Behind Enemy Lines: Part III

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Denis Savage of Silver and Black Illustrated, break down Sunday's game between the Bears and Raiders at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland. Let's finish this three-part series with some matchups to watch, game scenarios, and final predictions.

Matchup to watch when the Raiders are on offense:
Oakland's offensive line vs. LBs Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs

The line will have to get its collective mitts on the first line of defense and use their zone-blocking scheme to get to the second level to control Urlacher and Briggs. It has been an up-and-down season for Oakland's running game, and its success will allow more open looks for Josh McCown – something he desperately needs given his questionable decision-making.

Matchup to watch when the Raiders are on defense:
DEs Derrick Burgess and Jay Richardson vs. OTs John Tait and Fred Miller
The Raiders' pass rush has been dormant for much of the year, and it has given the opposition time to pick them apart. Burgess and Richardson need to take their game to the next level to force Griese into making bad decisions. If they can't hurry Griese, it will be a long night for the Silver and Black.

Matchup to watch when the Bears are on offense:


C Olin Kreutz
Donald Miralle/Getty Images
C Olin Kreutz vs. DTs Gerard Warren and Warren Sapp
The Bears have not run the football at all this season and are currently 31st in the league on the ground through eight games, and much of the blame has to be placed on what was supposed to be a battle-tested offensive line. Kreutz may be a perennial All-Pro, but he's not playing it like it this season and isn't opening holes consistently for his running backs. Warren and Sapp are a pair of beefy bodies in the middle, so it will be up to Kreutz and Co. to create some crevices because Cedric Benson isn't the kind of runner to make something out of nothing.

Brian Griese has been fairly productive since taking over for the benched Rex Grossman, however, every quarterback needs some semblance of a running game in order to succeed on Sundays.

Matchup to watch when the Bears are on defense:
CB Trumaine McBride vs. WR Ronald Curry
McBride should be starting once again because Nathan Vasher's groin injury will likely keep him out for a sixth straight game, but this assignment will not be an easy one. Since his counterpart, Charles Tillman, will probably be matched up against the bigger Jerry Porter most of the day, that means McBride will be forced to run with Curry, Oakland's leading receiver, for four quarters. Curry is a former college quarterback who has turned into one of the more athletic wideouts in the league when healthy, although his development has been stunted due to injuries of his own over the years.

McBride has been quite a bargain as a seventh-round draft pick ever since mini camp back in May, but he may be ready to hit the proverbial rookie wall since the NFL season is such a grind compared to college football.

The Raiders will win this game if ...
... they can make some big completions in the passing game. The vertical assault favored by Al Davis has been under wraps with Lane Kiffin. The first- year head coach prefers the short passing attack, but it has allowed teams to stack the box without fear of getting beaten deep. Only two receptions all year have traversed 40 yards, and the Raiders have been unable to sustain long drives as a result.

A quick strike could prove to be the difference between another close loss and a victory.

The Raiders will lose this game if ...
... their linebackers aren't making plays. With the defensive line regressing, Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard need to step up their efforts and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. The Bears have not been successful running the ball, and the Raiders can't allow that breakout to happen against them.

If they can create penetration and bottle up Benson, the passing game becomes much easier to deal with.

The Bears will win this game if ...
... they finally get the running game going against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. Benson has been heavily criticized for his performance this season both locally and nationally, and rightfully so, so it's possible that Adrian Peterson will be given more opportunities to tote the rock coming out of the bye. Benson claims he just needs more carries and will get better as the season wears on, but the fact remains that he's tied for fourth in the NFC in rushing attempts (149) but just eighth in rushing yards (466).

The Raiders are 30th in the league defending the run and allow 152.5 yards per game, so now would be a good time for Benson to prove that he can be relied upon in the second half of the season.


RB Justin Fargas
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Bears will lose this game if ...
... Justin Fargas runs the ball as well as he did last week against the Texans. The Raiders may have come out on the losing end of a 24-17 score at home versus Houston, but Fargas was impressive with 104 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown. LaMont Jordan has been hit and miss, Dominic Rhodes is already in Kiffin's doghouse, and rookie Michael Bush is still a way's away from contributing, but Fargas is the kind of elusive tailback that has given the Bears fits the last few ballgames (see Adrian Peterson, Minnesota).

If Oakland is allowed to move the chains, control the clock, and build an early lead, then Griese will once again be playing from behind all day long and open himself up to the kind of mistakes that have hurt this offense since Week 1 – all of this team's defensive problems stem from an inability to stop the run.

FINAL PREDICTIONS
Denis Savage:
The Raiders are coming off four straight losses but offer the slightest glimpse of hope – thus lengthening the wait for JaMarcus Russell time – by pulling the upset ...
RAIDERS 23, BEARS 20

John Crist: The Monsters of the Midway have won two consecutive road games but followed each victory up with a head-scratching loss at home, so perhaps it's time for this team to step it up a notch away from Soldier Field once again. The Raiders are an inferior club from a talent perspective, but the Bears have let lesser opponents hang around all season long and already lost to a few bad football teams. However, they should be sufficiently rested after the bye week and ready to roll ...
BEARS 23, RAIDERS 17

To go back and read Part I of Behind Enemy Lines, where Denis answers five questions from John, Click Here. For Part II, where John answers five questions from Denis, Click Here.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. Denis Savage is the Managing Editor of SilverAndBlack.com.


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