A ton has been made out of how poorly the Raiders have been in pass defense this year. This unit is undermanned and had rarely been in the right position to succeed. However, the Oakland defensive backfield rolls on. One matchup to watch involving a Raiders defensive back will be the one between cornerback Sean Smith and Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
Knowing that Paxton Lynch will start for the Broncos, he will likely target Denver’s most reliable receiver. That would be Sanders, as No. 1 wide receiver Demaryius Thomas often disappears for games at a time in the passing game. Look for Lynch to throw in Sanders’ direction early and often.
Smith, along with cornerbacks T.J. Carrie and Dexter McDonald have had to carry more than their weight in this depleted Oakland secondary. Because of the amount of snaps they have had to play, they’ve had no choice but to try to get better in coverage. Smith has improved slightly as the season has progressed, but not significantly.
Since Lynch could be poised to force-feed Sanders the ball, it might be Smith comes up with the Raiders’ first interception of the 2017 NFL season. Given that interim defensive coordinator John Pagano specializes in coaching defensive backs, we might see a big boost out of the Oakland secondary in this must-win game for the Raiders.