For the first time since 2002, the Oakland Raiders have begun the season 2-0. Last week, the Raiders destroyed the New York Jets 45-20 in their home opener. This week, the Raiders will be on the road in front of a national television audience as they will take on the Washington Redskins.
Last Sunday, the Redskins got their first victory by defeating the Los Angeles Rams 27-20 on the road. Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Grant with 1:49 to play to give the Redskins the close win.
Oakland leads the overall regular-season series over Washington 7-5. This will be their first matchup against each other since 2013.
Oakland at Washington
Kickoff: Sunday, September 24, 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Oakland -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Derek Carr
After coming back from a broken leg he suffered last season, Carr hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback has thrown for 492 yards and five touchdowns while posting a quarterback rating of 126.5 in the early going.
Carr has one of the quickest releases in the NFL, so the Redskins will need to generate pressure on him with their front four. Washington only has four sacks on the season, which places them in the middle of the pack (18th) through two games.
What might be the most impressive stat about Carr is how he spreads the ball around. He already has connected with 10 different receivers on his 45 completion through just two games.
2. Redskins’ rushing attack
One of the biggest surprises for the Redskins through the first two weeks is how effectively they’re running the football. Washington ranks fourth in the league with 146.5 yards per game on the ground.
But with Rob Kelley dealing with a rib cartilage injury there’s some question as to how the backfield will operate on Sunday night. Kelley is listed as questionable but even if he plays he could be limited or end up leaving the game early should he aggravate his injury.
"I felt good overall, period," Kelley said earlier this week, via the Redskins' official Web site. "Just seeing if I have to go with the vest would it be more comfortable, stuff like that. So, we're just trying to figure little things out to make sure to protect it."
Besides Kelley, the Redskins have Chris Thompson (6 att., 81 yds., 2 TDs) and Samaje Perine (21 att., 67 yds.) in their backfield and quarterback Kirk Cousins also can make things happen with his legs if the situation calls for it.
3. Khalil Mack
After recording 11 sacks a season ago, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year has gotten off to somewhat of a slow start. Mack has just one sack to go along with seven total tackles and a pass defended thus far.
But that could change tonight against an offensive line for Washington that has already surrendered six sacks in two games. Those were against teams with pretty good pass rushers in Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Rams, and Mack certainly fits the bill too.
Mack told ESPN.com earlier this week that he has a new goal in mind and that’s to have the record for strip sacks in a season. "That's all that's on my mind when I'm tackling quarterbacks; I want to get the ball out," he said. "Why not?"
While the Raiders are the more talented team on paper, the Redskins certainly could make Sunday night’s game interesting. Kirk Cousins could put up good numbers against an Oakland defense that has given up its share of yards to the Titans and Jets.
The running game could play a big role in this one if either team wants to try and control the clock with extended drives. That puts more pressure on Marshawn Lynch for the Raiders and Washington’s three-headed backfield, which includes a banged-up Rob Kelley.
This is a long road trip for Oakland, coming all the way across the country, but the Redskins just got back from west coast themselves after facing the Rams last Sunday. With a national television audience watching, look for the Raiders to make just enough plays on offense to squeeze out a big road win.
Prediction: Raiders 27, Redskins 20
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.