The Vegas strip. NFL history. New stadium. What a Monday night game this is going to be.
The Monday night game this week will feature the Las Vegas Raiders (1-0) playing their first game in their new city. They will be hosting the New Orleans Saints (1-0), and the game will be the first NFL event at the brand-new Allegiant Stadium. The stadium will be a tremendous sports and entertainment venue, and the game on the field is sure to be a good one as well.
Week 2 Prime Time Picks: Saints (-5.5) vs. Raiders (+195) O/U 48.5 — All lines via DraftKings
The Raiders (1-0) are coming off a 34-30 win at Carolina, and the Saints (1-0) are coming off a 34-23 win at home against Tampa Bay. With both teams sitting at 1-0, someone will have to take their first loss on Monday night, so let’s take a look at the matchup and see who has the edge.
Saints Defense Gives Tom Brady Trouble in Week 1
The Saints took down Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in the Superdome last week, beating them by a score of 34-23. The Saints defense was causing problems for Tom all day, as they picked him off twice, including one pick-six.
Brady was 23/36 for 239 yards, and although he did have two TD’s, those picks really played a huge part in the game. Brady was held to a rating of just 78.4. The Saints defense will look to give Derek Carr similar problems on Monday night. Carr looked solid against the Panthers last week, as he was 22/30 for 239 yards and one touchdown. He did not throw a pick and had a rating of 107.5. Granted, the Panthers defense is pretty awful, as they were 31st in pass defense a year ago. However, it was definitely a good start for Carr and the Raiders passing game, and it will be interesting to see how he fares against a much petter defense in the Saints.
The Raiders’ offensive line lost starting right tackle Trent Brown after one series in the season opener, and lost backup Sam Young later in the first half. Nevertheless, the Vegas offensive line did a tremendous job in protecting their QB. According to Pro Football Focus, Carr was under pressure on only 10% of his dropbacks in Week 1, which was the best rate in the league. The Raiders will aim to keep Carr protected in Week 2 against a Saints pass rush that sacked Tom Brady three times last week.
Michael Thomas Injury
Saints stand-out WR Michael Thomas will miss his first game in four years on Monday, as he has been ruled out because of an ankle injury. This is a big loss for the Saints passing attack, as Thomas led the entire NFL in catches last season with 149, which was also an NFL record. The Saints offense sputtered a bit last week agains the Buccaneers, as Drew Brees only threw for 160 yards in the New Orleans win. But, he didn’t necessarily need to put up big numbers, as his defense was doing a lot of the work, and the Saints held a big lead most of the game. To be fair, Brees still threw for two touchdowns and had a rating of 96.5, but the absence of Thomas will be a big one going into this week. To fill that void, the Saints will look to a number of different options, including newcomer Emmanuel Sanders, as well as RB Alvin Kamara, and TE Jared Cook. Sanders seems to be the new #1 receiver, and he only had 3 catches for 15 yards in Week 1, although he did have a touchdown. Other receivers Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harris and Bennie Fowler could also see more targets, as well as super-utility man Taysom Hill. Hill could play a larger part in the Saints offense in a variety of ways on Monday night, and it will be interesting to see how the offense looks without Thomas playing.
Saints Strong Rush D vs Raiders Effective Running Game
Along with a stingy pass defense, the Saints rushing defense looked strong in Week 1 as well. They held the Bucs to 86 yards on 26 carries, averaging 3.3 yards per carry. They will face a Raiders rushing attack that ran for 133 yards on 31 carries and 3 TD’s last week against Carolina. Their 4.3 yards per carry average was led by Josh Jacobs, who scored all 3 TD’s. To make the task more difficult for Jacobs, the Saints have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 44 consecutive games. Jacobs is sure to get a fair amount of carries again this week, and whether or not the Saints are effective in limiting him could be a large factor in the outcome. The Raiders were 7-1 last year when rushing for at least one TD and 0-8 when they didn’t. Getting Jacobs going early and often will be big for the Raiders.
Drew Brees’ Losing Record in September
In Drew Brees’ 276 career games, he has a record of 164-112. In what has been a Hall of Fame career, it is noteworthy that Brees has a losing record in the month of September. Here are his records by month in his career:
- September: 29-31
- October: 67-47
- November: 69-44
- December: 76-42
- January: 2-2
He also much rather prefers to play at home as opposed to on the road. His rating at home throughout his career is 103.8, while on the road it is 92.8.
Allegiant Stadium Grand Opening
With the Raiders moving from Oakland to Las Vegas, they were in need of a new stadium. Monday night will be the opening game at Allegiant Stadium, which is the second-most expensive stadium ever built, with a cost of $1.9 billion. Nicknamed “The Death Star” by Raiders owner Mark Davis, the stadium that holds 65,000 people will be empty, but it will still be a home opener for the ages, as the NFL in Las Vegas era begins.
The Saints are the better team on both sides of the ball, but the absence of Michael Thomas really hurts them. I don’t really know what their offense is going to look like without him. He is such big part of their passing game, and while the alternatives in Sanders, Cook, and Smith are formidable, they don’t bring that centerpiece to the offense that Thomas does. This Saints offense has revolved around Thomas the past few years, and without him, there are a lot of questions to be answered. The Saints passing game was fairly inconsistent last week, as Brees only threw for 160 yards, and I just don’t know what adjustments will be made without Thomas. Alvin Kamara figures to be a big part of the plan, but he had his lowest yards per carry average of his career last week, rushing for just 16 yards on 12 carries. The Raiders will be juiced to be playing in their new city and their new stadium for the first time. The national spotlight of doing so on a Monday night game will add some extra motivation. Derek Carr looked solid in Week 1, and he will have his hands full with a Saints D that picked off Brady twice last week. However, I think some of Brady’s issues were due to lack of chemistry with all of his new Buccaneers teammates. Carr’s offensive line was strong in Week 1, and if they can keep him protected again, I think Carr can keep them in the game. In addition, Josh Jacobs will need to be effective and efficient on the ground. The Raiders were 7-1 last year when rushing for at least one TD and 0-8 when they didn’t. I think Jacobs will get lots of carries and will have a strong chance to get into the end zone again, as he had 3 TD’s last week. I see the Raiders keeping this one close, and they will have a bit of an emotional boost as they open their incredible new stadium in Vegas.
Title Photo: Las Vegas Review-Journal