DE Derrick Burgess vs. OT Jason Peters
Jason Peters is trying return to full game shape having just been activated a week ago and Burgess is hoping to exploit that. Peters will no doubt need to be spelled when he gets winded and needs a break during the course of the game. Peters was recently asked about Burgess’ play and he said, “He is a smaller guy so he has got to get you off balance”. Burgess will also line up on the other side against former Raider and current Bills Tackle Langston Walker who also added “(Burgess) is a smart player who wastes minimal energy on his moves”. This is what allows Burgess to maintain his push throughout the game. And against Peters whose stamina may not yet be what it should be, he could wear him out pretty quickly. This would mean that either Peters gets beat or Burgess will be lining up against a less skilled Tackle. Getting pressure on Trent Edwards is of utmost importance to coming out of Buffalo with a win.
LT Mario Henderson vs. DE Aaron Schobel
Last week against Kansas City, Henderson was laudable against a KC end rush that no longer boasted Jared Allen. This week he will truly be tested. Aaron Schobel has been to the probowl the last two years including being selected as a starter in 07. He is 2nd in the NFL to only Jason Taylor in sacks since 2003. Henderson is being thrown into the fire on this one. Talk about having to dig deep. And you can bet that Zach Miller will be staying home to help out. There is no way that Kiffin risks getting Russell killed from behind by Schobel by not giving Henderson some blocking help. Henderson will still need to show a mobility and technique that he has yet to show. Time to grow up Mario. If you win this battle, you will certainly get props from me…and JaMarcus Russell.
QB JaMarcus Russell vs. LB Kawika Mitchell
When you combine the Bills’ stout defense, the questionable tackle play for the Raiders and the Raiders’ pass offense struggling, there should be a lot of dump offs and short passes to move the ball down the field. This will mean a good amount of screen plays as well. Mitchell had two straight 100 tackle season for the Chiefs in 05 and 06 and had 76 tackles on the overall dominating defense of last year’s Superbowl winning Giants. He will be patrolling the middle of the field looking to pick off any errant passes or stuff any screens or short passes in their tracks. That is while he is not called upon to blitz Russell in which their matchup will become a bit more personal. Russell will have to be very accurate and not stare down a receiver or telegraph any designed runs. Last week, with the Raiders in the redzone, he was anything but deceptive on a naked bootleg which was sniffed out by three defenders who subsequently tackled him for a loss. He will need to tap into some Brett Favre trickery this week or it won’t go well.
LB Ricky Brown vs. RB Marshawn Lynch
The Bills success this season has come mostly on defense. They have primarily used turnovers, run stopping and field position to win. Then on offense they pass the ball quite well. All of this has limited Lynch’s touches and yards and yet he still has gotten a TD in both the Bills’ first two games. One was an 11 yarder and the other was a 21 yarder. We all know that Morrison and Howard excel in pass protection. No doubt the Bills game plan will be to send a couple of TE or a TE and a FB to keep them occupied in coverage while they hand the ball to Lynch to try and get another long TD run. This will leave Ricky Brown in the box to track him down and keep that from happening. This will be Ricky Brown’s most important responsibility this Sunday. Brown excels on special teams with this same concept in mind– find the ball carrier, shed your blockers and tackle the ball carrier in the open field.
OL Gallery/Grove/Carlisle vs. DT Marcus Stroud and Kyle Williams
The Bills have not allowed a total of 100 yards rushing in either of their first two games this season. And no I don’t mean a 100 yd rusher, I mean 100 TOTAL YARDS rushing. Granted they haven’t gone up against the Raiders yet who have the best rushing attack in the NFL this year so far. However, containing two entire offenses under 100 yds each is no small feat and could very well be the key to the Bills being 2-0. Barring turnovers, this game should be a low scoring affair which means that the team that wins time of posession wins the game. If Gallery, Grove and Carlisle can push around Stroud and Williams the way they pushed around the Broncos and Chiefs then the Raiders will keep the ball and limit turnovers (knock on wood) which will give the Bills fewer chances to score. The Bills have not been put in a desperate situation yet this year. Their defense has stuffed opposing team’s run game and forced turnovers in the passing game. If the Raiders can methodically move the ball, the Bills will be forced to make some big plays and that is right where we want them.
WR Ronald Curry vs. CB Jabari Greer
Curry has played this season like he had a schitzoid embelism. We know his hands work just fine but something is going on upstairs (literally and figuratively) other than his route and catching the ball. He either is late on his break or messes up a route or the timing is off with Russell or he simply blows the catch. Whatever it is, at some point it just seems logical that he will figure it out. Curry is supposed to be this team’s slot receiver and he has done well in that role for a couple of seasons. Greer is not exactly a pro bowl corner. He is only starting because the backups on this team are both rookies. Curry should be able to get open and he has shown his ability to run precise routes in the past. If he can do that in this game and pick up a few valuable first downs, that will be huge for the Raiders. Come to think of it perhaps this matchup should be Curry vs. Curry.
CB DeAngelo Hall vs. WR Lee Evans
Now keep in mind that the Bills may line Evans up against Aso but if I were them, I wouldn’t. And apparently neither would the Broncos or the Chiefs because they both lined up their best receiver against Hall. Lee Evans has been the Bills big play receiver for a while and nothing has changed. He and Trent Edwards have developed a rapport which is not surprising because Evans had good chemistry with JP Losman prior to that as well. And what QB wouldn’t like a guy like Evans who is fast, has great hands and runs concise routes? Even though his best route is a straight line. Hall gave up a few catches to Dwayne Bowe last week but he also made just as many good plays on the ball. If he can at least duplicate that performance, then the defense can probably live with that.
FS Michael Huff vs. WR Lee Evans
I can see no responsibility for Huff that is greater than going to whichever side of the field that Evans is on and guarding against Hall making a bad break and getting burnt. Huff also did a Dr Jeckyl/Mr Hyde routine between the Broncos and Chiefs games. In the Chiefs game, he seemed to make huge strides (literally and figuratively) in his ability to close on receivers and pick up where the corners left off.� In this case though, the Bills have a far superior QB than the Chiefs did. I don’t suggest that Ryan simply tell Huff to shadow Evans all day but if I were Huff, I would at least keep one eye on him at all times because if all else were to go well for the Raiders, the Bills will depend on Evans to get them a quick score and the Raiders will depend on Huff to keep that from happening.
Raiders Special Teams vs. PR Roscoe Parrish
Parrish is one of the most dangerous return men in the game. He led the NFL last season with 16.3 yds per punt return including a 74 yard punt return for a TD in the opening game against the Broncos. He returned a punt 63 yards for a TD in the opening game this season as well against the Seahawks. The Raiders special teams have looked pretty good this season (knock on wood) and the fans are still bragging about how the Raiders bottled up Devin Hester last season. Best case scenario would be to have little or no punts at all. That is rather unlikely so we will need all of Lechler’s big leg and a fierce group of hungry special teams players to see to it that Parrish get’s the Hester treatment. The Bills beat the the Seahawks in week one nearly on special teams alone getting 2 TD and a forced fumble that led to a TD. So, Yeah, it’s important.