Oakland Raiders vs. Chicago Bears: Full Oakland Game Preview
It’s funny what two wins can do for a franchise typically struggling right out of the gate. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless spoke favorably about the overall direction of the Raiders on First Take. Wide receiver Amari Cooper appeared on the NFL Network to speak about the team’s early strides.
Listen closely to what Cooper said on the NFL Network. He looked at the camera and said, “I don’t feel like I’ve done much yet.”
At a press conference, Del Rio said, “We’ve got way too much work to do. We respect everybody. We fear nobody.”
Those quotes set the table for Oakland’s Week 4 matchup with a downtrodden Bears team which traded two players this week.
However, Oakland cannot become complacent with a 2-1 record or overlook an 0-3 Bears team that has played arguably three of the best five teams in the league in the Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks without its starting quarterback (Jay Cutler) for most of the stretch.
Cutler’s potential return would even the matchup against the Raiders. Oakland's chances of extending its winning streak to three games would significantly increase with backups Jimmy Clausen or David Fales under center.
Now, let’s dig into the nitty-gritty of this Week 4 matchup.
Location: Soldier Field; Chicago, Illinois
Date: Sunday, Oct. 4
Time: 10:00 a.m. PT / 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 3 Results and Recap
|AFC West Standings|
|San Diego Chargers||1||2|
|Kansas City Chiefs||1||2|
The Raiders took sole possession of second place in the AFC West. The San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs dropped their road games for consecutive losses.
The Denver Broncos continued their winning ways as an anticipated matchup with the Raiders looms in Week 5.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Oakland must take care of business on the road this Sunday before looking ahead to Denver.
News and Notes
Jay Cutler’s Early Return?
Cutler participated at practice on a limited basis with a hamstring pull. He tested the hamstring prior to the Bears’ Week 3 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks but sat out.
According to ESPN Insider Adam Schefter on Sept. 21, Cutler’s timetable started at two weeks. Of course, injury timetables aren’t always accurate. Cutler continues to push for an early return.
Right now, it’s too early too tell if he’ll play on Sunday, but Del Rio told reporters he expects Cutler to play.
Changes in the Bears’ Front 7
Chicago held a mini yard sale at the beginning of the week, trading linebackers Jared Allen and Jonathan Bostic in return for draft picks.
Raiders fans remember Houston from his four years in Oakland from 2010-13. In a press conference, he commented that this Raiders team looks a lot different than the teams he played for in the past. That’s not a diss—it’s a fact.
Nose tackle Jeremiah Ratliff returns to the field after serving a three-game suspension, per ESPN's Jeff Dickerson. Oakland must account for his presence as a stout run-stopper and gap-stuffer in the middle.
Del Rio and Fox spent three seasons together from 2012-14 in Denver. The two coaches know each other well, which adds an extra element to the game.
Fox knows some of Del Rio’s tendencies as a defensive mind and vice versa. It’s the ultimate game of mind chess between the competitive coaches.
It sounds weird when an 0-3 team that’s looked as bad as the Bears is involved, but expect a nail-biter—especially if Cutler rejoins the team.
Fox likely made note of the Raiders' inability to cover average to below-average tight ends, and he realizes the need to feature Martellus Bennett in the game plan. Hopefully, Del Rio has an answer for one of the best receiving tight ends in the game.
Latest Injury News
|Oakland Raiders Injury Report|
*DNP = Did not practice
*LP = Limited participation in practice
*FP = Full participation in practice
Oakland Raiders injury report courtesy of Raiders.com
The major news pertaining to injuries projects as good news for the Raiders’ interior defense. Justin Ellis fully participated in practice on Wednesday and seems likely to return to action alongside Dan Williams in the 4-3. He could also alternate with him in a two-gap assignment as a nose tackle.
Cornerback Keith McGill and running back Taiwan Jones appear on the injury report as new concerns this week. Neither player practiced on Wednesday.
Defensive lineman C.J. Wilson exited early in his last outing and continues to nurse a calf injury. Inside linebacker Ben Heeney practiced on a limited basis with a hamstring injury.
Benson Mayowa’s streak of inactivity continues with a knee injury that will likely sideline him for a fourth consecutive game.
Of course, the established veterans—safety Charles Woodson and defensive end Justin Tuck—didn’t practice, but that’s the norm. They’ll take the field on game day.
Matt Forte vs. Raiders Run Defense
Matt Forte is one of the best running backs in the league that no one talks about, but the Raiders must focus on limiting his production in a multitude of ways.
According to Pro Football Focus, Forte ranks second in rushing yards among all running backs and serves as a viable receiver out of the backfield. He caught 102 passes in 2014.
Fortunately, Ellis’ return adds some bulk to the interior defense. Nonetheless, the Raiders must assign a linebacker to cover Forte in the flat and in the middle of the field.
Oakland has already shown its weaknesses in mid-field pass coverage. A tight end or running back running free down the middle could cause major matchup issues.
The Bears may opt to run the ball frequently or use quick, short passes to neutralize the Raiders' pass rush that racked up five sacks in Week 3.
Martellus Bennett vs. Raiders defense
Opposing tight ends continue to gouge the Raiders in the middle of the field and deep into the secondary.
Unlike the three previous tight ends, who shredded the Raiders defense, Bennett established his receiving prowess over several seasons. In 2014, he caught 90 passes for 916 yards and six touchdowns.
Bennett becomes a more effective weapon with Cutler in the lineup. However, Oakland has made it fairly easy for any quarterback to find a wide open tight end over the middle.
Raiders' X-Factor: Amari Cooper
According to Football Outsiders, the Bears defense ranks last in the league overall and against No. 1 wide receivers.
The Bears’ porous defense receives a boost with Ratliff’s return, but who’s going to cover Cooper?
Over the last couple of weeks, Cooper has shredded formidable pass defenses. Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden struggled with Cooper in Week 3.
The Bears will attempt to cover the rookie with three different cornerbacks who surrendered a combined six touchdowns in the first three weeks.
Currently, Cooper’s 290 receiving yards ranks seventh among all wideouts. The Raiders as a team and Cooper as an individual can think in terms of threes on Sunday.
The Raiders seek their third consecutive win, and Cooper could extend his streak of 100-yard performances to three games to complete a stellar first quarter of the 2015 season.
Without Cutler, this is a game the Raiders should win. The Bears punted on every possession in Week 3 against the Seahawks. Clausen couldn’t move the ball at all and has struggled to do so throughout his career.
Chicago might find more success in starting Fales, but he’s yet to start an NFL game. A switch to the two-year pro brings the element of the unknown, but when speaking with reporters, Fox made reference to his solid preseason performance as hope for some success in relief of Cutler.
If Cutler plays, expect a shootout. Bennett will likely burn the Raiders defense for close to 100 yards. Oakland must find a way to cover wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who also participated in practice and has a better chance of playing than Cutler.
Fortunately, Chicago’s defense cannot stop anyone either. The Bears have allowed 105 points in the first three weeks. With Cutler involved, this game will come down to who scores last.
Raiders 34, Bears 31 (with Cutler)
Raiders 38, Bears 13 (without Cutler)
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