It certainly didn’t take long for Jon Gruden to get back to ESPN, but now he’s working in a different capacity. The newly crowned head coach of the Oakland Raiders will look to defend his team’s home field as they host the Los Angeles Rams inside the Oakland Coliseum on Monday Night Football. The game starts at 7:20 p.m. PT and will be the second game of a doubleheader as the first MNF of the season.
Los Angeles Rams-Oakland Raiders Players to Watch
After receiving his $135 million payday, Aaron Donald will surely be looking to make an impact right out of the gate. He was certainly one of the best defensive players in 2017, recording 11 sacks and five forced fumbles in just 14 games played. The Raiders do have one of the better offensive lines in football, but if Donald can overpower his match-up, Derek Carr is in for one long night.
If the Raiders are looking to win this game, they must get Amari Cooper the ball early and often. Following back-to-back 1,000 yard receiving seasons, Cooper had just 680 yards last season. He became a non-factor last season and the Raiders did not have much success. The Raiders are 8-3 when he has over 100 yards receiving, so it’s in the Raiders best interests for him to have a great game this Monday.
Following his disappointing 2017 season, Derek Carr will be looking to bounce back against one of the best secondaries in football. Carr is a gunslinger and when he is able to do that effectively, his team wins. Oakland has a 10-4 record when he passes for over 300 yards, and are undefeated when his passer rating eclipses 100. His performance will determine who wins this game.
The biggest key to victory for the Raiders, outside of quarterback play, will be their defense. Last year, the Raiders’ defense was not very good. They allowed nearly 19 points per game and didn’t grab an interception until Week 11, which is now an NFL record for longest INT drought. If the Raiders are able to put pressure on Jared Goff and force him into making some bad passes, I can see them winning. The turnover battle is key. If the Raiders can’t get one or two takeaways, they’re going to have a tough time winning, even at home.
As for the Rams, they must take advantage of the mediocre Raiders defense and get their firepower going early and often. After being an MVP candidate last season, Todd Gurley is primed and ready to run all over this Oakland defense. Speedy receiver Brandin Cooks is also sure to give the Raiders secondary some troubles. If the Rams can march down the field and put the Raiders in a hole early, they’re going to have a rough night.
I believe this will be a relatively high-scoring affair. The Raiders will get an extra boost from their home crowd on opening night and are sure to light up the scoreboard, especially with Jordy Nelson as Carr’s newest weapon. As for the Rams, we know what they can do. Goff can sling the ball and Gurley can certainly run it. At the end of the day, I’m just not sure if the Raiders will be able to suppress the Ram’s offense or keep the ball away from their vicious defense. I see the Rams taking the victory in a close affair, 27-20.