Atlanta's OL versus Mack
Oakland's best all-around player might be Khalil Mack, who earned 15 sacks last year to go along with 58 QB hurries. He was so good in 2015, the AP named him an All-Pro at linebacker and defensive end. No one else has ever received that honor at two positions.
Certainly, keeping Mack away from Matt Ryan would go a long way toward getting the offense rolling. And while his pass-rushing ability garners the most attention, Mack will be a factor in the run game, too: His 34 stops against the run in 2015 was fourth-most among LBs/DEs, behind only Lavonte David, Olivier Vernon and JJ Watt.
"He's a factor, and it's really how hard that he comes and he brings it," head coach Dan Quinn said about Mack. "When one of those guys is there, you know you have to be accounted for. Like most good players, they know how to deal with a chip plan and how to go through some things. We certainly have our attention where he is. I think the thing that jumps out the most is how hard he goes. It might not be the initial move that got him, but the relentless pursuit is oftentimes what he's the biggest factor in."
Top CBs versus Top WRs
Quinn said CB Desmond Trufant will likely play "at a number of locations" during Sunday's game, and shifting the Pro Bowler around could help contain Amari Cooper: one of the league's premier wideouts. A Pro Bowler himself, Cooper recorded 1,070 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 2015, his rookie year. Atlanta will be cognizant of Michael Crabtree, too, after the eight-year veteran tallied 922 yards and nine TDs in 2015.
"Amari, he's a fast, twitchy guy, quick guy," Julio Jones, who knows Cooper well, said. "He's a great player. He's going to go out there; he's going to compete for four quarters."
Jones will present his own challenges for the Raiders defensive backs, especially if they give him single coverage for an extended period of time. Jones told reporters Thursday that, against Tampa, Mohamed Sanu's early success led the Bucs to back off on their double-teams for a while. It'll be interesting to see how Oakland's secondary, which struggled last week, handles Atlanta's two top receivers.
"I feel like bigger receivers, for me, are better matchups for me, because things that they're good at are things that I feel like I'm good at," Raiders CB David Amerson said. "Stuff like going up and getting the ball, or playing the ball at the highest point, or (being) physical off the line, so it kind of matches up compared to a faster, shiftier, speedier guy."
Atlanta's Front Seven versus Oakland's OL
NFL.com named the Raiders' OL the Offensive Line of the Week after their win over New Orleans. Despite multiple injuries and position changes, that unit surrendered just six QB hurries, one QB hit and zero sacks. The O-linemen made a number of key blocks that led to six points — including a pair by Jon Feliciano and Kelechi Osemele, which helped Jalen Richard run for a 75-yard touchdown. And they only took one penalty in a raucous Superdome.
The Falcons are determined to get their pass-rush going on Sunday, and while the Raiders' OL currently has some moving parts, rattling Derek Carr won't be easy.
"Most quarterbacks, when you get them off the spot, the completion percentage goes down and honestly that's what you're looking for first," Quinn said. "What you love about the sacks on first and second down are the yards that are lost and even third down it's an opportunity to get the ball off somebody. Generally, the most fumbles come from the quarterback, so getting him off the spot is good, but we do like tackling where that opportunity is there to make a game changing play with the sack, that's the forced fumble."