When the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers meet it always means a little more. Even though the two Bay Area teams don't own the records they want, they have plenty of history with one another, and this Thursday's game should be a good one.
On primetime television, the Silver and Black will face the Niners at Levi's Stadium – coincidentally the Raiders' first time playing there. It's interesting that the two teams are rivals, but their head coaches once roamed the same sideline. During Coach Gruden's days in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers, Kyle Shanahan was hired as an assistant coach for offensive quality control. Fourteen years later, now they'll be on opposite sides of the field strategizing against one another.
Prior to Thursday's game, here are three matchups I'm looking for:
Tackle Kolton Miller vs. Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner
Three weeks ago, Miller struggled against the Seattle Seahawks pass rush, but he put that game in the rearview mirror with a stellar outing against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday afternoon. Entering the Raiders Week 9 duel at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the Colts had 21 sacks, but the team failed to sack Derek Carr once. We all know keeping the quarterback upright is a priority each and every game, and we saw Sunday how effective the Raiders offense can be with the offensive line at its best.
This Thursday, Miller will face one of the best pass rushers on the San Francisco 49ers defensive line in DeForest Buckner, and limiting his impact will be imperative. On the year, Buckner has 4.5 sacks to his name, and has the power to be very disruptive at the line of scrimmage. The Niners tend to move the former Oregon Duck around on the defensive line, but last week he saw plenty of reps against the Arizona Cardinals left tackle, and I expect that to be the case on Thursday Night Football. This isn't the first talented pass rusher Miller has gone up against this season, so we'll see if he's up to the task.
Running back Doug Martin vs. Linebacker Fred Warner
When the Raiders signed Doug Martin during free agency in March, there were plenty of people that shared their skepticism. No. 28's fumble in the fourth quarter Sunday was a nail in the Raiders' coffin, but the Stockton native played well up until that point. On a handful of occasions Martin gashed big runs against the Colts defense, and finished the day with 13 carries for 72 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Martin is going to be a useful asset, and he'll try to get in a rhythm against the Niners 21-year-old linebacker, Fred Warner.
Warner has started his rookie campaign on a high note, leading his team in tackles with 66. He's also added two passes defensed, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery to his early résumé. Warner is one of the better run stoppers within the Niners linebacking corps, and the matchup between the savvy veteran and the athletic youngster will be one of my keys to the game.
Raiders secondary vs. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin
The majority of players in the NFL are fast, whether they're on offense or defense, the speed of the game is something all newcomers must adapt to. While there are plenty of quick, and elusive players, there are some that are flat out faster.
Niners wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is one of those players.
This season, the Raiders defense has given up seven passing plays more than 40 yards, tied for the fourth-most in the league. In 2018, Goodwin has two plays of more than 40 yards, and he's capable of getting behind secondaries with ease. This will be a good test for the Raiders defense, and if the unit can prevent him from streaking downfield that will hinder the Niners offense greatly.