Photo credit: nj.com
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
OAKLAND, Calif — If one road game wasn’t enough, how about a double-dip?
The Raiders are hitting the road once again this time, they are heading to South Beach where they will take on a surprisingly undefeated Dolphins team in a key Week 3 matchup for Oakland this Sunday.
Kickoff is at 1:00 p.m. ET, which means 10:00 a.m. PT for West Coasters.
Last season, the two teams faced each other in Week 9 with the Raiders defeating the Dolphins, 27-24, behind a three-yard touchdown run by running back Marshawn Lynch late in the fourth quarter.
Oakland (0-2) lost a heart-breaker last week in Denver, 20-19, wasting an awesome performance by starting quarterback Derek Carr.
Carr was sharp all game, completing 29-of-32 passes for 288 yards and one touchdown. He’s the only quarterback in NFL history to complete 90 percent of his passes with more than 30 attempts, per ESPN. It was nice to see Carr bounce back from an ugly game in Week 1, where he threw three interceptions in Oakland’s 33-13 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Rams.
Out of those 29 completions, 10 were to wide receiver Amari Cooper, who also rebounded from a bad first game of the season where he posted just one catch for nine yards on three targets.
Against the Broncos, Cooper was targeted 10 times (catching each one) for 116 yards. It was a welcoming sign for Oakland, albeit in a loss.
Oakland held a 19-7 lead into the third quarter before the Broncos rallied with 13 unanswered points, including kicker Brandon McManus’s game-winning 36-yard field goal with six seconds remaining in the game.
Without stud defensive end/outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who was traded to Chicago prior to the start of the regular season because the Silver and Black were hesitant to reward Mack with a new contract extension, Oakland’s defense has been a no show through the first two games of the season.
The Raiders have had a tough time generating any kind of pass rush this season. Only linebacker Bruce Irvin and rookie defensive tackle Maurice Hurst have recorded a quarterback sack, but that could change against Miami. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been sacked five times this season, which ranks 13th in the NFL. Tannehill has also been hit nine times in the pocket.
Miami (2-0) defeated the Jets, 20-12, in New York at MetLife Stadium behind Tannehill and the NFL’s fourth-ranked scoring defense.
Tannehill completed 17-of-23 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Dolphins a 20-0 lead before halftime. Through two games this season, Tannehill has completed 31-of-57 passes for 398 yards with four touchdowns, two interceptions and a 104.9 passer rating.
Running back Kenyan Drake had 11 carries for 53 yards and one touchdown against the Jets. Drake leads the Dolphins with 25 carries for 101 yards this season.
Backup running back Frank Gore finished with just nine carries for 25 yards, but those yards were all he needed to pass Hall of Famer Curtis Martin (14,101) for fourth place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 14,103 yards. Gore, who is in his 14th season, signed a 1-year deal with his hometown Dolphins in the offseason.
Electric wide receiver Jarvis Landry was traded to Cleveland in the offseason, leaving the Dolphins with question marks at the position. Holdover Kenny Stills leads the Dolphins in receiving yards (123) and touchdowns (2) through two games, while free agent addition Danny Amendola leads the team in catches (8).
Amendola, who won two Super Bowl rings in four seasons with the New England Patriots, signed with the Dolphins this past offseason to give Tannehill another reliable target.
Middle linebacker Kiko Alonso and safety Reshad Jones are two of Miami’s prime defenders that Oakland must be aware at all times.
Jones is arguably the Dolphins most reliable playmaker, as he leads Miami with two interceptions this season. Last season, Jones led Miami in tackles with 122.
The two-time Pro Bowler will likely be following Raiders tight end Jared Cook, who has been explosive the first two weeks of the season. In 2017, Cook led all Raiders receivers with 688 yards and this season, he leads Oakland with 229 yards, which includes his franchise record-setting 180-yard performance in Week 1.
After posting back-to-back seasons of 115 tackles, Alonso is a major focal point for the Dolphins defense. Last week against the Jets, Alonso recorded a 13 tackles and two forced fumbles, coming up huge for Miami many times in that contest.
Sunday’s game in Miami is a must-win for Oakland. There’s no way to sugarcoat it.
Falling to 0-3 with a loss before coming home to take on a puzzling Cleveland Browns team in Week 4 at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum would be catastrophic.