The Oakland Raiders travel to face the Buffalo Bills at their home opener today and both teams are coming off of impressive victories against the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively.
The Bills routed the Chiefs 41-7 last week, thanks to Ryan Fitzpatrick's four touchdown passes and Fred Jackson's physical running attack that amassed 112 yards on 20 carries. The Bills offense looked great in all aspects, as Fitzpatrick was clicking with his wideouts and connected with tight end Scott Chandler twice for touchdowns. Wide receivers Stevie Johnson and Donald Jones each made touchdown grabs as well.
The Bills were worst against the run last year. They stymied the league's top ranked run defense, holding the explosive playmaker Jamaal Charles to just 50 yards on 10 carries. This week against the Raiders will present a similar challenge, as Oakland was ranked second in the league last year in rush offense, led by Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Marcel Reece.
The Bills and Raiders were storied franchises, however, they have sunk to the bottom of the National Football League and are hoping to bounce back to the top.
This game will be decided by some key player matchups, which will be reviewed here, as well as a prediction for the games outcome.
Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Raiders Secondary
The Raiders are without their premier cornerback Nnamdi Asomughua, but Chris Houston and Stanford Routt are both solid in their defense and aren't shy to jump routes. Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff are both great defenders at the safety position, as is Matt Giordano who recorded an interception last week against the Denver Broncos.
Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 17-of-25 passes last week, passing for over 200 yards and four touchdowns. He showed exactly why the Bills opted against selecting a quarterback in the 2011 NFL Draft and is now reportedly in discussions with the front office regarding a contract extension.
Fitzpatrick is smart and spreads the ball out, making it difficult for opposing defenders to key in on just one receiver. If he can continue to play smart and not force throws or make costly turnovers, the Bills will have a chance to win the game.
Bills Interior O-Line vs. Raiders' DT's Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly
The Bills offensive line looked fantastic last week against the Chiefs, only struggling when Kansas City brought pass rusher Tamba Hali on blitzes. However, this will probably be the most important matchup in the game, as Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly are two large and powerful men. The Bills' interior line consisting of guards Andy Levitre and Kraig Urbik, along with center Eric Wood will need to hold their own at the point of attack in order to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick in the pocket.
The sheer strength of the Raiders defensive front could cause the Bills to alter their typical four wide receiver set offense in order to bring in tight ends and fullbacks to assist in blocking.
Bills Offensive Tackles vs. Raiders DE's Lamaar Houston, Matt Shaughnessy
Demetrius Bell played decent against Kansas City's big defensive ends last week, but will have a tough assignment against the Raiders' second-year end Lamaar Houston, a huge and strong player weighing in at roughly 300 pounds. Last week, Houston was strong against one of the best tackles in the league in Denver's Ryan Clady. If Bell can't contain Houston, Fitzpatrick will be in for a long afternoon.
On the other side, Erik Pears wasn't spectacular last week and Matt Shaughnessy will be a very tough assignment for him. Shaughnessy recorded a sack last week and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley also made one. Pears really needs to hold his own and stand strong to prove he is worthy of his position as a starter for the Bills.
Bills OLB Shawne Merriman vs. Raiders LT Jared Veldheer
Shawne Merriman was explosive throughout the preseason, however, last week he recorded just two tackles and an injury to his shoulder. Although he returned to the game, he didn't return to his "Lights Out" form that Bills fans were hoping to see early in the year. The Raiders offensive line is tough, but Merriman could exploit Veldheer behind the Bills' strong defensive line.
Bills Defensive Line vs. Raiders Offensive Line
Nose tackle Kyle Williams was stout against the Chiefs' interior line last week and should be able to exploit the Raiders' rookie guard, Stefen Wisniewski, the nephew of Oakland's offensive line coach. Marcell Dareus is bigger than Williams at defensive end and while he wasn't able to get to the quarterback last week, he should be able to manhandle the Raiders' right tackle and guard Khalif Barnes and the undersized Cooper Carlisle.
Bills Defense vs. Raiders Speed
Everyone knows that Raiders owner Al Davis loves speed, whether on offense or defense. On offense, the Raiders have the electrifying Jacoby Ford, a do-it-all special teamer and wide receiver who can be a home run threat on almost any play. They also have wide receiver Darius Heyward-Bey who hasn't been exactly a dominant receiver in the league, but can stretch the field.
Ford is ruled out for Sunday's game due to a hamstring injury, but Heyward-Bey could present a matchup issue with the slower Bills' cornerbacks, Drayton Florence and Leodis McKelvin. Heyward-Bey caught four passes for 44 yards last week against the Denver Broncos.
Bills Defense vs. Raiders RB's Darren McFadden, Michael Bush
Last week, the Bills shut down the Chiefs rushing attack and this week they face off against some of the biggest running backs in the league. Darren McFadden rushed for 150 yards last week against a pretty decent Broncos' defense. Michael Bush, who weighs roughly 240 pounds, is a bruiser and Raiders head coach Hue Jackson will certainly try to punish the Bills' defense to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick & co. off of the field.
While the Bills were surprising in Week 1, it will really be tough for them to compete with the dual rushing attack of the Raiders. If McFadden and Bush are able to pound it out and keep the clock running, it will be a long afternoon for the Bills defense and simply wont allow the Bills offense to get on the field.
Final Score: Oakland Raiders 27, Buffalo Bills 24
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