The Las Vegas Raiders open the next chapter in their storied history tonight when they meet the New Orleans Saints at Allegiant Stadium. The new Raiders facility has been referred to, because of its ominous appearance, as the Death Star.
Now, those of us who know Star War history, realize the Death Star was a creation of the enemy of the people and the heroes blew the sucker up in a triumphant strike against evil. None of that matters to Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden, the colorful Las Vegas coach likes the sound of Death Star and appreciates the nickname.
Gruden is his own man.
He now begins the third season of his second tour as head coach of the Raiders. If this team is to thrive under his leadership, then this is the year his work should begin to pay dividends. The Raiders got an opening day win over the Carolina Panthers on the road, but it was a struggle, and as the season unfolds I do believe that Carolina will prove to be one of the worst teams in the league.
Meanwhile, in the Big Easy, the Saints opened another campaign under head coach Sean Payton with realistic Super Bowl hopes. The Saints are driven by one of the great quarterbacks of our time, Drew Brees, who dueled the recognized greatest quarterback ever in his season opening win at the Superdome, Tom Brady. Thing is, Brady was not bringing the New England Patriots to New Orleans when the season opened last week, but with his new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While the Buccaneers got a win yesterday, their first with Brady at quarterback, the Saints reduced the former Patriots quarterback to average status in pinning him with a 34-23 loss. And, by the way, the Buccaneers victory yesterday came at home over the same team the Raiders beat on the road last week, the Panthers.
In other words, we’ve got a tight weave with these four teams to come to a clear conclusion on who is going to win tonight in the Death Star.
Here it is.
The Saints were at home last week and prepared for their season opening game as if they were playing Brady at full strength. In fact, they were catching the one-time Patriots signal caller in a compromised state in a new system. Brady and the Buccaneers didn’t look special either last week or even in their home win yesterday against a team that is likely not going to win more than one or two games on the road this season.
Conversely, when the Raiders beat the Panthers last week, albeit in a game that was even closer than the Bucs victory yesterday, Las Vegas was in a tough spot. They were a bet-on road favorite, a situation that is most often only conquered by a real good team. In other words, the Raiders win over the Panthers was much more impressive than the Bucs victory on Sunday.
Which means this. The Saints were more motivated to beat the Bucs and Brady at home last week than they really needed to be, and prevailed. The Saints won their opener in a very advantageous situation.
The Raiders overcame a tough situation for their opening win, and now, tonight, the Raiders are a home underdog with the public backing the road team … as good as it gets from a pure motivational setup.
From first week results we know this, the Raiders can win in a tough spot and the Saints can win in an advantageous situation. Tonight, the Saints are challenged to win in a tough situation while the team we know can do that has the fundamental motivational elements all on their side.
I really love this stuff.
Qoxhi Picks: Las Vegas Raiders (+5½) over New Orleans Saints