By Shaun Brett – Oakland Raiders Writer
Tomorrow is the first international series game in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where the 2-2 Oakland Raiders face the 3-1 Chicago Bears. The Raiders and Bears both ahead across the Atlantic on back of impressive wins. The Raiders went to Indianapolis and shocked the Colts with 31-24 victory, while the Bears won a tough home divisional match-up against the Minnesota Vikings 16-6.
This is the second year running the Raiders will play in London. After last year’s catastrophic loss to the Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Jon Gruden has changed plan. This year, the Raiders flew to London straight after the Colts game to spend a full week in the UK – something they haven’t done in previous visits to their cost. Hopefully, this will pay dividends as coach Gruden prepared the Raiders to be a road in preseason giving up a home game to play in Winnipeg.
This game has so many storylines but the one that will be talked about is the revenge for Khalil Mack. The Raiders traded star linebacker Mack last off-season to the Bears as the Raiders began rebuilding the roster. The Raiders front office and Head Coach Gruden came under so much scrutiny for this trade so if the Raiders lose, expect the daggers to be out for Gruden.
The Bears come into this game missing starting quarterback Mitchell Tribusky who went off injured with his shoulder. Their offense has not clicked this season, struggling to get in a rhythm. Luckily for the Bears, they have one of the best defenses in the league – the Monsters of the Midway. It is a defense that suffocates quarterbacks, forcing them into multiple mistakes where they capitalise on the opportunities presented. Back-up quarterback Chase Daniel does know Head Coach Matt Naggy’s system well, however – and he’s not as mobile as Trubisky, which will make life slightly easier for the Raiders defense.
The Raiders will need a repeat of last week’s performance if they are to win this game, however this will be easier said than done. If the Raiders pull off the win, they will be entering the bye week with momentum. The Bears defense is loaded, so Coach Gruden will have to get very creative with his scheme to expose any flaws in a unit that doesn’t give up many points. In fact, they have given up just over 11 a game in the first four weeks.
Keys to the game
The Raiders have to establish the run game with running back Josh Jacobs, then they will be able to expose the Bears defense with play-action passing.
The Raiders offensive line has to play flawlessly in pass protection and give QB Derek Carr time to find open receivers.
Tight end Darren Waller has to be involved early again. He is match-up nightmare due to his size.
The Raiders have to get pressure on Daniel early and not let him get in a rhythm.
As for the game itself, it is hard to see it being anything but a low-scoring defensive affair and I see the Raiders sneaking it.
Prediction: Raiders 19, Bears 16
Feature Picture – Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo