Buffalo Bills (2-0) vs Oakland Raiders (1-1)
Sunday, 1:00 PM ET (CBS)
As I strive to post a few keys for each game, this week's keys seem pretty obvious. That doesn't mean, however, that the job of the Buffalo Bills - winning - will be easy by any means this weekend. Without further ado, here are some keys to Sunday's game between the Oakland Raiders and our Buffalo Bills...
Make JaMarcus Russell beat us: It's pretty obvious that Russell is still learning how to play QB at the NFL level. There will be a ton of ups and downs with a young, developing QB, and we need to take advantage of that. It's time to stack the box, slow Darren McFadden (and I suppose Michael Bush depending on his workload) and put the Raiders in passing situations. There is no reason for us not to sell out to stop the run this week. The Raiders have very weak wideouts, a still somewhat suspect O-Line and the developing Russell. I expect Perry Fewell to challenge Russell and the Raiders passing game early and often.
Force Oakland into 3rd and longs: Coupled with forcing Russell to beat us, we need to put them in 3rd and long situations, a.k.a. passing situations. If we let McFadden and Bush pick up decent chunks of yardage on first and second downs, we aren't going to be putting much pressure on Russell to beat us. Our D has been excellent on third downs this year partially due to their ability to slow the run game on first and second down. This week is no different, and again this would increase the pressure on Russell.
Jump on them early: A team in turmoil seems to ALWAYS fold when the opposition comes out strong and sticks it to them early. Just look at Oakland's first game of the season when Denver got ahead early and never looked back. There was bickering on the sidelines and frustration on the field. If we can get some points early and build a lead, I think we'll be able get to Oakland's psyche again. An early lead could also force them to abandon the run a bit, which is right in line with forcing Russell to beat us.
Run the ball, and run it well: We've struggled for the most part running the ball this year, but with our OL getting more work together and an opponent with a weaker front four than the first two weeks, the opportunity is there. It's time to finally get Marshawn Lynch rolling, or "solid" in his true form. With an excellent CB in Nnamdi Asomugha and a "playmaker" in DeAngelo Hall opposite him, it's important for us to get that run game going early to really set up the play action pass. I hope Turk Schonert can get Lee Evans matched up on Hall often this week, so we can really take advantage of that, as well.
Throw it deep, early: We really haven't challenged a defense deep yet, other than a couple of long fades to Evans and the flag route last week. This is the perfect week for Evans to run a double move on a guy like Hall, who is apt to jump at the fake. Hitting something like that early will open up the rest of the underneath game, in my opinion. Ron from NM expelled the notion that the defense is playing 8 in the box on us, which quite frankly surprised the crap out of me. However, I expect more of it from the Raiders this week, so nothing like taking advantage of that by going deep.
Run Freddie, run: Or should I say "Catch Freddie, catch". Keep getting the ball to Fred Jackson in the pass game. I love when he gets a crease out in the open because he's ALWAYS picking up good chunks of yardage when he gets the opportunity. If Evans and the WR's get shut down by Oakland's CB duo, Jackson becomes a huge factor once again. Take advantage of him.
Just keep on keepin' on: I just want to see us continuing our strong defensive performances, effective offense and top notch special teams. If we can keep playing at a high level in all three phases of the game, it'll be tough for the Raiders, or any team for that matter, to beat us at the Ralph. This is a game we shouldn't lose, so frankly, don't.
We're 2-0 and looking good. I hope we continue our progress and growth this week with another excellent performance. Be sure to stop by tomorrow's Open Game Thread as well. Brian will be up at the stadium taking the game in live, but as always, the OGT will open up a half-hour before kickoff for those cheering on from home. Go Bills!