Raiders vs. Panthers Odds & Pick: Las Vegas Shouldn’t Be A Week 1 Road Favorite (Sept. 13)
Robert Reiners/Getty Images. Pictured: Derek Carr
- The Las Vegas Raiders open the season against the Carolina Panthers as 3-point road favorites, with the total sitting at 48 points.
- What should we anticipate from Sunday's Week 1 showdown? Should the Raiders be favored?
- Check out Brad Cunningham's analysis, preview and pick below.
Raiders vs. Panthers Odds
The Raiders open the season on the road against the revamped Panthers.
Carolina finished last in the NFC South last season, but made wholesale changes over the offseason. And at the moment, those changes look to be trending in the right direction.
Af for Las Vegas, it needs to see some improvement in Year 3 of the Jon Gruden era after finishing 4-12 in 2018 and 7-9 in 2019. This game will mark only the third time the Raiders will be road favorite since Gruden took over the franchise reins (the second time).
That said, this is uncharted territory for them to open the season.
The Raiders wide receivers rated out as the worst corps last season, according to Pro Football Focus. They tried to improve that ranking by drafting Alabama star Henry Ruggs III, and the emergence of tight end Darren Waller helped offset some of their issues as he had the second-best mark in Sharp Football Stats’ Target & Output Adj. Success metric last season, so the addition of Ruggs should help free up Waller in the passing game.
Derek Carr is one of most accurate quarterbacks in the league, but took on more of a game-manager role in 2019. His average yards per passing attempt was 6.9 yards last season, the third-lowest in the NFL. If the Raiders want to take the next step toward the playoffs, Carr will need to be more aggressive pushing the ball downfield.
Josh Jacobs was fantastic in his first season, averaging 4.9 per carry and sporting the 12th-best rushing success rate in the league (per Sharp Football Stats). The Raiders also bring back their entire offensive line from last season, which ranked seventh in offensive-line yards.
The Panthers had one of the worst defensive lines against run in 2019, but made big upgrades in the draft, so Las Vegas may have a tough time running the ball on Sunday.
The Raiders have major question marks coming into the campaign.
They ranked 24th in defensive run success and 29th in defensive pass success in 2019 (per Sharp Football Stats). They did add Corey Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski in free agency to try and improve their linebacking core. However, the biggest question marks remain in the secondary.
The Raiders added Prince Amukamara in the offseason, who is the definition of an average NFL cornerback. They also drafted Damon Arnette with the 19th overall pick, so he may see time earlier than expected. But Las Vegas ranked 29th in explosive passing plays allowed last season, so without any major upgrades, its hard to imagine they’ll improve in 2020.
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Carolina went through wholesale changes this offseason, starting at the top by bringing on former Baylor coach Matt Rhule as its head new coach and LSU offensive wizard Joe Brady as the new offensive coordinator. They also made a quarterback change, signing Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal.
Bridgewater did well in his five starts for the Saints with Drew Brees sidelined last season. Bridgewater went 5-0, posting a 103.8 QB rating that ranked 10th in the league. He’ll now get his shot to be the starter from opening day and try to improve an offense that ranked middle of the pack in passing success last season.
That said, Carolina’s success is still going to go through Christian McCaffrey.
The star played more than 2,000 snaps in 2019 and is the definition of an every-down back. McCaffrey is the best dual-threat back in the entire league, toting the ball at 5.1 yards per carry and catching 100 balls in the passing game in last season.
Carolina also has a well-rounded group of receivers, which will hopefully free up McCaffrey more so everything doesn’t fall on his shoulders.
Carolina suffered a huge loss this offseason, with the retirement of all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly. The standout’s impact is irreplaceable, but the Panthers did re-sign Shaq Thompson to shore up things on defense.
Thompson is a rock-solid coverage player and will take on a lot of Kuechly’s responsibilities in Carolina’s defensive scheme. Its defensive line will see some big improvement adding Derrick Brown from Auburn with the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft. He will no doubt improve a defense that ranked 29th in defensive rushing success last season
There are still some question marks in the secondary, but the Panthers locked down their talented safety Tre Boston, so they’ll have some experience in the secondary that ranked 16th in defensive passing success last year.
My Raiders-Panthers Projections
The Raiders are a very trendy team coming into the season, but there’s still plenty of defensive holes that have not been addressed. I think the Panthers’ offense will surprise some people and be one of the more efficient teams with Bridgewater at the helm.
In my opinion, I don’t think the Raiders should be 3.5-point favorites on the road. Based on my projections I have this line at Carolina -1.20, so I backed the Panthers +3.5 but would bet them down to +2.
PICK: Panthers +3 (-110)