Raiders Saturday Notebook: Winning on the Road and Matchups to Watch

The Oakland Raiders finished the week with a "Fast Friday" practice ahead of a flight to Drew Carey's hometown. The team also took part in a Saturday walk-through as the make their final preparations for tomorrow's game against the Cleveland Browns. 

As we mentioned earlier in the week, each week brings positive steps in the right direction. From scoring enough points to win to making a game-saving defensive play, the Raiders took major strides from Week 1 to Week 2. However, more adjustments and improvements must be made if the Silver and Black are going to make noise in the always hotly contested AFC West. 

CBS Color Analyst Chris Simms will be in the broadcast booth at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland tomorrow. He says he was surprised he didn't see the Week 2 Raiders in Week 1 when called the loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He also noted the improvement and hopes to see more tomorrow. 

"I think the big thing, everybody underestimates Cincinnati to a degree, it's easy because they lose playoff games, they're a really good football team," Simms said. "[Quarterback Derek] Carr being on the field all game last week was a huge deal. The offense in general opening up a few lanes in the run game, can't let everybody sit there and worry about the passing game, [wide receivers Amari] Cooper and Crabtree are a really good one-two combination, with a tight end like Rivera, there's a lot of positive things with Oakland." 

Defensively, the big difference for the Raiders was the playmaking of the secondary, however, Baltimore QB Joe Flacco threw for well over 300 yards and for the second week in a row, a tight end had a big game. 

"It's kind of a copycat league, we've seen Eifert expose them down the seams, we saw Crockett Gillmore expose them down the seams," Simms said. "I'm sure Cleveland is going to say 'hey, did they correct this this week.'" 

Another area that has been discussed ad naseum this week is the lack of sacks for the Raiders defense. With Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith coming off the edge, many NFL experts have made note of this. Simms, a former quarterback, notes that the sack is an overrated statistic and that it's the disruption, the pressure, making a quarterback uncomfortable that makes the difference. 

"Pressure is everything, as far as defense is concerned, at least to disrupt the quarterback," Simms said. "Like Seattle the last few years, last year I don't think they were very high in the sack department either but their defense is still really good because they're still making the quarterback get the ball out his hand before he wants to. With this defense there's not a lot of variety, they do what they do and they do it really well, that front four is really crucial."

The Raiders are looking to break a long losing streak on the road. Simms says the mentality for winning on the road permeates throughout the organization. 

"It truly is an organizational thing. It's about having the right leaders in your coaching staff. I thought that's why [Head Coach Jack] Del Rio was a great hire," Simms said. "There is something to winning on the road, having the proper game plan. It just goes to the players as far as veteran leadership and mental toughness. I think that's what I am more excited about than anything with the Raiders. That was a groundbreaking-type win last week."

This game features several intriguing matchups and Simms says he sees quite a bit of strength vs. strength in this game.

"Joe Thomas and Aldon Smith or Khalil Mack, that is one, they have a great offensive line, this front seven for Oakland is for real, so who will budge there," Simms said. "They have a very good secondary, they play a lot of man-to-man, this is a different Raiders group coming in here, you want to cover Amari Cooper, Joe Haden is really awesome, Amari Cooper, I don't know if a cheetah can run around the field with him. Those are the things I am looking forward to."

The Raiders and the Browns tee it up at tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. You can catch Chris Simms on the call on CBS – KPIX CBS 5 in the Bay Area.

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