GREEN BAY – Dom Capers got a chance to scout Derek Carr up close and personal.
"I've kind of followed this guy. He came out as a little guy and threw the ball around when his brother was with us," the Packers defensive coordinator said of a time long ago, when he was the head coach of the expansion Texans and Carr's brother, David, was the Texans' quarterback.
These days, Derek Carr is the fast-rising quarterback of the Oakland Raiders, and Capers' defense will be playing against Carr in the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday. It's a do-or-die game for the Raiders, who cling to slim wild-card playoff hopes. The Packers might have to win the game to remain in sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
"They've got very good receivers that can go up and get the ball," Capers said in previewing a Raiders passing attack that has thrown for 30 touchdowns and nearly 3,500 yards.
Packers.com's Mike Spofford identifies five key matchups in Sunday's Packers-Raiders game.
Michael Crabtree leads the receiving corps with 70 catches for 779 yards and seven touchdowns. Rookie Amari Cooper is a big-play receiver who's caught 60 balls for 920 yards and four touchdowns. The deep ball is once again the hallmark of Raiders offense.
A young Raiders offense on the rise will be confronted by a Packers defense playing its best football of the season. Over the last five games, the Packers have allowed only 15.6 points per game.
"The best thing we've done is keep people out of the end zone. That's given us a chance to win," Capers said.
Green Bay's offense came to life in Detroit two weeks ago, and continued that revival this past Sunday in a dominant, 28-7 win over the Cowboys. Eddie Lacy was the star of that game, rushing for 124 yards.
"We always talk about December football," Offensive Coordinator Edgar Bennett said. "You want to be balanced, so you have to run the ball, but the opponent has a lot to do with it. You want to be balanced, but you want to take what they give you a little bit."
The Raiders have a big defensive front that is No. 12 against the run. The Raiders would seem to invite the pass with a No. 28 pass defense.
"They have some playmakers. The guy that stands out is Mack, but you have to know where Charles Woodson is on the field.
Take a look back in time at memorable photos from previous Packers-Raiders matchups. Photos by AP, Jim Biever, Vernon Biever,and Harmann Studios.
Linebacker Khalil Mack is coming off a five-sack performance and leads the league with 14. Woodson has intercepted five passes and would love to make a statement against his former team.
Rain is forecast is for Sunday, which would make this the second consecutive game and the third time in the last four games the Packers would have played in rain and wet conditions.
"We have to make sure we protect the football. To win on the road, you have to protect the football," Bennett said.
Packers coverage teams will be facing former Packers return man Jeremy Ross, a top talent who's bounced around the league due to fumbling issues.
"Jeremy Ross, I know he's had some issues putting the ball on the ground, but he's going to be ready for us. He's only been there three weeks, but since he's been there, they've been better. Yes, I am concerned about their return game," Packers Special Teams Coordinator Ron Zook said.