Key Matchups To Watch

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Key Matchups: Raiders and Broncos prepare for primetime clash in Oakland to kick off 2019

There is absolutely nothing better than primetime.

Throw in the fact that it’s the season opener and it’s against a division rival in the Denver Broncos, Monday night’s throwdown at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is sure to be an entertaining one.

Both the Oakland Raiders and the Broncos are coming off 2018 seasons that they’d rather forget, but hope springs eternal Week 1; here are three matchups to keep an eye on when the action gets underway at the OACC.

Antonio Brown vs. Chris Harris Jr.

After what seems like an eternity, we’re going to finally see Mr. Big Chest play some meaningful football Monday night against the Broncos.

The last time AB went to work in the regular season – Week 15 of last year against the New Orleans Saints – he casually went for 185 yards and two touchdowns, so, yeah, you best believe I’m excited to see what he does in the season opener against what has historically been a really good Denver secondary.

Speaking of that secondary, the group is once again led by Chris Harris Jr., a quality corner in his own right, who’s coming off a 2018 campaign that saw him tie his career high in interceptions.

I anticipate that Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods will throw a bevy of looks at No. 84 throughout the 60-minute, primetime affair, but if I were a betting man, I’d guess that Harris gets a good amount of run lined up directly across from AB.

The Raiders signed Brown precisely to handle cornerbacks like Harris; let’s see how he responds in his first game in Silver and Black.

Let's take a look at the Raiders' current 53-man roster heading into the regular season.

Kolton Miller and Trent Brown vs. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb

It seems like every team that boasts a stout defensive in 2019 has not one, but two, elite pass rushers, and the Broncos might have the best tandem in the NFL.

The duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb tallied 26.5 sacks between them last year, and with Chubb now poised to make the oft-discussed “leap” in Year Two, there’s no reason to think that they’ll be slowing down in 2019.

Looking up and down the rosters of the teams in the AFC West, you see dominant pass rushers aplenty, and that’s a big reason why Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager completely re-tooled the Raiders’ offensive line this year.

And there likely wasn’t a bigger addition – literally – than Trent Brown, who after winning a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, will now hold down the right side of the line for the Raiders, helping keep Derek Carr upright. Anchoring the other side is Kolton Miller, a player that Gruden and Mayock are also hoping to see big things from in his second season as a Raider.  

Make no mistake about it, the Broncos are going to come after Carr on Monday night, but if Miller and Brown can hold up, it could be a long night for the Broncos secondary as they deal with AB and Tyrell Williams.

Paul Guenther vs. Rich Scangarello

Let’s give a little bit of love to the men behind the headsets, the coordinators.

Following a preseason slate where his defense looked re-energized, confident, and poised to take a big step forward, Paul Guenther will open his 2019 season calling plays against Rich Scangarello – a first-time offensive coordinator in the NFL.

I’m sure nerves play a role in any season opener, but I’d have to imagine for Scangarello – who spent the past two seasons as the San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach – Monday night’s game will be one that he doesn’t forget for a long time.

I always love watching the chess game between coordinators play out over the course of a 60-minute ballgame, so I’m curious to see who gets the upper hand Week 1.

Will Guenther’s scheme make life miserable for Joe Flacco and Co., or will the veteran signal-caller take advantage of a Raiders defense that hasn’t played a ton of reps together?

We’ll find under the lights in less than a week.

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