July has never been the best time for football, but that shouldn’t stop us from looking ahead to the most exciting times of the 2018 NFL season.
As such, we will look forward to the Week 9 Thursday Night Football matchup against the San Francisco 49ers and see how the Raiders stack up against the team across the bay in our Raiders 2018 opponent breakdown.
San Francisco might be one of the biggest story lines heading into the regular season as NFL fans want to see exactly what the 49ers have in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
After starting the season with nine straight losses, the franchise’s fortunes changed when the team acquired Garoppolo from the New England Patriots.
While Garoppolo didn’t start immediately for his new team, he was given the starting job when former starting quarterback CJ Beathard went down with an injury. Since the Niners made Garoppolo their starter, they have not loss winning their last five games of the season to finish 6-10 including a 44-point barrage against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Key Departures: Carlos Hyde, Aaron Lynch, Leon Hall (Raiders), Tank Carradine (Raiders), Brandon Fusco
Key Arrivals: Richard Sherman, Jonathan Cooper, Jerick McKinnon, Weston Richburg, Korey Toomer, Mike McGlinchey
2018 NFL.com Power Rankings: #15
2017 Total Offense: 12th yards for, 20th points for (20.7 ppg)
2018 Total Defense: 24th yards against, 25th points against (23.9 ppg)
Khalil Mack vs. Joe Staley/Mike McGlinchey
Since a new coaching staff is in town and it is still the offseason, we are not exactly sure how Jon Gruden will use Khalil Mack. But we can imagine he will be moved around and will get his shot at Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey.
Mack, who had 36.5 sacks in the last three seasons, will get to match up against one of the best left tackles in the game. Staley has had a Pro Football Focus player grade greater than 84.7 in five out of the last six years.
Or Mack could take his talents to the right side and attack the rookie in McGlinchey. There is no tougher test for a rookie than Mack.
So we will see Mack go up against a great tackle or move to the other side to try and take a rookie to school. Either way, it will be fun to watch.
Garappolo vs. Raiders’ secondary
Garappolo didn’t care who he was facing near the end of 2017. He picked apart the Jaguars, Texans, Rams and Titans by throwing for a combined 1,249 yards and six touchdowns in the four games. Every single one of those defenses ranked higher than Oakland in pass defense.
San Francisco will be a tough test for a Raiders’ secondary that has frustrated fans since Nnamdi Asomugha left in free agency. Oakland will have to shut down the Niners’ pair of Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin.
The matchup won’t be easy, seeing the way Garappolo played last season, but Oakland should not be getting gashed consistently knowing the limited talent at wide receiver.
Ultimately, last season’s team would get gashed. But with the additions of Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin, it should be a lot different but only if there is an actual improvement in the secondary.
Reuben Foster/DeForest Buckner vs. Raiders’ offensive line
The Raiders’ offensive line over the last two years has been touted as one of the best in the NFL if not the best in the AFC.
However, Oakland has rarely had its way when it comes to running the football consistently against dominant fronts like one might expect with an elite offensive line.
Against San Francisco, the Raiders will face two impressive presences in the middle of the defense in Rueben Foster and DeForest Buckner. For perspective, Foster was one of just five middle linebackers with a 90 PFF player grade or higher in 2017 and Buckner was one of just eight interior defenders.
If the offensive line isn’t clicking on all cylinders, Buckner and Foster will make sure Marshawn Lynch is spending more time going backward than forward. And it could also impact Derek Carr’s ability to step up in the pocket to extend plays.
But Gruden has spent almost the entire offseason focusing on the offensive line. So it should be fair to believe Oakland will perform well against the Niners’ front.
For those in the Bay Area, this will easily be the biggest football game of the year aside from the playoffs.
Both teams won six games in 2017, are expecting to make the playoffs this winter and have two exciting young quarterbacks to make that a reality. It should be a drama filled shootout on national television.
Oakland will also have its last chance to possess Bay Area supremacy as the next time the Raiders will face their Bay Area rival they will have to travel across an entire state not just one bridge.