Las Vegas Raiders (0-0) vs. Carolina Panthers (0-0)
The Las Vegas Raiders? No, you are not reading that wrong and COVID-19 has not given you a fever that led to delirium. The Oakland Raiders finally begin their tenure as the Las Vegas Raiders as the team crosses the border into Nevada to begin a new chapter in the franchise’s history.
They begin their first season looking to make some serious strides under Head Coach Jon Gruden, who returned to the two years ago with much fanfare but with very little results. Meanwhile, the Panthers will start the 2020 season with a new head coach and a new guy under center for the first time in a decade. There are definitely a lot of question marks for the two teams, which both hope they can supply some answers come Sunday afternoon.
Is the Gruden Mystique Tainted?Gruden had led the Raiders to the playoffs on several occasions the first time he was the coach of the team, but the knock was that he could not win the big game. Then the team traded him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he won a Super Bowl, ironically enough, against his former team.
Now, he is entering his third season in his second stint with the Raiders and much is expected of the team as the hype reaches a new peak now that the Raiders are playing in a city that is nothing but hype – Las Vegas. The Oakland Raiders went 4-12 in Gruden’s first season, then went 7-9 last season, barely missing the playoffs.
Gruden is known for his offensive prowess, and that did not come to fruition last season. Las Vegas averaged 19.4 ppg, but they have done a lot to improve the talent. Derek Carr returns to lead the offense after throwing for 4.054 yards and 21 TDs. Josh Jacobs proved to be a star, rushing for 1,150 yards in his rookie season. He scored seven touchdowns.
The big addition is Henry Ruggs III, who was taken in the first round and is the kind of vertical threat that the Raiders love. In his three seasons at Alabama, Ruggs caught 98 balls for 24 touchdowns and a 17.5 yards per catch average. Clearly, the defensive talent facing him is going to be far superior, but he is going to have a better quarterback as well. He could easily be a 1,200-yard receiver in his first year.
The defense was not very good last season either, allowing 26.2 ppg. However, they were solid by season’s end, giving up 17.6 ppg in their last three games. Much is needed from this group if this is going to be a playoff team.
A New Atmosphere in CarolinaAfter going 5-11, it is not surprising that the Panthers made some major changes. There is a new head coach, as Matt Rhule takes the reigns over for long-time coach Ron Rivera, who wound up in Washington. That is a big change, but Cam Newton not lining up under center is the headline. Newton was a franchise quarterback, but injuries and diminished performance send the team in a new direction, and it is hoped the veteran Teddy Bridgewater is the answer.
Bridgewater has not been a regular starter since 2015 when he threw for 3,231 years and 14 touchdowns for the Vikings. Since then, he has started just six games but made a big impression last season when he took over for an injured Drew Brees and led the New Orleans Saints to five straight victories. Bridgewater completed 67.9% of his passes with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. He will likely not be as successful in Carolina, but he will make this team competitive.
The offense seems like it is in capable hands, but the defense needs some serious work. The Panthers were last in the NFL in defense, allowing 29.4 ppg. Luke Kuechly retired and there are a number of holes to fill. Carolina focused on defense in the draft and three of their picks will start on the field on Sunday. They will count mainly on first-round pick Derrick Brown to anchor the defensive line right away.
- 0-4-1 ATS in their last five games overall.
- 0-5-1 ATS in their last six games on grass.
- 0-3-1 ATS in their last four home games.
- 5-2 ATS in their last seven Week 1 games.