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Bills vs. Raiders: Breaking Down Oakland's Game Plan

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2014

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 07:  Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders hands off  in the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at O.co Coliseum on December 7, 2014 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

The season is winding down, and the Oakland Raiders will play their last home game against a potential playoff-bound Buffalo Bills team.

Oakland has the tough task of dissecting arguably the most underrated defense in the NFL. Buffalo is only allowing 18.1 points per game.

Led by an aggressive and stout defensive line, the Bills were able to prevent both Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers from throwing touchdown passes in consecutive weeks; both quarterbacks were also held under 200 passing yards and intercepted twice.

Fortunately for the Raiders, the Bills offense is still mediocre at best. Buffalo earned a victory against the Green Bay Packers without rushing or throwing for a touchdown.

Tight end Mychal Rivera has proved to be effective when attacking the middle of the field through the air. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson must continue developing the short passing attack, targeting the running backs, in effort to expand the offense. 

Here are the expectations and the effective game plan for Oakland’s matchup against the Bills.

Neutralize Pass Rush

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TAMPA, FL -  DECEMBER 8:  Defensive end Mario Williams #94 of the Buffalo Bills sets on defense against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers December 8, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Bucs won 27 - 6. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Last week, Oakland’s offensive line was beaten repeatedly in the trenches by the Kansas City Chiefs' aggressive defensive line, allowing four sacks.

Buffalo’s defensive line will have the same objective; it's leading the league in sacks (49). The Raiders must protect their franchise quarterback by running the ball frequently. Latavius Murray's contributions within the game plan will be the key to offsetting the Bills' defensive front.

Murray hasn’t been as successful in the games following his breakout performance in Week 12, but the use of the run gives Carr more breathing room in the pocket.

Latavius Murray This Season (Four Carries or more)
Week / OpponentCarriesYardsTouchdowns
Week 11 / San Diego4430
Week 12 / Kansas City41122
Week 14 / San Francisco23760
Week 15 / Kansas City12590
Pro-Football-Reference.com

The threat of Murray scampering to the edge forces defensive ends Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes to spread out for containment, which takes some heat off the pass rush.

The second-year running back is still under the microscope of interim head coach Tony Sparano. Expect Murray to continue getting 15-plus carries going forward. If the rushing attack is successful early, the Bills' defensive line will play back on its heels in prevent mode in fear of the running back’s speed and agility.

Attack Middle of the field

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 07:  Mychal Rivera #81 of the Oakland Raiders is caught by Dontae Johnson #36 of the San Francisco 49ers in the second half at O.co Coliseum on December 7, 2014 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

An aggressive defensive line competing for sacks and a stable of deep-threat wide receivers to defend, creates significant gaps in the middle of the field.

Olson has utilized short passes to get Carr comfortable with the early flow of games. Now he must use the short pass to exploit holes within the Bills defense. Marcel Reece (215 yards) and Darren McFadden (206 yards) have been the most effective in catching the ball out of the backfield.

Each running back should have an impact on challenging the Bills linebackers to fill gaps on the field. These quick pass routes also allow Carr to get the ball out of his hands a lot quicker.

Mychal Rivera improved in comparison to his rookie year as a receiving tight end. Raiders fans who missed Zach Miller’s skill set, should embrace Rivera as Carr has done this season as a viable receiving tight end. 

The second-year tight end has steadily produced in the second half of this season; he recorded his first 100-yard game against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. In the last two games, he has caught seven passes and will continue to be Carr’s safe pass-route option. There will be enough space in the middle of the field for Rivera to pick up yards after the catch en route to another 100-yard game.

Stifle Sammy Watkins

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 30:  Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills is upended against the Cleveland Browns during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 30, 2014 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

In five out of six Buffalo losses, Sammy Watkins failed to reach 35 receiving yards. In the sixth loss against the Denver Broncos he failed to score a touchdown.

Sammy Watkins Production in Losses
Week / OpponentReceptionsYardsTouchdowns
Week 3 / San Diego2190
Week 4 / Houston4301
Week 6 / New England2270
Week 10 / Kansas City4270
Week 11 / Miami3320
Week 14 / Denver71270
Pro-Football-Reference.com

Watkins' unique blend of speed and size require a double-team, if the defense lacks a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback. Tarell Brown has only surrendered one touchdown in 42 receptions this season, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Along with safety Charles Woodson over the top, the secondary can prevent Watkins from impacting the game.

The Bills lack explosive playmakers on offense, which keeps games close—even when the defense dominates. Opposing defenses that are able to remove Watkins as a threat, essentially keep the contest competitive if they can score some points. Buffalo isn’t going to run away with the game unless it's the New York Jets.

Orton will target his go-to wide receiver early and often to open up running lanes for Fred Jackson and possibly C.J. Spiller, who is on pace to return from surgery on a broken collarbone, per the team's official website.

Spiller’s potential return will likely be subdued. He can be used as a decoy to spread the defense thin, but the Raiders cannot lose sight of Watkins on the field for Spiller on the mend.

Advanced statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com

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