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Key Matchups: Raiders and Rams prepare for Monday night clash


Alright, hug your significant other and tell them you'll see them in February, because it's football season now.

We're not talking about the "preseason" either, starting Thursday night, we'll have real, meaningful football on TV, and that's pretty cool.

The Oakland Raiders will kick off their own 2018 campaign Monday night, under the lights against the Los Angeles Rams at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

There's nothing better than Week 1; let's take a look at a few key matchups that will determine whether it's the Raiders or Rams who enjoy a "W" to kick off the season.

Amari Cooper vs. Marcus Peters

You want a Week 1 clash between two of the best dudes at their respective positions in the NFL? Well, here you go.

Even though "Coop" didn't have his best statistical season last year – although he did score seven touchdowns – the man is still a top-tier wide receiver, and he's no doubt going to have his hands full Monday night at the OACC going up against Peters.

In 2017, the Rams were a middle-of-the-pack secondary, allowing just over 217 passing yards per game, but that's before they added Peters as well as veteran cornerback Aqib Talib.

"Those guys are good players, man," said Cooper. "Ball hawks, but really smart players. It's going to be a challenge for us, definitely. I'm excited about it."

Talib has 34 interceptions over his lengthy career, and as good as he is, at this point, Peters might be even better.

The Oakland-native – and cousin of running back Marshawn Lynch – is an elite cornerback headed into his fourth NFL season, and seeing him and Cooper go back and forth for 60 minutes is going to be awesome.

The NFL is all about matchups, and as far as Week 1 matchups go, this one is about as good as it gets.

The Raiders Interior Offensive Line vs. Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh

I'm on the record saying that I don't think there's a better interior offensive line in the NFL than the trio of Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson, but to be fair, you'd be hard pressed to find a better interior defensive line than the one that the Rams currently boast.

On his own, Aaron Donald is a complete game wrecker – dude had 11 sacks last year – but if you team him up with Ndamukong Suh, well now you have something special on your hands.

The Silver and Black's offensive line surrendered just 24 sacks a year ago, but keeping Derek Carr upright is going to be quite the challenge Monday night in Oakland.

Offensive line play is critical to every facet of the game, and if the Silver and Black wants to pound the rock like Head Coach Jon Gruden prefers, that trio of big fellas in the middle is going to need to show out.

Put your helmets and pads on to watch this matchup, Raider Nation; it's going to be nasty in the trenches Monday night.

Jon Gruden vs. Sean McVay

Monday night's game certainly isn't lacking storylines, and one of the biggest ones is going to be the 60-minute battle between Coach Gruden and Sean McVay.

Gruden and McVay are very familiar with one another – McVay got his start in coaching under Gruden in Tampa Bay – and it's pretty neat that the pair will go toe-to-toe in the very first game of the regular season.

Both head coaches head into Week 1 with squads shrouded in expectation; McVay's Rams went to the playoffs just a year ago, and with Gruden back at the helm, the Silver and Black have a renewed sense of energy and ambition.

We so often see that NFL teams take on the personality of their head coaches, and I have a feeling that's going to be the case for both of these squads in 2018.

Who comes out victorious Monday night, the teacher of the pupil? It's a tale as old as time, but I'm pretty fired up to see this version of the movie.

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