Unless there is a huge reversal of fortune, the Atlanta Falcons are poised to run away with the NFC South. All their divisional competitors have just one win, and that paired with the Falcons' start means that only a severe collapse will keep the 5-0 team from fulfilling their season goals. This week it's the Oakland Raiders' turn to try and derail perfection. What will Atlanta need to watch for this week?
1. Stop the big play
This iteration of the Oakland Raiders has struggled on offense, but where they excel is in Carson Palmer driving the ball down-field for large gains. Receivers Denarius Moore, Derek Hagan, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, as well as tight end Brandon Myers are all averaging over ten yards a reception, and are making big plays for the Raiders. They aren't a team who you need to be concerned about getting huge 50-60 yard plays, but they live on 15-25 yard routes. It will be imperative that Atlanta's safeties give an appropriate buffer, and don't play too aggressively.
2. Put the pedal to the floor on offense
Oakland's defense are young, and it shows. In pressure situations they are adept at faltering, which means Dirk Koetter's offense should be able to really put their boots to the defense. This season the Raiders are allowing over 50% of third downs converted, and 80% of forth downs. Couple this with their run defense allowing 4.2 yards per carry, and this should be a game where the Falcons can lean on Michael Turner on first and second down, then pick their shots down-field with Matt Ryan.
3. Feed your WRs, and watch them blossom
Over the last three weeks the Oakland Raiders have allowed three consecutive 100 yard receiving games from their opponents. First it was Brian Hartline (111), then Mike Wallace (123), and finally Demaryius Thomas (103). Perhaps the Raiders managed to retool their defense following their bye week, but I wouldn't count on it. Their defensive backs are no match for Roddy White and Julio Jones, and given their defensive front hasn't been able to get to the QB regularly (just three sacks in four games), it should mean Matt Ryan is able to sit back, and dismantle them from the pocket.