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NFC South

Week 1 Preview: Panthers vs. Raiders

Derek Carr photo by Jeffrey Beall (CC BY 4.0)

The Carolina Panthers will open the 2020 NFL season at home against the Las Vegas Raiders.  2020 will begin Carolina’s 26th season and their 13th home opener where they are 4-8 beginning the year.  All-time in season openers the Panthers are 10-15.  Carolina is 3-3 all-time against the Raiders.  The last meeting was a 35-32 Raiders win in Oakland during the 2016 season.

Head Coach Matt Rhule will make his NFL debut and lead a much different looking Panthers squad onto the field.  This year’s team will feature a lot of young faces on defense and the obvious…no Cam Newton.  Teddy Bridgewater will now be under center. The one constant will be rushing phenom Christian McCaffrey. The 64 million-dollar man is entering his 4th season.

Jon Gruden and the Raiders finished the 2019 season at 7-9.  Quarterback Derek Carr is entering his seventh season, all with the black and silver.  In 2019 Carr finished with 4,054 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and eight interceptions.  Las Vegas has a stud running back in Josh Jacobs.  The former Alabama Crimson Tide back had a stellar rookie season in 2019 posting 1,150 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns and averaged 88.5 rushing yards per game, which was third-best in the NFL.  Tight end Darren Waller will look to build off of 2019 after totaling 1,145 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

Las Vegas has two rookie wide receivers who will be thrown into the fire game one.  With a season-ending injury to Tyrell Williams, Henry Ruggs III out of Alabama and Bryan Edwards out of South Carolina will look to make an impact right away with a less than stellar wide receiving corps.  The talent is there, especially with Ruggs.  In three seasons at Tuscaloosa, he recorded 1,716 yards and 24 touchdowns.

I look for the Raiders to test the Panthers rookies in the secondary in Troy Pride Jr. and Jeremy Chinn.  However, when you have a 1,000-yard rusher in Jacobs, Las Vegas will definitely look to establish a running game.  Rookie defensive tackle Derrick Brown and company, along with the linebacker duo of Tahir Whitehead and Shaq Thompson, will have their work cut out for them.  On the flip side, the Panthers’ receivers should be able to exploit the Raiders’ lack of experience in the secondary.  Rookie Damon Arnette and second-year man Trayvon Mullen will get the starts at cornerback.  With the release of Prince Amukamara, Jon Gruden will look to second-year safety Johnathan Abram to lead the youth movement.

With both squads having an elite running back, I doubt we’ll see a lot of passing yards unless a team gets down big, early.  I like the Panthers receivers in this one, but can the Panthers young revamped defense keep Jacobs from exploding for big runs.  It is a very tall task, but if they somehow find a way to hold him in check, this is a winnable game for Carolina.

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