As tough as this season may turn out to be for the silver and black, they may surprise many people around the league. No, they aren’t the most talented team, but they have made some upgrades in key areas.
For the Raiders to start on the path of surprising their doubters and continuing to move the franchise in the right direction, they will need to start with a solid effort in Week 1.
Here are the Raiders’ matchups to watch this Sunday.
Terrelle Pryor vs. Colts Defense
While the Raiders have yet to announce their decision for who will start at quarterback, the odds are still in favor of Terrelle Pryor winning the job.
As such, one of the more interesting matchups to watch in Week 1’s game will be him against the Colts defense.
The Colts defense struggled throughout the 2012 season, finishing 21st against the pass and 29th against the run. Upgrades have been made in the secondary, but the defensive front still has some questions, especially after the departure of Dwight Freeney.
With Pryor at quarterback, expect the Raiders to attack the defense with plenty of read-option plays. Having some success with such a run game would force the defensive backs to step up, allowing for potential big plays over the top as well.
As a result, it could come down to Pryor’s performance at quarterback and what he is able to do leading the offense against a relatively vulnerable Colts defensive unit.
Raiders Defensive Line vs. Colts Offensive Line
For the Raiders to slow down Andrew Luck and the Colts’ passing attack, they will need to have some success in the pass-rush department.
While that may be considered a tall order for the Raiders’ defensive front, the Colts’ offensive line presents a matchup where that is entirely possible.
Throughout the 2012 season, the Colts gave up 41 sacks. Although it was only the ninth-highest total in the NFL, the amount of time Luck spent under pressure in the pocket highlighted the protection concerns up front even more.
If the Raiders’ pass-rushers cannot pressure the pocket, it could make for a very long day on the defensive side of the ball. In just his second year, Luck has already proven his ability to pick apart a defense when he’s given time to throw, and sometimes even when he’s not.
In fact, given the somewhat favorable pass-rush matchup in this game, the Raiders having little to no success could make for a long season in that area overall.
D.J. Hayden vs. Reggie Wayne
Over the course of the 2012 season, Andrew Luck found his No. 1 target time and time again in the passing game. Reggie Wayne finished the year with 106 catches for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns. If the Raiders have any hope of slowing down the Colts’ passing game, besides generating an effective pass rush, the secondary will need to focus on No. 87.
It has yet to be determined if D.J. Hayden will indeed hold a starting role in Week 1, but given the way he looked in the preseason, he should see plenty of snaps either way.
Whether it is Hayden or someone else who sees the majority of the matchup with Wayne, finding a way to limit his production will be a focal point of the Raiders’ defensive game plan.
Should it indeed be Hayden who draws the assignment, going up against a receiver like Wayne will be a great test for him moving forward.
Overall, if the Raiders can have some success in these three matchups, their odds of starting the 2013 season off with a win will increase dramatically.