OAKLAND RAIDERS (3-5) AT MIAMI DOLPHINS (4-3)
SERIES HISTORY: 34th regular-season meeting. Series tied, 16-16-1. Miami has won the last five meetings, including a 38-14 win in London in 2014. The Raiders scored on their opening drive then were blown out in the last game coached by Dennis Allen, who was fired when the Raiders reached home and replaced by interim coach Tony Sparano. The last Raiders win was in 2007 in Miami, with Daunte Culpepper rushing for three touchdowns and the Raiders rushing for 299 yards.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Miami, which likes to pass off play-action, will have to feel its way around this one. Running back Kenyan Drake will likely take over most of the ball-carrying duties with Pro Bowler Jay Ajayi traded to Philadelphia. Third-down specialist Damien Williams also figures to share the running load. Both are relative unknowns. That throws some uncertainty into the offensive strategy, but ideally Miami wants to establish the run.
Oakland likely will try to put the game in quarterback Jay Cutler's hands, especially considering he's coming back from a rib injury. Cutler hasn't been consistent and neither have his receivers. The Raiders may blitz more frequently than usual against Cutler.
For the Raiders, running back Marshawn Lynch returns from a one-game suspension after a week in which both Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington struggled running the ball against Buffalo. The Raiders' lack of play-action has been a season-long issue. Expect coordinator Todd Downing to use more of it to slow the Miami pass rush, including Cameron Wake, with Derek Carr looking to get the ball downfield after staying with short throws against Buffalo.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Raiders RT Marshall Newhouse vs. Dolphins DE Cameron Wake. Wake can still bring it at age 35, with six sacks in seven games and coming off an 11.5-sack season a year ago. At 6-foot-3 and 263 pounds, Wake presents a problem for Newhouse, who returned to action against Buffalo after missing the Kansas City win with a foot injury. Newhouse has long been considered a better pass blocker than a run blocker, so the Raiders will probably see in the first series or two whether the veteran can hold his own before committing an extra player or two (a running back or tight end) for help. It will help if right guard Gabe Jackson or Jon Feliciano can deal with Ndamukong Suh on a fairly even basis, allowing more help for Wake.
--Dolphins OTs Ja'Wuan James and Laremy Tunsil vs. Raiders DE Khalil Mack. Mack can wreck Miami's game plan by himself, so it will be imperative for James and Tunsil to keep him under control at all times. That might be asking too much, but they did a good job vs. Chargers DEs Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Dolphins WR DeVante Parker. Parker returns from a three-game absence due to an ankle injury with lots to prove. His reliability has been questioned during his previous two seasons -- and remains a question. His production also has been questioned, and now that the offense needs a spark, his response will be eyed closely. Parker has the skills to be a difference-maker, but those displays come and go. Miami's offense needs Parker to become a star.
FAST FACTS: Raiders QB Derek Carr passed for 313 yards and a TD last week. He has 1,136 passing yards (284 per game) with 10 TDs and two INTs in the past four games vs. the AFC East. ... Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch has 53 rushing TDs since 2011, the most in the NFL. ... Oakland WR Michael Crabtree has six TD catches in the past six games. ... Raiders DE Khalil Mack has three sacks in the past three games on the road. He has 31.5 sacks since 2015, third most in the NFL. ... Oakland S Reggie Nelson has 35 career INTs, most among active NFL safeties. ... Miami QB Jay Cutler has four passing TDs in past two games. ... Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry has a TD catch in three of the past four games. He ranks
second in the NFL with 50 catches. Since entering the league in 2014, he has 338 catches and needs five to pass Anquan Boldin (342) for most by a player in his first four seasons in NFL history. ... Miami LB Lawrence Timmons led the team with 13 tackles in Week 8. He is one of three active players (Julius Peppers and Karlos Dansby) with 35 sacks (35.5) and 10 INTs (12). ... Dolphins DE Cameron Wake has four sacks in the past three games at home. He leads the team and ranks seventh in the AFC with six sacks.
PREDICTION: The Dolphins' offense had question marks before the trade of Ajayi. It won't have enough answers this week even with the return of Cutler.
OUR PICK: Raiders, 17-13.