The Raiders start their inaugural season in Las Vegas with a win in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers. A closely fought contest, with high power offenses, produced an exciting game with eight lead changes. This victory gives the Raiders a big boost going into a difficult week two matchup against the New Orleans Saints. Can the Raiders win and go 2-0?
Win versus the Carolina Panthers (34-30)
A hard-fought victory against the Panthers produced one of the better games the Raiders have been involved in over the last few years. The Panthers’ new offensive scheme was impressive and well oiled, considering new head coach Matt Rhule has only been with the team since January. They managed a score against the Raiders defense in all four possessions in the first half. However, Derek Carr produced the 19th fourth quarter comeback of his career to help beat the Panthers. With less than two minutes to play, the Raiders defense came up big to produce a fourth and inches stop on their own 45-yard line to seal the victory.
Josh Jacobs looks like the running back from last year, only with an increased workload. The 2019 first-round pick had 25 attempts on the ground for 93 yards and three touchdowns, along with four receptions for 46 yards.
Johnathan Abram was the stand out playmaker on defense. His 13 tackles, nine solo, led the team from safety – seven more than any other player. His physicality from the backfield was something the Raiders sorely missed in 2019. This is highlighted below, a thumping tackle on one of the NFL’s most elusive players, Christian McCaffrey.
The offensive line is continuing on from its dominance last year. The Panthers pass rush was one of their strengths in 2019, finishing the season with 53 sacks, second in the NFL. The Raiders allowed no sacks and just three pressures during the whole game. Starting tackle Trent Brown was injured early and backup guard Denzelle Good had to step in at tackle after Sam Young was also ruled out. This is the strength of the team and will be crucial to a successful Raiders season.
Besides Abram and the fourth down stop, the Raiders defense didn’t produce when needed. A weakened Panthers offensive line should have been taken advantage of, but the Raiders defensive line struggled to get pressure all game. One sack by Maurice Hurst and Carl Nassib from pressure up the middle, rounded out a sub-par day for the Raiders pass rush.
The Raiders secondary was also disappointing, although the lack of pressure on Teddy Bridgewater helped the Panthers receiving core. Damon Arnette struggled all game, the 2020 first-round cornerback received a lowly 52.6 overall grade by PFF. This should improve with experience, he’ll certainly be looking to build on this in the coming weeks.
After beating out veteran Damarious Randall, Erik Harris had the worst defensive performance of the game. Receiving just a 37.3 overall grade by PFF, the veteran safety made a number of mistakes during the game. A horrible missed tackle on Robby Anderson during his 75-yard touchdown almost cost the Raiders this game. Massive improvement is needed.
The New Orleans Saints have dominated the NFC South for the last three seasons. They are a well-drilled team and have one of the best rosters in the NFL. Coach Sean Payton has been with the team since 2006, the same amount of time as veteran quarterback Drew Brees. This experience in the system is key for the Saints’ success.
Drew Brees is the most accurate quarterback in the history of the NFL, having a career completion percentage of 67.6%. However, Brees has a weakness, his arm strength. In 2019, he attempted just five passes over 35 yards in the air, none of which were caught. If the Raiders can utilise their new linebacker Cory Littleton in coverage, they should be able to hold the Saints to little in the passing game.
The Saints have a strong passing game, but this will be weakened as they are without elite wide receiver Michael Thomas. Thomas hasn’t missed a game since 2016 against the Bucs, in which the Saints struggled to move the ball – gaining just 294 offensive yards. However, the Saints are in a different position in 2020. Alvin Kamara will be heavily involved in the passing game, and former Denver wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will make life difficult for the Raiders coverage units.
The Raiders will also have a tough time on their hands against the Saints defense. They are one of the better defenses in the league, and haven’t allowed a hundred yard rusher in 44 games. Josh Jacobs will have his work cut out for him against a strong defensive line. The Raiders offensive line will also have to be on the top of their game. The Saints managed three sacks in week one and will be looking to improve on that. After picking off Tom Brady and returning it for a pick-six, Janoris Jenkins will be playing confident alongside cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
The Saints have a strong team all over and the Raiders will have to be at the top of their game to get anything out of this. Sustained pressure on Drew Brees and keeping possession should give the Raiders an opportunity to go 2-0 for the first time in two seasons.
- Saints elite wide receiver, Michael Thomas should be out for this game with a high ankle sprain.
- Trent Brown and Nick Kwiatkoski, who were both injured and ruled out of the Panthers game, could make their return this week.
- No fans will be present in the Allegiant Stadium for the Raiders’ first game at their new home.
- After missing a quarter of the Panthers game with a foot injury, rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs will be good to go week two.
Prediction | New Orleans Saints 38 – 35 Las Vegas Raiders
The Saints edge a high scoring game against the Raiders. The high power Saints offense is very strong, even without Michael Thomas. This will be a huge test for the young secondary of the Raiders, and it will be difficult to stop Drew Brees and company. A competitive game against a Super Bowl favourite will give the Raider Nation hope for the rest of the season.