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Raiders set for Las Vegas debut vs. Saints in empty stadium

Thu Sep 17 1:54pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer

Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden talks with quarterback Derek Carr during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)


Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) celebrates after scoring during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)


The only thing missing when the Las Vegas Raiders get the chance to show off their shiny new stadium will be the fans.

What was supposed to be a big celebration of the NFL's arrival in Las Vegas has been dampened a bit by the decision not to allow fans at Raiders games this season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the national TV audience will be there for a high-profile matchup against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints (1-0) on Monday night, the Raiders (1-0) won't have anyone cheering for them in the empty $2 billion stadium near the Las Vegas Strip.

''It still is as a football fan a cool feeling to be able to play on Monday night,'' quarterback Derek Carr said. ''We wish our city here, Las Vegas, we wish they could experience it with us. I'm sure they will be around somewhere. I'm sure there is a certain street or strip that they'll be on that our fans will be at. But I wish they could be there, but hopefully it still feels the same energy and all those kinds of things.''

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The Raiders have been waiting for this moment for years. They spent the past 25 seasons playing in the rundown Oakland Coliseum.

They were unable to get an agreement on a new stadium in the Bay Area and were blocked from moving to Los Angeles so ended up in the desert instead.

Owner Mark Davis pulled off what his father, Al, couldn't by getting the Raiders their own stadium, but he has said he won't attend games until the fans are allowed in next season.

''Mark Davis is the owner of this team and he's very passionate about our fan base,'' coach Jon Gruden said. ''We were so excited to have our debut in front of Raider fans here in Vegas. It's disappointing.''

OLD FRIENDS

The game marks the first time Saints coach Sean Payton and Gruden, who are old friends and colleagues, have been on opposite sidelines since Gruden left Tampa Bay after the 2008 season. Gruden was the Eagles offensive coordinator under coach Ray Rhodes when Payton was hired to his first NFL job as Philadelphia's quarterbacks coach in 1997.

''My office was basically a little corner couch in his office and I had just a cell phone,'' Payton recalled. ''But it was a chance to learn, really.''

The two coached rival NFC South teams when Payton got his first and only head job with New Orleans in 2006. They met six times, splitting 3-3.

CARR INSURANCE

The Raiders' offensive line did a stellar job protecting Carr in the opener despite losing starting right tackle Trent Brown after one series and backup Sam Young later in the first half. Backup guard Denzelle Good stepped in as the emergency tackle and fared well. Carr was under pressure on only 10% of his dropbacks for the game, the best rate in the league in Week 1, according to Pro Football Focus.

RUN STOPPERS

The Saints enter the game with a defensive front that has been among the NFL's best against the run the past couple of seasons. New Orleans has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 44 consecutive games, going back to when Samaje Perine eclipsed that mark in November 2017.

Payton expects his run defense to be tested against Las Vegas, calling Gruden ''one of those coaches who does a great job staying committed to the running game ... It's something that's kind of followed Jon wherever he's been.

''I've worked with Jon and watched his preparation, the attention to detail in everything he does and there's always going to be a presence physicality-wise, running the football,'' Payton added.

Raiders back Josh Jacobs ran for 93 yards and three TDs and caught four passes for 46 yards in the opener.

NO CASINO

While the Saints will be the first NFL team to have a road game in Las Vegas, Payton said that because of the coronavirus pandemic, he doesn't have to even concern himself with discussing guidelines for players in casinos that virtually never close.

''I don't have to make any rules. The league has done it, fortunately, for us,'' Payton said, noting that teams are supposed to be in a ''hard bubble'' while on road trips. ''We'll be in a secure area, period. So, it's not like you can just stroll down the lobby and roll some dice for an hour.''

UNDER PRESSURE

The Raiders struggled to generate any sort of pass rush in the opener, getting just one sack and four quarterback pressures against Carolina. Free agent defensive tackle Maliek Collins was supposed to bolster the interior rush, but had little impact in his Raiders debut. Carolina also did a good job neutralizing Maxx Crosby off the edge. Vegas will need to be better this week up front to contain Drew Brees.

Player Notes
Joey Slye Oct 30 12:40am ET

Carolina Panthers kicker Joey Slye made one field goal and a pair of extra points in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Slye didn't get many opportunities in this one, as Carolina made just one trip to the red zone against a surprisingly resurgent Falcons' defense. There's not much that a kicker can do when he's simply not seeing the opportunities. With that said, Slye may be needed more in Week 9 against Kansas City, as the Panthers will probably have to put up a lot of points to win.

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Carolina Panthers Oct 30 12:40am ET

The Carolina Panthers Defense had an average day in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Carolina registered two sacks and an interception, holding strong on Atlanta's first two trips to the red zone. However, they couldn't stop the Falcons from marching down the field, ultimately surrendering 25 points to their division rival. At this point, there's nothing to suggest that the Panthers' defense is worthy of streaming for fantasy purposes. Don't even think about starting them in Week 9, as they face the Chiefs.

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Curtis Samuel Oct 30 12:30am ET

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel enjoyed his most productive game of the season in a losing effort against Atlanta. Samuel caught four of five targets for 31 receiving yards and carried the ball three times for 23 rushing yards. The 24-year-old made a nice run in the red zone to start the scoring for the Panthers, then hauled in a deep pass from Teddy Bridgewater on a flea-flicker. It's Samuel's second straight game with a rushing touchdown. This was an encouraging performance from the former Buckeye, though it's worth noting that he was held under 50 receiving yards for the seventh time in eight games. He'll be a low-end flex at best in Week 9 against the Chiefs.

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Ian Thomas Oct 30 12:30am ET

Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas caught all three targets for 28 receiving yards in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. It was a juicy matchup for Thomas, but he certainly didn't exploit it, as his modest stat-line will support. His three targets were the most he's seen in weeks, though he seemed to surrender some playing time to fellow tight end Chris Manhertz. It's best to avoid Thomas completely until he picks up his production.

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D.J. Moore Oct 30 12:10am ET

Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore had a quiet game in a 25-17 loss to the Falcons on Thursday Night Football. Moore caught two of six targets for 55 receiving yards, including a huge 42-yard reception on a 3rd-and-17 in the fourth quarter. In a strange turn of events, Moore went without a catch until the final drive of the fourth quarter. Fortunately, the 23-year-old still saw six targets, second on the team to only fellow wideout Robby Anderson. There should be better days ahead for Moore, as he had compiled at least 93 receiving yards in three straight contests coming into this one. He'll get a Week 9 matchup against Kansas City in what could turn out to be a high-scoring affair.

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Mike Davis Oct 30 12:00am ET

Carolina Panthers running back Mike Davis carried the ball 13 times for 66 rushing yards and caught one of two targets for 11 receiving yards in a loss to the Falcons. The 27-year-old disappointed in likely his last ride as the Panthers' lead back, as Christian McCaffrey (ankle) is expected to return in Week 9 against Kansas City. Davis was a PPR machine in McCaffrey's absence, with at least six targets in four games as the starter. He was so impressive at times that it's possible he earned himself a bigger role, though it likely won't amount to much with McCaffrey around to gobble up the majority of the touches. Keep Davis rostered until we find out McCaffrey is back for sure.

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Russell Gage Oct 30 12:00am ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage finished Thursday's win with two receptions for 25 yards on three targets. Gage continued to show his inconsistency on Thursday after coming into the game having gotten at least 54 yards in the past two contests. The WR is definitely streaky, which makes him a risky play most weeks. An ankle injury suffered by fellow wideout Calvin Ridley is worth monitoring. If Ridley cannot play next Sunday, Gage's value will surely go up, but it would still be hard to trust him for good production given his lackluster numbers this season.

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Robby Anderson Oct 30 12:00am ET

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson hauled in five of eight targets for 48 receiving yards in a 25-17 loss to the Falcons. It could have been a bigger day for the former Jet, as he nearly made a one-handed touchdown grab on a throw from backup P.J. Walker, who came in relief of Teddy Bridgewater for one series. It certainly didn't help Anderson that Bridgewater was under constant pressure the whole night. However, his fantasy managers can take solace in the fact that he's now seen at least eight targets in six of eight contests this season. That sort of volume should keep him in the WR2 mix next week, even in a tough matchup against Kansas City.

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Julio Jones Oct 29 11:50pm ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had seven receptions for 137 yards on 10 targets in the Week 8 win over Carolina. For the past three weeks, the WR has been playing at a tremendous level and has gotten at least seven receptions, nine targets, and 97 yards the past three games. His volume keeps him in the WR1 tier each week.

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Teddy Bridgewater Oct 29 11:50pm ET

Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 15 of 23 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown along with 30 yards rushing on five attempts in a 25-17 loss to Atlanta. Bridgewater left the game after taking a nasty hit in the third quarter, but he was able to return after making it through the league's concussion protocol. The 27-year-old made some nice throws when he was given time, including a beautiful deep ball to Curtis Samuel on a flea-flicker. Unfortunately, he was constantly under pressure, as he was sacked twice and hit six times by the Falcons Defense. A bounce-back could be in the cards next week- Carolina may need to rely on Bridgewater's arm in Week 9 against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

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Calvin Ridley Oct 29 11:50pm ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley finished with three receptions for 42 yards on four targets in Week 8. The WR went down with an ankle injury in the first half of the game and didn't return. Managers will now have to monitor the status of the WR heading into the Week 9 clash against the Broncos.

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Hayden Hurst Oct 29 11:50pm ET

Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst finished with five receptions for 54 yards on seven targets in the Week 8 win over Carolina. Hurst has now seen seven targets in the past two games and has gotten at least 50 yards in four of the past five games. The TE has a decent role in this offense and the latest numbers are backing that up. Hurst should be considered a low-end TE1 each week given his consistency.

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Brian Hill Oct 29 11:40pm ET

Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill finished with 11 carries for 55 yards and two receptions for nine yards on Thursday. It was the RB2 of the team who surprisingly led in rush yards, but this was a rare occurrence. Hill doesn't see enough weekly touches to merit good fantasy value going forward.

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Todd Gurley Oct 29 11:40pm ET

Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II finished Thursday night's win with 18 carries for 46 yards and a score. The back still had a decent night despite Brian Hill getting more rushing yards total. Gurley has now had at least 18 carries in the past three games and has three rushing touchdowns in the past two games. With a steady number of carries each week, the RB should remain in the low-end RB1/high-end RB2 tier every week.

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Matt Ryan Oct 29 11:30pm ET

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan went 21-for-30 and gained 281 yards and one interception in the Thursday night win over the Panthers. It was a rainy game and many players were clearly affected by the conditions. Ryan finished with an average night, which he has sometimes had this season. With a high-powered offense, the QB should remain in the starting tier most weeks, but is most effective in favorable matchups.

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Teddy Bridgewater Oct 29 10:40pm ET

Teddy Bridgewater, after being tripped while trying to scramble, took a shot to the head as he fell to the ground against the Falcons. Obviously, the first concern after a hit to the head is a concussion. Bridgewater's head abruptly twisted to the side and he went into the tent shortly thereafter. The Panthers' backup tonight is XFL sweetheart, P.J. Walker.

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Calvin Ridley Oct 29 10:10pm ET

Calvin Ridley has been ruled out for the Falcons' Week 8 game against the Panthers. He was tackled by a defender and his left foot got caught under the defender. Ridley immediately grabbed his left foot and went to the locker room. His status for Week 9 will now be in question.

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La'Mical Perine Oct 29 9:50pm ET

New York Jets running back La'Mical Perine has been buried on the depth chart for most of the season. However, head coach Adam Gase mentioned last week that he wants to get Perine more involved. Perine was on the field for 70 percent of the offensive snaps during the Week 7 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He saw 11 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown in the loss. He'll get a decent matchup here against the Kansas City Chiefs who are average against the run this season. Perine could be worth looking at as a desperation option for owners in need of a running back.

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Jamison Crowder Oct 29 9:50pm ET

New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (groin) was able to go through limited practice on Thursday. That is actually an upgrade since Crowder sat out of practice the day prior. Crowder has been basically the only bright spot for this team all season long. His absence would doom the Jets chances of doing anything at all on offense versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8. Crowder has seen 10 or more targets in each game that he has played in this season. He'll be a reliable WR2, assuming he suits up here.

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Frank Gore Oct 29 9:40pm ET

New York Jets running back Frank Gore has seen a significant role in the backfield this season. The departure of Le'Veon Bell has opened up lead back duties for Gore over the last few weeks. Sadly, the Jets offensive line and team as a whole is horrible this season. Gore has done what he can, but will likely see his role decrease going forward. Head coach Adam Gase wants to see La'Mical Perine more involved in the offense. That means, Gore is going to be a tough option to trust versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8.

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