Tight Ends could Take Advantage of Young Linebackers
After his underwhelming debut, Oakland’s 2015 third-round pick Clive Walford is set to have a larger impact with safety Keanu Neal and linebacker De’Vondre Campbell out with injury.
Because of Atlanta’s reshuffled starting defense, Walford should take advantage of some clear mismatches come Sunday.
Walford brought in just three receptions for 25 yards against the Saints in Week 1.
In addition to Walford, Falcons veteran tight end Jacob Tamme should also have a strong performance against the Raiders’ linebacking corps.
Though New Orleans tight end Coby Fleener had just one reception for four yards against Oakland in the week prior, Oakland’s starting linebackers Ben Heeney and Malcolm Smith struggled significantly in both zone and man coverage, for the two were often in bad position when asked to cover the middle of the field or play man coverage in the slot.
Neither Tamme nor Walford will deicide this game, but don’t be surprised if both of them see a great deal of targets.
Raiders Have Slight Edge on the Ground
Despite the hype surrounding each of the top running backs — Oakland’s Latavius Murray and Atlanta’s Devonta Freeman — entering this season, the two Pro Bowl backs didn’t do much in their 2016 debut. This trend won’t continue in Week 2.
If we remove Raiders running back Jalen Richard’s 75-yard touchdown run, Oakland had just 92 rushing yards against the Saints, their lead back Murray accounting for just 59 of them on 14 carries.
Atlanta, on the other hand, didn’t have any big runs to remove from their inflated stat line. They just didn’t run the ball well.
The Falcons ran the ball 22 times for just 52 yards (31st in the NFL) against Tampa Bay, as Freeman took 11 of those carries for just 20 yards.
With defensive end Brooks Reed still listed as questionable and Campbell out with injury, the combination of Atlanta’s injuries and their inability to tackle gives the Raiders the slight edge on the ground; however, Freeman will rebound from his poor performance in Week 1 to keep things close.
Because the Saints were able to get things done through the air so effortlessly, New Orleans offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael leaned on Brees’ arm despite running back Mark Ingram’s early success.
Ingram totaled 58 yards on 12 carries (4.8 yards per carry), seeing just five of his carries in the second half.
If the Falcons don’t abandon the run game early, they will have a better chance of controlling the pace of the contest and increasing their time of possession, but it won’t be enough to stop Carr and Murray from taking over when the Raiders have the ball.
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 27; Oakland Raiders 34