RAIDERS (0-0) AT SAINTS (0-0)
10 a.m., Sunday, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
Radio: 98.5/102.9 (Greg Papa, Tom Flores, Lincoln Kennedy)
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Drew Brees vs. the Raiders secondary. Derek Carr against the Dennis Allen-led defense is a close second, but that’s a strength (Carr) against a weakness (Saints defense was 31st in the league last year). The Raiders expect their secondary to be a strong one thanks to the additions of Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson. There’s no better way to prove it than facing one of the NFL’s most prolific quarterbacks of all-time. Since 2006 when he joined the Saints, nobody has more passing yards (48,555), touchdown passes (348), 300-yard games (89) and 400-yard games (13).
STATS TO LIVE BY
The Saints have just a 17-32 all-time record on opening day, although they are 4-0 at home in the Sean Payton era. New Orleans ranked at or near the bottom in almost every major defensive category last year: total defense (413.4, 31st), rushing defense (129.4, 31st), passing defense (284.0, 31st), points per game (29.8, 32nd), fourth-down conversion percentage (76.9, 31st) and red zone defense percentage (67.7, 32nd). The Saints did counter that a bit with the second-ranked offense and top-ranked passing offense. They were also the best on third down (47.7 percent). … The Raiders were middle of the pack just about everywhere except rushing offense, which ranked 28th (91.1 yards per game). Derek Carr’s 3,987 passing yards last year was the third-most in franchise history and his 32 touchdowns ranked second. … K Sebastian Janikowski enters the season tied with Jason Hanson for the NFL record for 50-plus yards field goals. They both have 52.
Hello Dennis Allen! Reggie McKenzie’s first coaching hire is the Saints defensive coordinator and will go up against the only team for which he’s held a head-coaching job. His assignment is to slow down Derek Carr, the man he named the Raiders starting quarterback in 2014 — probably his greatest accomplishment as Raiders coach.
“I’m so thankful for coach Allen, because he gave me my first chance,” Carr said this week. “Obviously, he’s not going to be rooting for me this week, but I just wanted to say that, that I was thankful. And he knows that, I’ve expressed it to him, how thankful I am that he not only gave me a chance to play in the NFL but give me a chance to start and trust in me for that.”
Jack Del Rio is returning to the stadium he called home for his first two NFL seasons when he was a Saints linebacker. Raiders rookie guard Vadal Alexander was born in New Orleans (although he was raised in Georgia from age 3 on) and went to college at LSU. Rookie running back Jalen Richard grew up in Alexandria, La., and will have plenty of family in town. Defensive tackle Justin Ellis is also a Louisiana native. He grew up in Monroe, La., and went to Louisiana Tech.
The Raiders haven’t faced the Saints since 2012, a 38-17 defeat. They’ve only placed New Orleans twice in the Drew Brees era (schedule rotations mean they only face each NFC team every four years) and have lost both by a combined 72-20 score. In that most recent defeat, Marcel Reece had 19 carries for 103 yards and four catches for 90 yards in the loss. He, of course, won’t play in this game as he serves the final three games of his suspension.
Raiders backup tackle Austin Howard is out with an ankle injury. The Saints will be without starting linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who has a quad injury. Starting left tackle Terron Armstead is questionable with knee and quad injuries and was limited in practice all week. Rookie receiver Michael Thomas is questionable after suffering an ankle injury at practice this week and backup tight end Chris Manhertz (head) is also questionable.
THE WEATHER FACTOR
It’s going to be hot, humid and about 87 degrees at kickoff … if you’re hanging out on Bourbon Street. Luckily, we’re inside the air-conditioned dome.
“There’s no question that each team this weekend, all across the league, it’s going to be, ‘Let’s see where we stand after one week.’ The idea is to be standing with a victory after one week. That’s why these opening days are so exciting. Everybody has a kind of a clean slate, a fresh start and an opportunity to make this season what they’re all about.”” — Raiders coach Jack Del Rio