Key match-ups: Raiders at Bengals

Ezra Shaw

We take a look at the key match-ups in the Raiders as they head to Cincinnati to face the Bengals.

Miles Burris, Philip Wheeler vs Jermaine Gresham

Last week, Burris gave up 8 catches on 8 targets for 63 yards and a touchdown. Most of those catches as well as the touchdown came via the tight end. The touchdown was a wide open catch by Jimmy Graham because Burris was well out of position on the play. Graham is an All Pro tight end but he didn't need to be on that play. The week prior, Philip Wheeler had a similar line, giving up 8 catches on 8 targets for 88 yards - most of which came via the tight end. The team will switch back and forth between these two as to who drops into coverage with the tight end. Before last week, it was Wheeler given the bulk of the task. Both of them will need to do better than a perfect catch ratio or Gresham will have a field day like those tight ends before him.

Michael Huff vs A.J. Green

Huff won't be on Green all day. Bartell will line up opposite him at times. However, Green is more often than not lined up at right wide receiver which is where Huff makes his home. Not only that but as we have seen and will continue to see, when quarterbacks see this converted safety lined up opposite their top receiver, they look there first. The result is at least one big play per game. Huff will get the better of the match-up a few times but as long as he is prone to giving up that one big play, they will continue to try. Huff also had the same complimentary things to say of Green as he did about Vincent Jackson three weeks ago. That was right before Jackson had a fantastic game against the Raiders.

Marcel Reece vs Rey Maualuga

With Reece becoming the new focal point of this Raiders offense, you can bet the Bengals are focused heavily on stopping him in both the run and the pass game. Much of that responsibility will fall upon Rey Maualuga. The team also has Vontaze Burfict back there but Reece is too fact in the pass game for Burfict to handle. Maualuga is also the middle linebacker so he will be responsible for plugging up the middle and lining up his teammates to try and keep Reece under wraps.

Lamarr Houston vs Andre Smith

The Raiders pass rush has been non-existent much of the season. Last week against the Saints, they didn't have a single sack. The sack leader is Richard Seymour and he isn't even playing. They are also going against a very solid offense line for the Bengals. The Raiders defense plays better when Lamarr Houston infuses energy to it. Houston is probably their best chance to generate some pressure. If he can't, Andy Dalton will have all day to pick the Raiders defense to pieces. And as we have discovered in recent weeks, that is not very difficult as it is.

Cooper Carlisle vs Geno Atkins

The Bengals have a pretty potent pass rush and they'll be putting pressure on the Raiders offensive line from many different areas. But none more so than from Geno Atkins. He is the team's sack leader with 8.0 sacks on the season. His technique is nothing special. He simply overpowers his man and bulls his way into the offensive backfield. Carlisle will have one of his most difficult challenges this season keeping Atkins from closing Palmer's pocket when he drops back to throw. It is also the threat Atkins represents that opens up opportunities for his linemate, Michael Johnson who is second on the team with 7.0 sacks in much the same way that a heathy Richard Seymour gives Matt Shaughnessy more opportunities (Shaughnessy doesn't have a single sack since Seymour has been out).

Carson Palmer vs Denarius Moore

Carson Palmer's nemesis lately has been his own teammate. The guy who is supposed to be his number one receiver. But Moore has been running the wrong routes and not recognizing coverages. The result has been incompletions on key third downs and interceptions. These lapses have been the number one cause of the Raiders stalling on offense of late. Moore continues to be the most targeted receiver but he has been catching about half of those balls thrown his way. There is no excuse for it. He should know very well by now what coverage dictates he do and he and Palmer should have great chemistry by this point.

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