Redskins.com breaks down some of the key matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Raiders game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
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Quinton Ganther/Rock Cartwright vs. Raiders run defense
Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts are on injured reserve, so that means Ganther and Cartwright become the primary running backs for the Redskins.
Ganther has earned his first NFL start this Sunday vs. Oakland. He has shown flashes in recent weeks, compiling 88 yards on 19 carries, a 4.6-yard average.
Ganther and Cartwright are expected to split carries, with Marcus Mason earning a few carries as well. Cartwright has 212 rushing yards on 58 carries this season.
The Redskins' ground game is ranked 22nd in the NFL, averaging 101.0 yards per game.
In Oakland, the Raiders have the league's 29th-ranked defense and 30th-ranked run defense.
The defensive line has talent with five-time Pro Bowl selection Richard Seymour, acquired from New England in a trade last August, and Greg Ellis and Gerard Warren, both former first-round draft picks.
The Raiders have allowed a running back to rush for 100 yards three of the last four weeks. On Thanksgiving Day in Dallas, they allowed three running backs to rush for 60 yards.
Redskins Pass Rush vs. Bruce Gradkowski
The Redskins are ranked 12th in the NFL with 28 sacks this season, but in recent weeks they have struggled to get to the quarterback. In their last three games, the Redskins have just four sacks.
Some of that has to do with Albert Haynesworth, who missed two of those games with an ankle injury. He re-injured himself last Sunday vs. New Orleans, putting his availability for the Raiders game in doubt.
Andre Carter is among the league leaders in sacks with nine, followed by Brian Orakpo with seven. After recording at least a half-sack in six of seven games earlier this season, Orakpo has been shut out the last three contests.
Raiders quarterbacks have been sacked 33 times this season, seventh-most in the league. Gradkowski, who assumed the starting job in Week 11, has been sacked nine times in three games.
Since assuming the starting job in Week 11, Gradkowski has guided the Raiders to two wins. He has been sacked nine times in three games.
Gradkowski guided the Raiders to a 27-24 upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday. He completed 20-of-33 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns, all in the fourth quarter. He was not sacked in that final quarter despite dropping back to pass 18 times.
Hunter Smith vs. Shane Lechler
The Redskins play a lot of close games, so punting--and the field position battle--is often critical.
Smith, despite battling a groin injury midseason, has been solid for the Redskins, averaging 42.8 yards and 37.4 net yards per punt this year.
In terms of maintaining a field position advantage, Smith faces a challenge in Lechler, who has emerged this decade as one of the great punters in NFL history.
Lechler has a career 47.3-yard punting average, tops among punters with 250 attempts. He surpasses Redskins Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh's career punting average of 45.1, which is second all-time.
Lechler has a 51.5-yard average this season and a 44.4-yard net average. He has recorded at least one punt of more than 50 yards in every game this season.
Devin Thomas vs. Nnamdi Asomugha
It was a long time coming, but Thomas finally had a breakthrough game last Sunday vs. New Orleans.
The 6-2, 215-pound wide receiver grabbed seven passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns. He flashed impressive speed by beating defenders on downfield routes, recording 40- and 29-yard receptions.
For the season, Thomas has 23 catches for 287 yards and three touchdowns. Fourteen of those catches have come in the last three games.
Asomugha, 6-2 and 210 pounds, is regarded as one of the top cornerbacks in the league. He has earned two Pro Bowl nods and was first-team All-Pro in 2008.
He posted a career-high eight interceptions in 2006, his breakthrough season. Since then, teams have avoided throwing in his direction and he has posted just three interceptions the last three years.