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Key Matchups To Watch: Oakland Raiders vs. Atlanta Falcons


The Oakland Raiders took care of business last weekend, beating the New Orleans Saints 35-34 at the Superdome after Wil Lutz was unable to connect on a 61-yard field goal as time expired.

Now, sitting at 1-0 for the first time since 2011, the Silver and Black return to Northern California to open their home slate of games Sunday at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum with a matchup against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.

Although the Falcons lost their season opener, they still boast a dynamic offense that is capable of putting up points in a hurry, so leading into the Week 2 bout, let's highlight three matchups that will be vital in the outcome of Sunday's game.

Cornerback David Amerson vs. Wide Receiver Julio Jones

Since he entered the league in 2011, Jones has proven to be one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL. At just 27 years old, Jones has already been named a First Team All-Pro, earned three berths to the Pro Bowl, and hauled in 218 receptions for 6,267 yards, and 35 touchdowns.

Jones is a physical wide receiver, and Matt Ryan's favorite target, so shutting him down – or at least limiting his production – will be crucial in securing a Week 2 win over the Falcons.

Now, defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. is likely to throw a multitude of looks, and players, at Jones throughout the course of a game, and cornerback David Amerson is looking forward to the challenge of squaring off against the All-Pro wideout.

"I feel like bigger receivers, for me, are better matchups for me, because things that they're good at are things that I feel like I'm good at," said Amerson. "Stuff like going up and getting the ball, or playing the ball at the highest point, or [being] physical off the line, so it kind of matches up compared to a faster, shiftier, speedier guy."

Amerson and the rest of the Raiders defense will certainly have their hands full with Jones, but if they're able to keep him in check, it will help make the Falcons offense one dimensional.

Left Tackle Donald Penn vs. Outside Linebacker Vic Beasley

Never mind the fact that the Raiders will likely be heading into Sunday's game with a reworked offensive line, the unit will also be tasked with trying to contain outside linebacker Vic Beasley, one of the up-and-coming pass rushers in the NFL.

Beasley finished his rookie season in Atlanta with four sacks, and one interception, and showed that he could present a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.

Neither Menelik Watson nor Matt McCants practiced Wednesday, so it looks like offensive line coach Mike Tice will once again have to get creative in assembling the offensive line Sunday at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

As the veteran leader of the offensive line, Penn will not only have to rally the group together, but he will also have a tough task at hand in trying to contain the second-year pass rusher.

Beasley is the most-potent defensive weapon the Falcons boast along the defensive front, so limiting his effectiveness would certainly pay dividends for the Raiders offense as a whole.

Running Backs Latavius Murray, DeAndré Washingon, and Jalen Richard vs. Running Backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman

The Raiders now have a full stable of running backs at their disposal, and all parties were able to get involved in Sunday's win over the Saints, rushing for an impressive total of 167 yards at the Superdome.

Head Coach Jack Del Rio has said time and time again that he wants the Raiders to establish and dominate the line of scrimmage, and that's precisely what they did in New Orleans. Now the question will be if they can continue that domination this Sunday.

Similarly to the Raiders, the Falcons also implore a tandem-back system, boasting both Freeman and Coleman in the backfield.

"Honestly, I think it's a two-headed monster, because both of them are really fast and explosive with the ball," Head Coach Dan Quinn said on his conference call with the Bay Area media. "It's not necessarily where we have one big back and one change-of-pace back. We have two really explosive guys that are hard to deal with and sometimes we put them on the field together, other times, they're a featured guy whether it's first down, second down, third down."

The battle for the line of scrimmage is one that occurs each week in the NFL, and I'll be interested to see which bevy of running backs takes full advantage of their opportunities this weekend.

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