The NFL debuts in Las Vegas as the Raiders start a new era for their franchise with a game against the New Orleans Saints. Ben Steele preview the action...
"While Kamara hasn't had the same franchise changing effect on the Saints as his Carolina contemporary he offers a real pick your poison problem for Las Vegas on Monday Night."
Jacobs set to be a star in Vegas
From Frank Sinatra to Celine Dion, Las Vegas has always been a home for entertainment stars, and with the arrival of the Las Vegas Raiders on the scene it is running back Josh Jacobs who has the best chance to become the man the city takes to their hearts. Jacobs, 22, kicked off his second NFL season with a hat-trick of rushing touchdowns and 93 yards against the Carolina Panthers as he carried the Raiders to a Week 1 victory.
The one knock against Jacobs last season was that, while he was a talented rusher, he was lacking as a receiver. That changed last week. Only tight end Darren Waller had more catches than the Alabama product and rookie receiver Henry Ruggs III was the only Raider with more receiving yards as Jacobs solidified himself as the focal point of the offence and the face of the franchise. The Las Vegas offence was very well balanced against Carolina (30 pass attempts and 31 rushes) and if head coach Jon Gruden can enforce a similar playing style this week that can only benefit his star running back.
Quarterback Derek Carr is a dependable player who doesn't make mistakes and keeps opposing defences honest, which should allow Jacobs the freedom to attack the Saints defence and score the first touchdown in the new Allegiant Stadium.
Saints have too much for the Raiders
Week 1 saw the New Orleans Saints emerge victorious in the battle of future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Drew Brees was solid, but unspectacular, as he bested Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but now Brees will have to cope without star receiver Michael Thomas for the foreseeable future. Thomas set an NFL record for regular season catches last season as he absolutely dominated the Saints passing game, his 149 catches accounted for 35.6% of all New Orleans receptions in 2019, but injured his ankle last week and is set to miss 'several weeks'.
The Saints picked up Emmanuel Sanders in free agency to play alongside Thomas, and the former 49er will now have to be the main man, but he should be fine against a Raiders defence that were pretty poor last week. Even without Thomas, a passing attack led by Drew Brees, featuring Sanders and Jared Cook with the X-factors of Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill is better than a Panthers offence that is heavily reliant on Christian McCaffrey and were still able to put up 30 points.
The Saints offence also benefits from playing on the opposite side of the ball to one of the best defenses in the league. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has built around defensive lineman Cameron Jordan and an excellent secondary unit to develop an opportunistic style that forces turnovers and is often the deciding factor in games. If Jordan et al can contain Josh Jacobs I don't see a way for the Raiders to win the game; I'm backing New Orleans -5.5 for a comfortable win.
Lights, Kamara, Action
While the Saints defence will focus on stopping Jacobs, the Raiders face a similar test to the one they had last week. Carolina Panthers running back McCaffrey is a unique talent, equally as effective in the passing and running game, but in the form of Alvin Kamara the Saints probably have the player with the closest skillset to McCaffrey. Kamara signed a contract worth $75 million last week and immediately set about repaying that paycheck with a pair of touchdowns against Tampa Bay.
A prolific pass catcher (81 receptions in each of his three professional seasons) who has the ability to score from anywhere, Kamara is pivotal to the Saints offensive game plan. The Raiders were able to contain McCaffrey in the passing game last week but gave up two rushing touchdowns, and I'm expecting similar struggles in Week 2. While Kamara hasn't had the same franchise changing effect on the Saints as his Carolina contemporary he offers a real pick your poison problem for Las Vegas on Monday Night.
With so many ways to be a threat, I'm backing the New Orleans rusher to have a big day in both aspects of the game an OddsBoost of 1+ Rushing and 1+ Receiving touchdowns for Kamara is worth a look at 13/2.
Ben Steele NFL P/L 2020/21 Season:
Staked: 6 points
Returned: 8.2 points
P/L: +2.2 points