OAKLAND RAIDERS (2-0) AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS (1-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, FedEx Field. TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (field reporter).
SERIES HISTORY: 13th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 7-5. Oakland hasn’t played in Washington since 2005 thanks to a schedule quirk between the NFC East and AFC West teams. The Redskins outscored the Raiders 58-27 in wins in Oakland in 2009 and 2013. The teams met in Super Bowl XVIII, with the Raiders winning in a blowout, 38-9.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Raiders’ plan seems simple enough — choke off the run and force Kirk Cousins to throw the ball on their terms. Washington’s passing game has yet to take off after the losses of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson and could well be without Jordan Reed. Under those circumstances, the Raiders would hope to have Cousins forced into the air on third-and-long.
Offensively, the Raiders have stressed balance through their first two games, working the clock effectively in the fourth quarter through use of the running game. The more the Raiders don’t have to rely on Carr’s ability to deliver in the fourth quarter, the better they’ll be.
The Redskins ran the ball right at a good defensive front in Los Angeles last week. Other than a shaky third quarter, not even an injury to starter Rob Kelley could slow them down much.
Washington has never sustained games like that under Jay Gruden, but there might be a more concerted effort this season, with Cousins still adjusting to new receivers Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson. So far, the chemistry has been noticeably off. But they may have to turn back toward the pass against
Oakland, which presents multiple fronts on a big defensive line and is willing to bring pressure from all over, including safety. Don’t expect 30-plus running plays in this one.
Meanwhile, the Redskins’ defense must deal with Carr and some talented receivers. The real test will be up front. Washington’s defensive line has played much better than expected, with rookie Jonathan Allen making an immediate difference and second-year pro Matt Ioannidis improving. But Oakland’s offensive line is stellar and will provide a tough test for the revamped Redskins defense.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Raiders DE Khalil Mack vs. Redskins RT Morgan Moses. Mack is one of the game’s best pass rushers — though he has just one sack in two games. He’s still made an impact stopping the run and even has a pass defended. Look for Oakland to line him up on the right side. No need to make him tangle with five-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams. Instead, Mack will try to take advantage of a hobbled Moses. Moses earned a nice contract extension this summer for his play the past two seasons — he hasn’t missed a game since 2014. But his ankle injury is a concern.
–Raiders RT Donald Penn vs. Redskins OLB Preston Smith. Smith is off to a nice start after a frustrating second season in which his sacks dropped from eight to 4.5. Smith already has two in two weeks and has looked good setting the edge and helping Washington improve its run defense. He’ll face a tough challenge this week in Penn, a big body at 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds and a veteran who plays with an edge and will try to maul the smaller Smith (6-5, 265).
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Redskins CB Josh Norman. Norman suffered an AC sprain vs. the Rams on Sunday and is in a lot of pain. But his presence is critical if the Redskins want to slow Oakland’s offense, led by quarterback Derek Carr. Amari Cooper is a physical receiver at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, but Norman is usually OK with that style of play. Will the shoulder sprain be an issue, though? Norman conceded on Wednesday that he likely won’t be able to punch at the football the way he does when wrapping up a tackle. Few are better at it. If Norman suffers a setback and can’t play, keeping Cooper in check (nine receptions, 95 yards, touchdown) will be near impossible.
FAST FACTS: Raiders QB Derek Carr will make 50th career start. He needs four TD passes to become the fifth QB in NFL history with 90 in his first 50 games. He threw three TD passes and no interceptions last week and has eight TDs and no INTs in his past three games. … Oakland WR Michael Crabtree had 80 receiving yards and three TD catches last week, his second career game with three. He has 20 TD catches since 2015, tied for fourth most in the NFL. … Redskins RB Chris Thompson had 106 scrimmage yards and two TDs in Week 2 and has scored five times (three rushing, two receiving) in his past four games. … Redskins LB Ryan Kerrigan had a sack and forced fumble in Week 2. He has 8.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception in his past 11 home games.
PREDICTION: Unless the Redskins can keep the ball away from Carr for much of the game or force some turnovers, they probably don’t have the firepower to beat the Raiders.
NEW YORK GIANTS AT DALLAS COWBOYS
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, AT&T Stadium. TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya.
SERIES HISTORY: 110th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series, 62-45-2. The Giants and Cowboys have opened the season against each other in four of the last five years. This will be the third consecutive opener for the teams in Dallas. The Giants are 21-28-1 in Sunday night games, including 10-16-1 in road games.
ekiel Elliott, fighting a six-game suspension, will play in the opener. And the Cowboys will hope to do better this year against a Giants run defense that last year allowed 88.6 yards per game and held Elliott, the league’s top rusher, to 157 yards in two games.
KEYS TO THE GAME: U.S. District Court judge Amos Mazzant III granted a request by the NFL Players Association for a temporary restraining order to prevent the implementation of the six-game suspension for Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. With the injunction, Elliott likely will be able to continue playing as the legal process plays out.
The Giants’ offensive line is hoping to gain some momentum against a Dallas defensive front that will be missing defensive linemen Damontre Moore, Randy Gregory and David Irving as a result of league-imposed suspensions.
The Giants, who are looking to uncork their running game, didn’t have much success running behind the starting offensive line in preseason, but there is hope that the additional practice reps will have running backs Paul Perkins, Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman a lot more comfortable with their timing in hitting the hole.
In the passing game, there appears to be optimism that receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who has been nursing an ankle sprain, will be ready to go.
Even if Beckham doesn’t play, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has plenty of weapons to use against the Dallas defense. New York added wide receiver Brandon Marshall and drafted tight end Evan Engram, boosting an offense that averaged 330 yards per game last season.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
NEW YORK GIANTS
–Out: LB Keenan Robinson (concussion)
–Questionable: WR Odell Beckham (ankle)
–Out: LB Anthony Hitchens (ankle)
–Questionable: CB Jourdan Lewis (hamstring)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Giants WR Odell Beckham and WR Brandon Marshall vs. Cowboys CB Nolan Carroll and CB Anthony Brown. Orlando Scandrick is the Cowboys’ best cornerback, but he will be in slot on passing downs, leaving the shaky Carroll and the largely unproven Brown on the outside trying to check Beckham and Marshall. This is a decided mismatch for the Giants, especially with the Cowboys’ suspect pass rush.
–Cowboys TE Jason Witten vs. Giants MLB B.J. Goodson. With Keenan Robinson, the Giants’ best cover linebacker, still in the concussion protocol, Goodson has had to take on coverage responsibilities in the nickel. Safety Landon Collins said Goodson has made a lot of progress in coverage, adding it’s just a matter of matching the speed of the defense. If Goodson isn’t fully up to speed by Sunday night, chances are Collins will be there to help cover Witten, historically a major thorn in the Giants’ side.
GIANTS NOTABLE ROOKIE: Tight end Evan Engram. The first-round draft pick can play multiple positions. Engram, who finished the preseason six receptions for 75 yards, lined up in-line, in the slot, split wide, in the backfield and in motion, giving coach Ben McAdoo options to create mismatches. In his final two seasons at Ole Miss, Engram caught 10 of 17 deep balls thrown to him for 337 yards and three touchdowns — a skill the Giants need over the middle.
COWBOYS NOTABLE ROOKIE: Defensive end Taco Charlton. Charlton was the team’s top pick for a reason. They needed help at defensive end and he was the best person on the board to fill the need. He will not make a Myles Garrett-like impact, which is why he wasn’t picked at the top of the board. But he will play a lot. If he is not the team’s rookie of the year, something will have gone really, really wrong.
FAST FACTS: Giants QB Eli Manning Eli Manning will start his 200th consecutive game. Only two other QBs reached 200: Favre 287; Peyton 208. Manning passed for 4,027 yards in 2016, his franchise-record sixth 4,000-yard season. He ranks eighth in NFL history with 48,214 yards and seventh with 320 TD passes. … Giants RB Paul Perkins had 618 scrimmage yards (456 rushing) as a rookie in 2016. … Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. ranked third in the NFL in receptions (101) and yards (1,367) last season. He has 288 catches, tied for most by an NFL player in his first three seasons. … WR Brandon Marshall makes his debut with the Giants. He ranks third among active players in receptions (941) and second in receiving yards (12,061). … Dallas QB Dak Prescott set NFL rookie records for QB wins (13), interception percentage (0.9) and rating (104.9). … Dallas TE Jason Witten caught 69 passes, his 13th consecutive season with 60. His 1,089 career receptions are second all-time among TEs. … Dallas LB Sean Lee had a career-high 145 tackles in 2016, tied for third in the NFL. He has 273 tackles since 2015, second most in the NFL.
PREDICTION: The presence of Elliott and the injury to Beckham seem to shift the tide in the Cowboys’ favor at home.