Oakland Raiders (5-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Raymond James Stadium. TV: CBS, Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker, Steve Beuerlein.
SERIES HISTORY: Ninth regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 6-2. The two teams had one famous meeting in the post-season, when the Bucs beat the Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXVII. The Bucs have only played the Raiders twice in Tampa, winning 20-17 in overtime in 1996 and losing 31-24 in 2008, Jon Gruden's final game as Bucs head coach.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Raiders coach Jack Del Rio is convinced the Raiders run defense is getting better, and it will need to be against a Tampa team emboldened by success against the porous 49ers last week.
But if the Bucs do manage to get Jacquizz Rodgers going inside at anywhere near 5 yards per carry, then Jameis Winston can attack the secondary and do some damage.
Raiders QB Derek Carr has sized up the opponent on defense, then fired at will at either Michael Crabtree or Amari Cooper. To double one is to leave the other alone. On the ground, Latavius Murray's return gives the Raiders a between-the-tackles presence to go with smaller backs DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard.
But the Bucs defense under Mike Smith has been playing better. This week, they could get back DT Clinton McDonald and DE Robert Ayers which would be a boost to the pass rush. On the back end, the Bucs have done a better job limiting big plays. Cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves and Brent Grimes played well the past two weeks.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Raiders WR Amari Cooper vs. Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves. These two met in the SEC when Cooper was at Alabama and Hargreaves was at Florida. Cooper got the best of Hargreaves then, but this could be an interesting matchup. Chances are the Bucs will give Hargreaves a little safety help.
--Buccaneers WR Mike Evans vs. Raiders CBs David Amerson, Sean Smith. After never developing an end zone rapport with Jameis Winston in 2015, Evans has been at his best in the red zone and beyond a year later. One game shy of the midway point of the season, Evans has 40 catches for 545 yards and has six receiving touchdowns after having only three last season. At 6-foot-5, 231 pounds, Evans presents a physical mismatch for every corner he faces, but slightly less so with the Raiders. If anything, Amerson and Smith are tall, rangy corners who do their best work against bigger men, rather than smaller, quicker receivers.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Raiders LB Perry Riley Jr. In only three weeks on the roster, Riley established himself as the starting middle linebacker. Riley arrived as a street free agent after recovering from a foot injury following six years with the Washington Redskins. The Raiders opened with second-year player Ben Heeney in the middle, who was ineffective before breaking an ankle and going on injured reserve. Cory James, a quick but undersized player for a middle linebacker, was next. Riley, however, played every snap against Jacksonville, with James on special teams. Del Rio likes having a veteran on the field.
INJURY REPORT: Oakland -- Out: DT Stacy McGee (ankle). Questionable: G Vadal Alexander (ankle), WR Andre Holmes (hip), RB Taiwan Jones (knee) S Brynden Trawick (shoulder), T Menelik Watson (calf). Tampa Bay -- Out: RB Doug Martin (hamstring), DT Clinton McDonald (hamstring). Questionable: DE Robert Ayers (ankle), C Joe Hawley (ankle), DT Gerald McCoy (calf).
FAST FACTS: Raiders punter Marquette King was named AFC Special Teams Player of the week after a 50.6 net punting average, placing four kicks inside the 20, and also ran 27 yards to convert a third-and-23 after fielding a low snap. "You know, I could be a running back," King said. "I'm going to start doing some more running back drills this week." ... Bucs DT Gerald McCoy collected a sack, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble last week. H has 7.5 sacks in past seven games vs. AFC teams.
PREDICTION: Two stubborn young teams fighting for acceptance should make this a brutal skirmish. Raiders have been at home on the road and this week went one better by staying in Florida after knocking off Jacksonville. Raiders defense is improving, but key is causing turnovers, where they are plus-8, tied for 2nd in NFL, while the Bucs are minus-3.
OUR PICK: Raiders, 35-21.