Week 1 Tale Of The Tape: Oakland Raiders At New Orleans Saints
- QuarterbackThe Raiders are on the way up, and while there may be a few mis-steps along the way, they have the ability to go on the road and compete. Derek Carr has made respectable progress in his first two seasons and the Raiders are counting on him to continue to climb the ladder and become a star. If he can play with a bit more consistency, that will happen.At some point, Drew Brees will no longer be a viable NFL quarterback. It does not appear that he has reached that point at the start of the 2016 season. Few quarterbacks read defenses and diagnose their weaknesses as well as Brees, and he uses his crisp release and accuracy to create big plays. He had a 32-11 TD-interception ratio last year and is still enthusiastic.
- OffenseThe Raiders best attribute on the offensive side of the ball is their overall balance. Latavius Murray is capable of breaking the big play or using his power to make positive yardage between the tackles. Wide receiver Amari Cooper is capable of becoming a superstar because of his speed and agility, while Michael Crabtree is a capable No. 2 receiver.The Saints would like to get solid production from their running game just to take pressure off of Brees. Mark Ingram can run with power and break tackles in short-yardage situations, and he also demonstrated some big-play ability last year. Brandin Cooks is the team’s top receiver and he made great strides last year. Willie Snead is an underrated No. 2 pass catcher.
- DefenseThe Raiders have what every team needs to be successful on defense – a prime-time player who is capable of taking over and just putting his signature on any game. Khalil Mack is one of the three best defensive players in the league, and he should dominate again this year. CB Sean Smith should turn out to be a consistent cover man.The Saints were simply awful in this area a year ago, and if Sean Payton doesn’t see some improvement here his team is not going to win many games. Defensive end Cameron Jordan has the speed to come around the corner and provide consistent pressure. Ex-Ram James Laurinaitis is an upgrade at middle linebacker because he is a dependable tackler.
- Special TeamsOakland’s special teams still begins with strong-legged PK Sebastian Janikowski, who can still get the job done even though he is 38 years old. Marquette King is a decent punter who has improved quite a bit in the last two seasons.The Saints struggled badly with their coverage teams last year, and they regularly lost the battle and fell behind because of their ineptitude in this area. They need more intensity and discipline from their coverage teams. Thomas Morstead averaged 45.6 yards per punt and has a strong leg.
The Saints are likely to struggle once again this season because they are playing with a defense that lacks strength and nastiness during the most crucial moments. The Raiders are getting better and want to challenge in the AFC West, so they need a strong start.