These aren’t the same Oakland Raiders who have struggled for the last 10+ years in the NFL. Well at least not through the first three games.
The Raiders are 2-1 on the season and have a legit offensive attack led by Derek Carr and Amari Cooper. Offensively the Raiders are a big threat to a Bears defense that has struggled again this season. Defensively the Raiders have also improved with young talent as they are trying to build around Khalil Mack.
With a solid foundation, the Raiders could be one of the better teams in the NFL the next few years. Their recent rebuilding plan is also something the Bears should pay attention to.
Here’s what you need to know:
2014 record: 3-13 (last in AFC West)
Head Coach: Dennis Allen
Key returners: Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Latavius Murray, Charles Woodson
Key Newcomers: Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Nate Allen, Malcolm Smith
Key losses: LaMarr Woodley (cut), Darren McFadden (free agency)
Pass DEF: 30th (323 YPG)
Rush DEF: 13th (91.7 YPG)
Pass OFF: 6th (307 YPG)
Rush OFF: 7th (283 YPG)
Three Key Players
Derek Carr; QB
Khalil Mack; LB
Amari Cooper; WR
When the Raiders are on offense
Pay attention to the Raiders offensive attack which torched the Cleveland Browns last week. Led by the second-year quarterback Carr, the Raiders have finally found an offensive system that can actually put up points.
Receiver Amari Cooper is someone the Bears will need to keep an eye on all game as the rookie out of Alabama is off to a nice start for his career. Cooper and Carr have developed a bit of chemistry that the Raiders hope lasts for years. Opposite of Cooper is veteran Michael Crabtree who signed with the Raiders in the offseason. Oakland will look at those two to take advantage of a weak Chicago secondary.
If you can stop the Raiders passing attack, you’ve only solved one half of the equation. The other part comes in the form of speed back Latavius Murray who had been a pleasant surprise for the Raiders. Murray ran for 139 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown against the Browns last week. He was nominated for the FedEx Ground Player of the Week.
When the Raiders are on defense
The Raiders defense is lead by second-year star Khalil Mack who has made his impact in the NFL felt right away. The linebacker out of Buffalo is the key to success for the Raiders defense. But the defense has had its struggles in the secondary, getting torched by the Ravens and Browns despite winning both games.
The secondary is lead by veteran Charles Woodson who has that presence back there and is familiar with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Still with Woodson back there, the Raiders are very vulnerable. Look for Chicago to try and exploit the Raiders secondary if Cutler does indeed play.
If not, the Bears may try to attack the Raiders linebackers by rushing the football and sticking to a similar gameplan they had against Seattle.
Raiders young core
We can’t stress enough about Oakland’s young core that looks like it will pan out in the NFL. The Raiders have been bad for more than a decade but recent draft picks like Carr, Cooper and Mack have given the team some hope. The Bears are going through a re-building process of their own and could take some notes. Building through the draft, like the Raiders have done, will certainly be the best option.
Oakland’s core could put the franchise in a good position to compete for AFC West division titles and more for several years to come.
Will someone score more than 28?
The two teams have met just a total of 13 times with the Raiders holding the series lead at 7-6. But there’s one interesting stat that could be broken this week. In the 13 meetings, neither team has scored more than 28 points.
With Oakland’s improved offense and Chicago’s not so impressive defense, that stat is in jeopardy. Then there’s the possibility that Chicago could put up some points through the air against a weak Oakland secondary.