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The Haunting: Mack and Edwards vs. Raiders

Khalil Mack and Mario Edwards Jr. started their careers with silver and black and face their old franchise as part of the one big advantage the Bears have in this matchup against Las Vegas.

Football is not basketball or baseball, where individual matchups can mean so much.

There are individual matchups but often they become clouded by the sport's nature as the ultimate team-based sport, one where on each play everyone on the field is doing something and it has been rehearsed and practiced repeatedly.

There isn't as much spontaneity as in basketball and there is no distinct one-on-one feature like the pitcher-batter battle brings to baseball.

Zone coverages or zone blocking schemes and offensive plays designed to set up other plays are examples of ways individual matchups get de-emphasized.

A team can own a huge edge with a pass rusher against a rookie tackle and the offense supports him with a tight end or chipping back. The team approach greatly diminishes a disadvantage caused by the one-on-one matchup.

Khalil Mack knows this all too well from being double-teamed or even triple-teamed.

The Bears own several distinct advantages in individual matchups against the Las Vegas Raiders heading into Sunday's game but they're all on one side of the ball and on one part of the field. They all involve how the Raiders offensive line handles the Bears defensive front.

In each case, if the Raiders find ways to cope through a team approach like double-teams, or they simply get lucky, there are lopsided matchups going the other way in Las Vegas' favor that can easily turn the game against the Bears.

The game entirely revolves around whether the Raiders can find enough ways to keep the Bears pass rush at bay long enough to let Derek Carr hit Henry Ruggs III and Darren Waller for big plays. Here are where the Bears have big edges, and they'd better win each as often as possible.

Ironically enough, two of the matchups involve players who wore a Raiders uniform at one time.

Bears OLB Khalil Mack vs. Raiders RT Alex Leatherwood

Mack has a foot sprain and was limited to 48% of snaps last week after he practiced only on Friday, and even then on a limited basis. He then suffered a rib injury which is bothering him. He fought through a groin injury earlier this season and the last two years has been nagged by lesser injuries that he's managed to cope with, but it appears to be wearing on his game. Last year he was Pro Football Focus' top edge rusher. This year his grade has placed him well back in the middle of the pack among all edge rushers as he has had to cope with health issues. Nevertheless, he remains an effective pass rusher and has four sacks. Leatherwood has given up four sacks and has committed six penalties. The Alabama rookie allowed five total pressures to Joey Bosa Monday night, according to PFF. He is the lowest graded tackle in the league according to that website, which gives him a grade of 31.1 and only 28.1 as a pass blocker. The Raiders might need to go maximum protection with two receivers in patterns all game long to make sure they have this matchup covered with help for their 6-foot-5, 312-pound rookie.

Bears DT Mario Edwards Jr. vs. Raiders LG John Simpson

Edwards wore the silver and black when Mack did and left for the 2018 season as Mack did. While he probably didn't live up to their expectations for a second-round pick in the 2015 draft, he has definitely found a niche with the Bears as a situational player, a three-technique defensive tackle when they switch to the four-man front for pass-rush situations. Although Edwards couldn't play the first two weeks due to suspension, his impact was immediately felt in Weeks 3 and 4. He has had at least half a sack in each game he played. His speed off the ball as a lighter, 280-pound interior rusher, has made an impact. Because he's a three-technique, he is lined up over the outside shoulder of the left guard and it's more difficult this way for the center to support the guard when they're pass blocking. Simpson is part of a real problem for the Raiders. They haven't been able to come up with a way to replace injured Denzelle Good (ACL) and Richie Incognito (calf) and are using backups at both guard spots. Simpson has committed two penalties and allowed a sack. He has a PFF grade of 46.1.


Bears OLB Robert Quinn vs. Raiders LT Kolton Miller

Quinn is on a rampage now that he is of sound mind and body. The league has him at 4 1/2 sacks, but seems to like taking away a sack here or half a sack there from him. He has seven quarterback hits and 10 pressures already after he had only two sacks, six quarterback hits and 10 pressures for the full 2020 season. The Bears make matters worse for those contending with Quinn at times by lining Mack up alongside him. Miller has come a long way since 2018, when he was a gridiron turnstile. He committed eight penalties and PFF had him at 16 sacks allowed that year. He improved but not even to an adequate status when he allowed seven sacks the following season, but last year made great strides with just two sacks allowed. Miller has graded out the best pass blocker the Raiders have. Still, on a line with great problems and one that may not be able to provide him with much help, Miller's task appears daunting this week.