After concluding Training Camp 2015 and four preseason games, the Oakland Raiders are preparing to kick the season off for real Sunday as they take on the Cincinnati Bengals at O.co Coliseum.
It will the first matchup between the two AFC foes since 2012, and the first time the pair have met in Oakland since a 2009 tilt that the Raiders won 20-17.
Heading into the Week 1 contest with the Bengals, we're taking a look at three matchups that will have a bearing on how game turns out.
Raiders Cornerbacks vs. Wide Receiver A.J. Green
Since he was drafted in the first round (No. 4 overall) out of Georgia in the 2011 NFL Draft, Green, simply put, has been one of the most dominant wide receivers in the NFL.
He has surpassed 1,000 yards receiving each of his seasons in the NFL, been named to four-consecutive Pro Bowls and earned three second-team All-Pro honors – not bad for a player who just turned 27.
Regardless of age, Green will present quite the challenge for TJ Carrie and DJ Hayden, but Head Coach Del Rio was quick to note during his Wednesday press conference that each week in the NFL provides its own set of challenges.
"Every week there's a good test," said Head Coach Del Rio. "We'll talk about the talent on the other team every week. Everyone has talent in this league. Certainly they have talent and we're looking forward to matching up on Sunday."
The matchup between the Raiders cornerbacks and Green will be one to keep an eye on, and keeping Andy Dalton's favorite target in check would go a long way to helping the Raiders secure a win.
Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. vs. Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson
Sunday's matchup at O.co Coliseum marks offensive coordinator's Hue Jackson's first return to Oakland since 2011 when he served as Head Coach for the Raiders.
Check out who's currently on the roster for the Oakland Raiders.
He's now beginning his first season as offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, and his offense will be tasked with putting up points against a revamped Raiders defense now led by defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.
Since the beginning of the offseason program and through Training Camp 2015 and the preseason, the Raiders defenders have praised the work Norton has done in implementing a fast-past defense that frees them up to just pin their ears back and play football.
The Bengals, and the AFC North in general, have long been regarded as a physical, run-first type team, so seeing which unit – the Bengals offense or the Raiders defense gains the upper hand will be an intriguing battle to watch.
Wide Receiver Amari Cooper vs. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick
It's finally time.
After four preseason games, rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper will finally get to show off his skills in live game action, and his first opponent will be a fellow member of the Alabama Crimson Tide – cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick has been keeping an eye on Cooper since his days in Tuscaloosa, and he's not treating his matchup with the Raiders wide out lightly.
"He [Cooper] looks great," Kirkpatrick told ESPN earlier this week. "He doesn't look like a rookie, I'll tell you that. He looks like he's been here before."
While 2014 will be Cooper's first season in the NFL, it will also serve as Kirkpatrick's first season as a starting cornerback in Cincinnati. After starting just a pair of games in 2014, he is now being asked to step into a starting role with the Bengals defense this season, and he's drawn quite the assignment in his new position.
Derek Carr will surely try to get the AC/DC connection going early in Week 1, and Kirkpatrick will be tasked with keeping the music down, so be sure to watch this one-on-one battle develop throughout Sunday's game.