It's off to Seatown for the Silver & Black pirates. The Raiders are still looking for their first win of the season against the 4-3 Seahawks in their digs -- not the most ideal place to find that first win, but that's the cards they have been dealt.
The Seahawks have had a rough few weeks, losing to the Dallas Cowboys at home, losing to the one-win Rams, and then struggling before pulling out a late score to beat the Panthers in Carolina. They aren't quite the same dominating Seahawks team as they had been the past couple seasons, including in their Super Bowl run last season. But as is often the case in recent seasons, and for 13-straight games dating back to last season, the Raiders are the cure for what ails most teams.
No team in the NFL has a greater homefield advantage than the Seattle Seahawks. Over their 12 years playing in CenturyLink field, no NFL team has more home wins than they do and they are 17-2 at home since 2012. They have the decibel record in the NFL to go with it. Many mighty quarterbacks have been rendered pedestrian in those unfriendly confines. Derek Carr is a rookie playing in his eighth regular season NFL game. This will be some serious trial by fire in the Emerald City.
Don't squeeze the Sherman
Seahawks outspoken cornerback, Richard Sherman said this week that the reason Derek Carr aired it out against him and his vaunted secondary in the preseason is because "He doesn't know any better." Sherman becomes just the latest in a long string of Pro Bowl corners Derek Carr has faced this season since that preseason meeting. Carr had decent success against Darrelle Revis in week three and Brandon Flowers in week five, but hasn't had the same success against Patrick Peterson and Joe Haden in the past two weeks.
The key for Carr now is to actually throw to open receivers as opposed to just seeing a coverage he likes and making his decision who he will be throwing at before the snap. That requires that he trust his line to give him a pocket and making his reads. A one-on-one match-up with Sherman or anyone doesn't simply mean that's where the ball should go, because Sherman may just play the pass perfectly and make Carr pay for his poor decision. And going away from his initial read also will allow Carr to discover an open receiver he may otherwise have missed. It's the next step in his progress as an NFL quarterback.
Last week D.J. Hayden saw his first game action of the season, coming off the PUP list. This week, he could see his playing time increase considerably. Carlos Rogers is doubtful for the game with a knee injury. His starting job could go to either T.J. Carrie or Hayden. Even if it's Carrie who is given the nod, Hayden is likely to see a lot of work in nickel packages. Neiko Thorpe could also see some snaps in the nickel and dime packages. The plan to slowly ease Hayden back just got ramped up, giving us our first good look at him since he week eight of last season.
Both the Raiders and Seahawks have issues at middle linebacker. For the Raiders, there is the well documented struggles of Miles Burris, who is only still starting because of the season-ending injuries to Nick Roach and Kaluka Maiava. But the Seahawks have their own issue. They will be starting undrafted rookie, Brock Coyle, due to injuries to Bobby Wagner (turf toe) and Malcolm Smith (groin). The only difference here is we know Burris is not a middle linebacker, and this being Coyle's first ever start, how he performs is yet to be seen. Though, making this Seahawks squad as an undrafted free agent speaks highly of his abilities, the Raiders must test him as much as possible. As a side note, the Seahawks will also be starting rookie Kevin Pierre-Louis at outside linebacker. So, things are not ideal at linebacker in Seattle.
Legion of whom?
The Raiders have had a dearth of interceptions thus far in the season. They have just three on the season -- two by Charles Woodson, one by T.J. Carrie. But while the difference between what the Raiders secondary is doing and what the Seahawks secondary does is typically...legion, that isn't quite the case this season. The Seahawks have a total of, wait for it, THREE interceptions, just like the Raiders. It could mean they're not as good as usual or it could just mean they're due. And since the cast of characters is basically the same, I am leaning toward the latter. They still have a top ten pass defense and you figure the interceptions will come if any team wants to test it. Also, they've had several would-be interceptions dropped. Oh, and FYI, the Raiders pass defense is ranked 13th; just three spots below the Seahawks, with nearly identical numbers of TD given up (both have 12), first downs (Seattle 90 to Oakland 88), and first down pecentage (Seattle 39.1 to Oakland 41.9).
As I mentioned, the linebacking corps for the Seahawks is banged up and stating two rookies. That is just the beginning of their concerns. The offensive line is also a major issue for the Seahawks. First off, All Pro center Max Unger is out. He is replaced by Steve Schilling who is making his third ever start. Left tackle, Russell Okung has been banged up all season and has been playing through a torn shoulder labrum and a foot injury and his performance has suffered because of it. Starting at right tackle is rookie round two pick, Justin Britt, who has looked downright terrible the past couple week, giving up 11 QB hurries and a sack. The offensive line issues are a big reason the Seahawks offense has not been playing at the same level they were in the past couple seasons.
Sack for Mack
It's time. As Khalil Mack's pass rushing efficiency has gone up the past few weeks, and the superlatives fly about his how "umblockable" he is, the next step is getting his first sack of the season. We will all be on sack watch. Mack said this week that he thinks about his lack of sacks all the time. He wants it bad and against the aforementioned banged up and vulnerable offensive line, it seems Russell Wilson could end up in the trivia question "Who was Khalil Mack's first NFL sack?" Wilson isn't easy to pin down but he isn't impossible to bring down. He's been sacked three times this season.
Benson Mayowa got his first start as a Raider last week and had a standout performance. It wasn't so long ago he was wearing a Seattle Seahawks uniform and wallowing in obscurity. It was the Seahawks who plucked him out of Idaho as an undrafted free agent and though he rode the bench, he went along for the ride all the way to the Super Bowl. Now he has given up being a part of a Super Bowl run for a starting job on a winless Raiders team. Sunday, he returns to Seattle with designs on showing his old mates that they should probably should have kept him around. Like many new Raiders, he has something to prove, and this week he tries to prove it to the team who gave him his shot and then gave up on him.
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