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Five key match-ups for Raiders vs Broncos

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Oakland Raiders v Denver Bronco Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Bitter rivals face off in Oakland Sunday. It’s the first of six must-win games for the Raiders and the Broncos would love nothing more to be the ones to kill their playoff hopes and send them to the AFC West cellar.

Michael Crabtree vs Aqib Talib

When these two teams faced off in week four, Crabtree was injured. You may recall Talib ripped off Crabtree’s necklace the last time these two faced off in the 2016 season finale. Despite the classless act by Talib, he was neither flagged nor fined by the league for it. He doubled down after the game and Crabtree called him childish. This match-up could get pretty heated.

John Pagano vs Bill Musgrave

The last two seasons these men as a match-up would have been Chargers (Pagano) vs Raiders (Musgrave). And in all four meetings, Musgrave has come out victorious. Both men took over as coordinators just this week and each hope to bring a few tricks up their sleeves while neither has a lot to work with.

Musgrave’s avantage is fielding a quarterback without much game tape to study. So, Musgrave has the element of surprise. Then again Paxton Lynch having started just three games in his young career — his first in a full year — make him practically a rookie with all the jitters that come with it.

Rodney Hudson vs Domata Peko

The last time these two teams faced off, the Raiders got almost nothing on the ground. They were the league’s top-ranked run defense at the time, allowing just 2.5 yards per carry and allowed just 1.6 yards per carry against the Raiders. This included Marshawn Lynch putting up his worst game of the season, picking up 12 yards on 9 carries (1.3 ypc).

Hudson has been fantastic this season in pass protection. But he hasn’t been dominant in the run game. He won’t be alone in trying to move Peko out off the point of attack, but he is the tip of the spear. His duties will only be greater should Gabe Jackson be unable to play with his injured ankle.

?!?!?!? vs Demaryius Thomas

This isn’t just about whether the Raiders will be able to contatin Thomas, it’s about who will get the assignment this week. Last week they started rookie safety Obi Melifonwu at corner. That was a mistake. This week it could be Sean Smith who works his way back into the starting lineup across from TJ Carrie. After that it’s just Dexter McDonald, who was benched after being torched by Jay Cutler and the Dolphins. Once again the Raiders have opted not to call Breon Borders up from the practice squad, leaving few great options for keeping Thomas under wraps.

Bruce Irvin vs Garrett Bolles

This week Irvin was pretty upset Ken Norton Jr was fired as defensive coordinator. He came to Oakland in the first place to follow Norton, who was his linebackers coach in Seattle for several years. Irvin hasn’t had much of an impact this season so far and this will be a test of his mettle to see if he can find his passion.

His feelings aside, the Raiders must put pressure on Paxton Lynch and it can’t always be just Khalil Mack. Calling for Irvin to be a factor in the pass rush is a drum that is getting tiresome to beat. The Broncos are fielding a backup right tackle, so you would figure they would send help to try and stop Mack. That would often leave Irvin one-on-one with Bolles. The Raiders don’t always need sacks from him. They just need pressure and a few hits on Lynch. He cannot be allowed to get comfortable back there. Something far too many quarterbacks have had this season facing the Raiders.