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In a game like this there are a lot of important matchups. With the Falcons firing on all cylinders, most of those matchups surround whether the Raiders can't slow them down. The Raiders have players who have proven themselves in the past but have yet to really show up this season.
The Falcons one weakness as far as we can tell at this point is their run defense. The Raiders will look to take advantage of this fact to make this came competitive. The Falcons play a lot of nickel defense but knowing the Raiders will feature McFadden a lot, they should line up in base 4-3 more often. In that case, Dent is the man in the middle who will be charged with keeping McFadden under wraps. The Falcons' pass defense is very good so the key to moving the ball will be on the ground. The Falcons offense is also very good and success in the run game will help control the clock, keep the Falcons offense off the field and give the Raider defense time to rest between drives.
This 12-time Pro Bowler already has the sculptor's planning for his bust in the Hall of Fame. As good as the entire Falcons offense is, Tony Gonzalez still leads the team in receiving. He is 36 years old and running circles around defenses. Wheeler and Branch will have their toughest task this season with Gonzo. And that is saying a lot considering they have already faced Antonio Gates and Heath Miller.
Andre Carter vs Sam Baker
The Raiders have had almost no pass rush to speak of this season. Andre Carter's arrival is supposed to help change that. He was signed nearly three weeks ago after the team had worked him out twice since training camp. The 13-year veteran defensive end made his first Pro Bowl last season after registering 10.0 sacks but his season ended with a quad injury and it took him into this season to recover. He will be itching to show he's still got it and it will be left tackle Sam Baker's job to keep him off his quarterback's blindside and out of the backfield. If Carter can't add the pass rush the Raiders have been lacking, this will not go well for the Raiders.
With Shawntae Spencer still out with a sprained foot, Huff is back in the starting lineup. Now he will have to guard one of the best receivers in the game in Roddy White. The Raiders are the worst in the league in giving up first downs on third down. Much of that is due to the cushion Huff and other corners have been giving the receivers on third down. Opposing offenses see this and call for a bubble screen and it works like a charm almost every time. It will be up to Huff to not only keep White from burning him but to solve the bubble screen conundrum.
Khalif Barnes is again out and Willie Smith will be replacing him at right tackle. He had a lot of trouble two weeks ago in Denver with Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. This week he has another tough task facing off against John Abraham. He lines up on both sides of the defensive line and since he is the Falcons' best pass rusher, I expect to see him looking to tee off against the weakest link on the Raiders' offensive line. The last time Abraham faced the Raiders, in 2008, he had 3.0 sacks as he took advantage left tackle Kwame Harris. He has similar visions for this game.
Carson Palmer vs the crowd
The only win the Raiders had this season came at home. It allowed Palmer to get the offense set, change plays at the line, and run the no huddle. They haven't been able to get anything going on the road. This game should prove even more difficult because the game will be played in the Georgia Dome and it will get very noisy in there. Once the improvising starts, Palmer will have a great deal of difficulty trying to call or change plays at the line. His ability to run this offense and "audible" through the crowd noise will be crucial.