This time around the Falcons are going to face off against the Oakland Raiders after traveling to the nation capital to play the Washington Redskins. There isn't much familiarity between the teams as both have gone through major changes since they last faced off in 2008. The Raiders have changed owner, coaches, and general managers.
After the passing of Al Davis, the Raiders brought in former Packers director of football operations Reggie McKenzie to become the new GM. McKenzie then fired Hue Jackson and brought in then Broncos' defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.
During the 2011 season the Broncos' defense ranked 5th in sacks and 23rd in yards. Allen's defense was a major reason why the Broncos made the playoffs and subsequently defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since OC Greg Knapp was a positional coach for the last 3 years and DC Jason Tarver was in the college ranks we really can't compare the coaches head to head.
On the offensive side the Raiders are led by QB Carson Palmer. Palmer was once an MVP but he's a shell of a his former self. However, he can still be a dangerous QB at times and the Raiders have a nice group of WRs surrounding him. Once thought of as a bust, Darius Heyward-Bey had a 900+ yard season last year and rookie Denarius Moore was a solid contributor along with Jacoby Ford.
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The Raiders don't really have a true #1 WR but they have a lot of athleticism and quality players which could create mis-matches, but unfortunately for the Raiders the Falcons possess 3 #1 quality defensive backs in Asante Samuel, Brent Grimes, and Dunta Robinson. The Raiders also lost longtime back up Michael Bush who had filled in admirably in the past for the oft-injured Darren McFadden. McFadden will be an X-Factor as it will be impossible to tell if he will be healthy by the time this game rolls around or not. All-in-all the Raiders OL isn't very good as they've had trouble protecting the QB and opening holes for the running game.
On the defensive side, the Raiders have some good players but overall they are average as a unit. They're especially weak at the CB position as last off-season they lost Nnamdi Asomaugh to the Eagles and this year Stanford Routt went to the Chiefs after being waived. Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell are average corners and Julio Jones and Roddy White are huge mismatches against them. After losing star pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley to the Titans the Raiders only have a declining Richard Seymour to provide their big pass rushing threat.
Unfortunately for the Raiders they'll likely be without Rolando McClain who will either be suspended or serving a 6 month prison sentence for discharging a firearm next to someone's head in an attempt at intimidation. Overall Atlanta should have no problems with the Raiders if they play solid ball and don't fall asleep. I see Atlanta coming out of this one in a blow-out win.
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