With the Miami Dolphins up next, we can expect a continuation of the long tradition of tough, hard-nosed defensive games that Miami and Oakland have been known for.
The Dolphins will look to get a game closer to .500 in the overall series (currently at 16-14-1, in the Raiders favor). The Raiders will be looking to reset the start of their season and get things back on the right track.
For them to do this, let’s take a look at three keys to this Sunday’s game and what Oakland needs to do to leave Sun Life Stadium with a win.
The Dolphins' offensive line gave up three sacks and forced Miami’s rookie QB Ryan Tannehill into three interceptions (two off of deflections from Houston’s defensive end J.J. Watt).
Tannehill went 20-of-36 for 219 yards last week against an aggressive Houston defense. As a rookie, he’s still got a steep learning curve and may not yet be ready for prime time.
The Raiders defensive line will need to bring the pressure and get their paws up in the air. Follow the Texans' game plan: if you can’t get to Tannehill, then force the turnovers. You can expect to get rookie mistakes from a rookie quarterback.
Bring the heat, and you may see opportunities for one or two pick-sixes.
Miami running back Reggie Bush was Tannehill’s go-to wide receiver, catching six passes for 46 yards last week. While wide receiver Brian Hartline was targeted more (eight times for three receptions), Reggie Bush proved to be Tannehill’s main man.
Reggie Bush is a dual threat. Whether it’s taking a handoff and running outside the tackles or catching a pass from the backfield, he’s speed and hands must be respected. Oakland linebackers Rolando McClain and new rookie sensation Miles Burris will be key in cutting down receptions and constraining caches out of the backfield to Miami running backs.
If I’m Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, I’m going to force Miami to beat me with deep throws. While that may be a weakness for the Raiders against Peyton Manning or Philip Rivers, in this case it’s a strength against the Dolphins' inexperienced quarterback.
The utilization of Raiders running back Darren McFadden as a receiving running back creates an exciting weapon for the Oakland offense, and the Miami defense will expect it.
Oakland will need to continue to use DMC in this fashion, however this will free up the middle of the field and create opportunities for the 10-to-20-yard pass plays.
Look for wide receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey and Derek Hagan to exploit the middle, and Rod Streater to get opportunities down the field. This would also be the perfect time to get tight ends Brandon Myers or Richard Gordon involved in the passing attack.
If Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer continues to play within this new west coast style system, it could be a big day for him.