A new era begins Sunday afternoon in Charlotte NC and there will be new faces all over Bank of America Stadium. With all the uncertainty and unfamiliarity surrounding the 2020 season, predicting the outcome seems almost impossible. However, I believe not having a preseason works in the Panthers favor on Sunday. The unorthodox off-season offers them an advantage over the visiting Las Vegas Raiders.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has been around the NFL for decades now and he’s more than likely seen everything the league has to offer. However, COVID-19 leaves Gruden and his staff in a bind with little to no film of the Panthers and their new look schemes. Gruden has mentioned he’s opted to watch college film of both Matt Rhule and new offensive coordinator Joe Brady in order to be ready for this Sunday’s game. I don’t think it will be enough though due to Carolina jumping out to an early lead and able to hold off a late rally by Las Vegas.
Panthers 23 Raiders 20.
The Raiders boast a very good interior line of center Rodney Hudson, and guards Gabe Jackson and Richie Incognito. A newly revamped defensive front 7 for the Panthers will have their hands full getting to Derrick Carr and stopping running back Josh Jacobs. This is the biggest key to victory, limiting big plays in the pass game and stopping the running game in Week 1.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Rookie first round pick Derrick Brown will be key in trying to stop the Raiders run game. Carolina invested the 7th overall pick on Brown hoping he would put an end to the run game woes that plagued the Panthers in 2019. He will have veteran Pro Bowl DT Kawann Short returning from a Week 2 season ending shoulder injury from last season to help shore up the interior of the defense.
Raiders Tight End Darren Waller isn’t a house hold name. However, he’s one of the best players at his position in the league. Waller can line up all over the field causing match up problems for opposing defenses. The Panthers LB corps will look a little different without former All Pro Luke Kuechly in the middle, so limiting the effectiveness of Waller will be paramount in slowing down an explosive offense.