Carolina Panthers vs Oakland Raiders: prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange 
Defending TEs has been an off-and-on proposition for the Raiders, and Carolina Panthers' Greg Olsen provides perhaps the toughest test of the season; he has a league-high 54 receptions for 745 yards and three touchdowns. Photo by AJ Sisco/UPI
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SERIES HISTORY: Sixth meeting, Panthers lead all-time series, 3-2. Carolina won the last meeting, in Week 16 of the 2012 season, 17-6. In the last game in Oakland, Carolina won 17-9 in 2008 despite quarterback Jake Delhomme going 7-for-27 with four interceptions. The last Raiders win was 27-24 in 2004 in Carolina with Kerry Collins at quarterback.
GAMEDATE: 11/27/16
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Although the Raiders will seek to restore some balance against Carolina after being unable to run against Houston, the Panthers are giving up 271.7 yards passing per game, 27th in the NFL, as opposed to 3.5 yards per carry on the ground. So look for the Raiders to open it up early with Derek Carr against a suspect secondary, then go to the run later if the game is under control.
Quarterback Cam Newton is the Panthers' primary weapon, passing and running. Malcolm Smith and Perry Riley Jr. are candidates to spy on Newton, who will be the focal point of everything coach Jack Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. devise for a game plan.
After slowing down the Saints to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, the Panthers have to figure out how to do the same against the high-flying Raiders. They will have to do it without their best defensive player, LB Luke Kuechly (concussion), and leading sack-getter, DE Mario Addison (foot).
MVP candidate Derek Carr has Oakland ranked fourth in passing yards and fifth in total offense and scoring, but the Texans had him on the ropes Monday night. The Panthers should follow a similar plan: Shut down the Raiders' running game and limit Carr's big plays. That fell apart for the Texans when they allowed two long touchdown pass plays in the fourth quarter, but if Carolina can hold receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree in check, they must make sure Oakland's running backs don't run free as pass catchers.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Panthers TE Greg Olsen vs. Raiders SS Karl Joseph. The Raiders were victimized early and often by Houston tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, who had six receptions for 84 yards. Defending tight ends has been an off-and-on proposition for the Raiders the last two seasons, and Olsen provides perhaps the toughest test of the season; he has a league-high 54 receptions for 745 yards and three touchdowns. Joseph has had a solid first year, although his tackling has been better than his man-to-man defense. Malcolm Smith could figure in some routes here, although in those instances Cam Newton will almost certainly go to Olsen.
--Raiders RG Gabe Jackson vs. Panthers DT Star Lotulelei. Jackson has had a generally solid season in switching from left guard to right guard to make room for Kelechi Osemele. He is at his best when matched against a player of strength as opposed to a smaller, quicker lineman. Lotulelei has four sacks and nine quarterback pressures. If he can pressure Carr up the middle one-on-one, it would go a long way toward improving what Carolina's leaky pass defense.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT:
Raiders LB Malcolm Smith. He had 10 tackles and an interception in a 27-20 win over Houston, playing 74 out of a possible 76 snaps. The Raiders' leading tackler last season, Smith is second in tackles in 2016 despite missing one game because of an injury. His six passes defensed are the most on the Raiders among front-seven players.
INJURY REPORT:
Carolina -- Out: DE Mario Addison (foot) C Ryan Kalil (shoulder), MLB Luke Kuechly (concussion). Questionable: S Tre Boston (ankle), C Gino Gradowski (knee), CB Leonard Johnson (chest), S Colin Jones (concussion), LB A.J. Klein (concussion).
Oakland -- Out: LB Shilique Calhoun (knee). Questionable: CB David Amerson (knee), WR Michael Crabtree (ankle), C Rodney Hudson (knee), DT Stacy McGee (ankle), S Keith McGill (abdomen), RB Latavius Murray (ankle), G Kelechi Osemele (knee), LB Perry Riley (hamstring).
FAST FACTS:
The Panthers are just 1-3 on the road this season, allowing 30 points per game. ... Oakland has won four straight, averaging 30 points per game.
Carolina QB Cam Newton completed just 42.4 percent of his throws in Week 11 -- the third-lowest completion percentage of his career.
Oakland QB Derek Carr's 20 touchdown passes are tied for second most of any AFC quarterback behind Tennessee's Marcus Mariota (23). On Monday in Mexico City, Carr went over 10,000 yards for his career.
Oakland has 10 scrimmage touchdowns of at least 20 yards -- tied with Pittsburgh for second most in the NFL (Atlanta has 12). Carolina has just three such touchdowns (tied for third fewest in the league).
PREDICTION: An ugly win in Los Angeles aside, the Panthers have struggled mightily on the road, and there's little chance they will be able to keep up with the high-scoring Raiders.
OUR PICK: Raiders, 34-24.
--Chris Cluff
Carolina Panthers vs Oakland Raiders: prediction, preview, pick to win Reviewed by Bizpodia on 00:45 Rating: 5

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