The Bears and Raiders have played only a handful of times in their franchise history, eighteen to be exact. As of now, the Raiders lead the series 8-7. The last time these teams faced off was in 2019 and ended with a Raiders win. Now to the present. The Bears enter this week’s game 2-2 and are starting a rookie QB. The Raiders enter this game 3-1, coming off a disappointing divisional loss. Both are on the cusp of leading their divisions as well. This game is a real must-win for both teams. Now to dive into three matchups to watch as the Bears head to Vegas.
Allen Robinson Versus Casey Hayward
Similar to last week, Hayward is in for yet another critical matchup. Casey is the only starting outside corner that has been a full participant at practice. With both Trayvon Mullen and Damon Arnette being questionable, Casey will see a lot of Allen Robinson. Last week, Keenan Allen had seven catches but was held to just thirty-six yards. They weren’t matched against on another every play but were for a majority.
Allen Robinson had his best showing of the season last week, boasting three catches for sixty-three yards. Robinson will tower over Hayward and Amik if Damon nor Trayvon play, standing at 6’3. With this week being Justin Fields’ first real start in the NFL, you can bet he will look for his significant number one receiver.
Darren Waller Versus Roquan Smith
This matchup could be the target for this week’s Raiders offense. We have seen Darren Waller make many good defensive players look bad, but few players have Roquan’s speed and size. Coming into the league, Roquan ran a 4.52 40-yard dash. However, Smith plays much faster. He can cover, blitz, tackle; you name it. He’s a monster. Not only will this matchup affect how Waller plays but the rest of the offense.
As I said, Roquan can blitz at a high level and is a good run stopper. Through four games, he has forty total tackles, two sacks, and a pick-six. Ten of those tackles came last week, as did one of his sacks. He will likely be the central defender against Waller but can do much more when asked.
Now Waller is no slouch either. Just about any game since he joined the Raiders features a big catch from him. Standing at 6’6 and being a former receiver creates all kinds of mismatches. Through four games opposing defenses have found ways to slow him down but have yet to hold him under fifty receiving yards. Not even Derwin James could keep him from reaching the fifty-yard mark as he had four catches and fifty yards.
D-Line Versus O-Line
In Week Two of this season, the Bears’ offensive line let Fields get sacked nine times. Yes, it was against the Cleveland Browns, but Takk McKinley and Malik Jackson both had half a sack. Not to mention Ronnie Harrison and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah also had a sack. It might not look like much on the surface, but I see blitz opportunities coming into play.
The Bears’ defense currently leads the league in sacks with fifteen. Their line has 11.5 of those. Leading the group is Robert Quinn, who has 4.5, followed by Khalil Mack (4). This group just wreaked havoc on rookie tackle Penei Sewell and could very well do the same against a jumbled Raiders offensive line.
As for the Raiders, their offensive line has been sub-par. Last week against the Chargers was easily their worst performance of the season. When they ran the ball, Jacobs didn’t have a lane to run through. When it was a pass play, Carr was in trouble quick and wasn’t given much opportunity to scramble. If our offense wants to come out and score before the second half, it starts with them.
The most improved group of this 2021 Raiders team is debatably the defensive line. Maxx Crosby came out in Week One, put on a show, and has led the league in pressures through four weeks. Solomon Thomas and Carl Nassib have been the players I am most surprised with. Solomon Thomas has just signed this offseason and has 2.5 sacks.
For Nassib, he looked terrible last year. In all fairness to him, not many players looked good in Guenther’s scheme. So far, he has 1.5 sacks but has made more of an impact than the stat line shows. This may not seem like much, but it’s not only half a sack less than his career-high, and he plays defensive tackle. To give our tattered secondary some relief, the line has to pressure the rookie.