Time to play some football in a… well, a football stadium, I suppose.
The Oakland Raiders and Chicago Bears are set to kick off Week 5 action Sunday evening at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and with a plethora of storylines surrounding the matchup, there is no lack of intrigue headed into the international clash.
With a bye on the horizon, both squads will look to fly back to the United States with some positive momentum in the overhead compartment; here are six things to keep an eye on once action gets underway.
1. Can the Raiders limit Khalil Mack?
Look, I know that the collective Bears’ defense is good – like really good – but let’s be honest, all eyes are going to be on No. 52 Sunday evening at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The all-pro edge rusher has been on a tear as of late – he has three-and-a-half sacks three forced fumbles in the last two weeks – and finding a way to keep him away from Derek Carr will be absolutely critical if the Raiders want to return home with a “W.”
We’ve talked about Kolton Miller and Trent Brown a lot this week – and for good reason – but this is the type of game that those big fellas will earn their paychecks.
The Silver and Black’s offensive line put together a solid outing last week in Indianapolis, and to keep Mack away from Carr come Sunday, they’ll need to replicate that performance.
2. Who steps up in the wide receiving corps?
I feel like it’s a question we’ve asked the past couple weeks, but with the group still banged up, we find ourselves asking once again – how will the wide receivers shake out come gameday?
Tyrell Williams has been outstanding since joining the Silver and Black, but the athletic wide receiver’s status is questionable for Sunday, as is Dwayne “Gucci” Harris’s who has missed the past few games dealing with injury.
J.J. Nelson is also questionable for the battle against the Bears, so if he were unable to go either, that would leave just three healthy wide receivers on the active roster – Trevor Davis, Keelan Doss, and Hunter Renfrow.
We won’t know for certain who’s able to go until Sunday, but how the group as a whole performs against a very stingy Bears secondary will be something to keep an eye on throughout the game.
3. Does the pass rush return to form?
It’s now been two weeks since the Raiders brought down the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage.
And while the overall health of a defensive line isn’t accurately represented by just sacks, the Silver and Black would be well served to get after the Chicago quarterback Sunday evening.
Now, while nothing is official, it sure sounds like the Raiders will be dealing with Chase Daniel and not Mitchell Trubisky, but whoever is under center, Maxx Crosby and Co., would greatly enjoy putting some pressure on him throughout the game.
Particularly considering that Clelin Ferrell is questionable for Sunday’s matchup as he deals with a concussion, the rest of the Raiders’ defensive linemen will have to collectively band together to get after the quarterback.
4. The Raiders’ rushing attack
While the battle between Khalil Mack and the Silver and Black’s offensive line is understandably getting top billing, I’m really excited to watch Josh Jacobs go to work against the Bears beast of a defensive line.
Chicago is one of the best teams in the league at stopping the run – they’re allowing the opposition under 62 rushing yards per game through the first quarter of the season – but Josh Jacobs has been stellar thus far in 2019 in his own right.
For the Raiders to have success on Sunday, the team needs to be balanced offensively, and key to that balance is getting Jacobs and his fellow RBs going on the ground.
It won’t be easy sledding against that nasty Bears’ front, but I’m excited to see if the Silver and Black can establish a tone at the line of scrimmage.
5. A quick start abroad?
The pair of Raiders’ wins this season have several things in common, but perhaps the most obvious one is that in both instances, Derek Carr and the offense started fast.
Last week in Indianapolis, the Raiders took their first possession of the game the length of the field, scoring at their first opportunity, and it really put the pressure on the Colts early on.
Not only did the early score give Head Coach Jon Gruden’s squad a lead that they’d never relinquish, it set the tone for what the team wanted to do on both sides of the football.
Starting fast is paramount every week, but especially considering that Sunday’s environment won’t be that of a normal home game, getting some early momentum would go a long way.
6. Take. The. Points.
The Bears’ defense allows less than two touchdowns per game, so taking advantage of any scoring opportunity will be crucial at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
That said, keep an eye on Daniel Carlson against the Bears. The second-year placekicker has missed just a single kick in 2019, and has been perfect on his extra point attempts, but he’ll have to stay hot and take advantages of his chances Sunday if the Raiders want to earn a win.
Against a defense as tough as the one the Bears employ, any points – even if they come in threes – are good points.
Carlson has been stellar since his career as a Raider began; let’s see if turns in another impressive performance Sunday night.
Check out photos from London as the Raiders hit the field for another day of practice before their matchup against the Bears at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.