Obviously the quarterbacks will be a point of focus in this game, especially for the Raiders. This team will live and die by the play of Derek Carr. After the QBs vs the opposing defenses there are some more specific match-ups that will decide this game.
Amari Cooper vs Marcus Peters
Last season Coop tried to work on his aggressiveness. But he wasn’t healthy. This time he’ healthy and he will need to show he wants it more. Peters is an All-Pro cornerback and for that matter so is his counterpart, Aqib Talib. It’s a pick-your-poison situation, really for Coop. He will have to beat Peters in bump and run and play the football like it belongs to him. Bodying up Peters or Talib won’t be an easy task, but if he’s going to be this team’s number one receiver, that’s just what he must do.
Jared Cook vs Shaky LB’s
The one glaring weak area for the Rams is their linebacking corps. They have a new group back there and will without Mark Barron, leaving them with a group that of four linebacker, none of whom started more than 4 games last season. The Raiders need to use Jared Cook to exploit that weakness all day. So long as they constantly have to account for Cook in coverage it frees up other areas. Not to mention the mismatch Cook presents.
Gabe Jackson vs Aaron Donald
Donald is in the fold and happy to have a big new contract. Jackson has been knocking on the door of the Pro Bowl most of his career. He struggled last season in part because of a foot injury and in part because of a bad line scheme that affected the entire line. He’s back healthy and will have his toughest competition all season right out the gates. Donald is the reigning defensive player of the year. Expecting him to be out of football shape and therefore worked into the defense would be optimistic. Not if it isn’t Donald across the line, it will be Ndamukong Suh who presents plenty of problems of his own.
Derrick Johnson vs Todd Gurley
The Rams own both the DPOY Donald and the Offensive Player of the Year, Todd Gurley. Dude ran for 1305 yards and 13 TD’s along with catching 64 passes for 788 yards and 6 TD’s. He basically looks like the second coming of Marshall Faulk. Johnson was once an All Pro, but at 35-years-old those days are in the past. He is supposed to be better against the pass than he is the run, but it won’t matter against Gurley. He will have to either fill a gap to stop him, chase him around the edge, or shadow him in coverage. None of which will be easy.
Gareon Conley vs Brandin Cooks
Hey, remember Brandin Cooks? He’s the guy who cooked Conley’s predecessor Sean Smith in the 2016 season opener to the tune of 6 catches for 143 yards and 2 touchdowns. That was with the Saints. Then last season he did it again as a member of the Patriots, catching 6 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. He now comes to LA to be what the Rams hope is an upgrade for Sammy Watkins (now with the Chiefs) with a chance to do it to the Raiders again. It will be up to Conley to stop him. The second year former top pick is better equipped to stop Cooks than Smith was. Smith was a big corner who was a bad match-up for Cooks. Conley has much quicker feet to mirror Cooks and attempt to limit the damage he can create.