensive coordinator and the first-year offensive coordinator should be a good one, especially because they used to work on the same sideline.
Josh Jacobs vs. Bengals front seven
If I'm Josh Jacobs and I look at the stats prior to Sunday's game, my eyes would be big as saucers when I see the Bengals are allowing 173 rushing yards per game.
Cincinnati is surrendering the most yards on the ground in the league and has given up 16 plays of 20 yards or more. Jacobs is currently averaging anywhere in the ballpark of 90 yards per game and is setup for a big outing behind one of the best offensive lines in the game. The Raiders are currently attempting 27 runs per game – with a large majority of those coming from Jacobs – and I expect the team to pound the rock this week.