Oakland Raiders: Last-minute thoughts and prediction for Week 1

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 16: Quarterback Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders passes under pressure by linebacker Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on September 16, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 16: Quarterback Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders passes under pressure by linebacker Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High on September 16, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Week 1 is set to commence and the Oakland Raiders have a home game against Vic Fangio’s new-look Denver Broncos. Here’s how I think the Raiders will do tonight.

Antonio Brown is out of the picture. Now, Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders can put all the drama behind them and move forward to play some actual football starting with tonight at home against Joe Flacco‘s Denver Broncos.

The Raiders come into this game with one of the youngest teams in the league and a lot of questions to answer.

How will their pass rush perform?

This team had one of the worst pass rushes in football last year (and really, for the past few years). But they revamped their personnel to a degree with a mess of rookies and second-year players like Clellin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby in this past year’s draft, and Maurice Hurst and Arden Key in 2018’s draft.

They also brought on Benson Mayowa, who had four sacks last year for the Cardinals, Josh Mauro, who’s been a bit of a journeyman, but can still get inside pressure, and Corey Liuget, who wasn’t pursued to re-sign with the Chargers, but had been a major force in their interior pass rush for many years alongside the edges Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.

Pieces are there for this Raiders pass rush, but with the uncertainty of the young players and the hope that the vets still have something left to give, we can only wait and see how they perform.

How will the offense click now that their best receiver is gone?

I actually don’t think it will regress that much. They didn’t have Antonio Brown last year and, being that they finished middle-of-the-road in most offensive categories in 2018, their ceiling can only be raised with the additions of Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow.

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Running game-wise, they also added an exciting dual-threat Alabama guy in Josh Jacobs who could have himself a big rookie year.

Offensively, I think these guys can put up some points. But the big question mark is going to be Derek Carr.

Is the rift between he and Gruden too much for him to operate smoothly as the Raiders’ quarterback? Or can he overcome that and prove to his skeptical coach (or potentially ‘next’ team) that he can still play some good football?

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Looking at this opening night game against the Broncos, I think this is a game they should win. Lots of emotion coming into this game for them. Monday night showcase. Weaker offense in Denver for their young defense to face.

And the Raiders have won three-straight home games against these Broncos dating back to 2016. It’s a good matchup for them to kick their season off to 1-0.

But what they’ll need to look out for is the Broncos’ pass rush of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Those are two high-level edge rushers in this league (Miller is one of the best and Chubb is on his way up).

When I look at the tackles who will be handling them, we have Trent Brown playing right tackle, where he (let’s be honest) had a hard time in San Francisco a couple of years ago; that’s why they drafted Mike McGlinchey and sent him on his way to New England.

At left tackle, we have the young Kolton Miller, who, at 6-foot-9, has the tools to be one of the better left tackles in the game, but still has a lot of room to grow.

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Are a young Kolton Miller and a “playing out of position” Trent Brown going to be able to contain one of the best pass-rushing duos in football? We shall see.

Where I think this Raiders team will be able to solidify this win is on the defensive end. Joe Flacco in a new offense with young receivers and a staunch defensive head coach in Vic Fangio — there are going to be some growing pains for the former Super Bowl MVP to cope with.

I see a lot of Phillip Lindsay in the run game for opening night for the Raiders to deal with. And from looking at their linebacking core, Vontaze Burfict and Tahir Whitehead are pretty good against the run.

Secondary-wise, Flacco’s game will be chucking the ball downfield. But with two young receivers in Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, there’s no reason to believe veterans like Lamarcus Joyner and Karl Joseph, along with the savage Johnathan Abram, won’t be able to create havoc for the inexperienced pass catchers for Denver.

I don’t think it will be a complete beatdown, but I have the Raiders taking this game 29-21. Great start to their season. Derek Carr and Hunter Renfrow click for a touchdown (maybe two).

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Tight ends step up in lieu of (what I think will be) Tyrell Williams having a tough time with Chris Harris Jr. Defense does their job and forces a couple of Joe Flacco turnovers.

Raiders start 1-0.