One of the big questions surrounding the Oakland Raiders this off-season was how the team would fare defensively without star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, a free agent defection to Philadelphia. So far, the results have been mixed: in their Week 1 win over Denver, Kyle Orton threw for 304 yards, but was also picked off once and completed just 52 percent of his passes.
Still, for the Buffalo Bills, this is a pass defense that - if the protection holds up - can be beaten in a variety of ways.
"The real problem with the Raiders pass defense comes on guarding slot receivers and crosses over the middle," explained Rich Langford of SilverAndBlackPride.com. "Michael Huff was sliding from safety to play the nickel corner spot, but he injured his groin, and it isn't known if he will be able to go against the Bills. Huff wasn't doing this because he is an awesome cover corner. He was doing this because the Raiders have no corner depth.
"Also, the few times the Raiders do run a zone, their linebackers are spectacularly terrible in coverage," Langford continued. "Rolando McClain is solid, but Quentin Groves and Kamerion Wimbley fail on a level that defies the bounds of the English language."
Buffalo's offense, as Bills fans are well aware, is highly reliant on short passing routes, with an emphasis on slants. All of their primary receiving targets are players with the size and quickness to separate in the short area and make plays on intermediate routes. This may play to Buffalo's advantage on Sunday - and a quick, rhythm-based passing game could get the ball out of Ryan Fitzpatrick's hands quickly enough to keep him clear of Oakland's excellent defensive line, as well.
Still, the Raiders aren't exactly a huge liability in this department, even without Asomugha, widely regarded as the league's best cornerback for a period of several years. The team has already found a suitable replacement, and he was already on the roster.
"Stanford Routt has developed into a very solid, if not great, corner," opines Langford. "The Raiders tend to leave their corners on one side of the field rather than have them shadow a receiver. More often than not, Routt was on a team's No. 1 receiver last year, and he did just fine. He is a tough matchup for any receiver, and he really has no weaknesses. He was tested a few times by the Broncos, and I don't believe he surrendered a reception."
Fitzpatrick and Chan Gailey aren't afraid to target anyone in the passing game, so expect some throws toward Routt, as well. In the end, however, a ball-control passing game may be the trick for the Bills to control the flow of the game in Week 2.