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Week 1 Preview: Bengals at Raiders

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Cincinnati Bengals (0-0) at Oakland Raiders (0-0)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, at o.Co Coliseum, Oakland, Calif. – TV: CBS

*TV announcers: Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver

*Keys to the game: The past two drafts turned up a pair of potential franchise cornerstones for the Raiders. Rookie WR Amari Cooper could be one of the best playmakers in the division by the end of the season and OLB Khalil Mack already is widely hailed as a top pass rusher in just his second season. But to make it a winning future, the Raiders must find better protection up front for QB Derek Carr and establish a running game after Oakland was 32nd in rushing last season. Carr and RB Latavious Murray had bright moments last season and need each other to thrive. Carr had pressure in his face too often because of the inconsistent ground game, and the Bengals have the ability to wreak havoc on the line.

The Bengals had one of the best running games in the NFL the second half of last season, when RB Jeremy Hill had nearly 1,000 yards in the final eight games and proved to be a workhorse. That threat makes for a huge challenge and teams like the Raiders, who don’t entirely trust their cornerbacks to hold up opposite the likes of WR A.J. Green without safety help.

*Matchup to watch – Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap and DT Domata Peko vs. Raiders T Austin Howard and G J’Marcus Webb: Dunlap, who has 33.5 career sacks, and Peko, an active run stuffer, provide a big challenge to the suspect right side of the Raiders’ line, where retreads are getting time because of Menelik Watson’s Achilles injury.

*Player spotlight – Bengals TE Tyler Eifert: His 2014 season was cut short by injury but Eifert could play the role of No. 2 receiver behind Green. He’s a big body in the red zone and spent extra time working with QB Andy Dalton in the offseason.

*Fast facts: Carr’s 5.5 yards per pass attempt in 2014 was the worst among regular NFL starters in 2014. … Dalton has seven interceptions in his past four regular-season road games.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The Raiders aren’t ready to be mentioned as contenders, but there are enough positives in place to begin piling up victories in a coming-out party for the Oakland defense.

*Our pick: Raiders 22-20.


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