Raiders vs Saints: Drew Brees and Derek Carr Battle in Vegas

Christopher Engelage
Raiders vs. Saints Drew Brees Derek Carr

The Raiders vs Saints on Monday Night Football pits future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, in the twilight of his career, against the Raiders Derek Carr who’s looking for a signature win in Sin City.

The big Raiders vs Saints Monday Night Football matchup is a significant one on several fronts. First, the Raiders Allegiant Stadium will hold its first-ever NFL game in the city of lights. Second, both teams want to showcase their 2020 swag on a national television audience in search of a win and some sense of momentum at the beginning of the strangest of NFL seasons.

The Saints and future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, are looking to go 2-0 on the season and would like nothing better than to spoil the big unveil of the Raiders new Allegiant Stadium.

The Las Vegas Raiders are fresh off a thrilling 34-30 victory in Week 1 over the Carolina Panthers. Now, the Silver and Black will play their inaugural home game at Allegiant Stadium as they welcome the Saints to town for a Monday night clash on ESPN.

The Saints are also coming off a big win as they used a pair of touchdowns from Alvin Kamara and stout defense to defeat the Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

In order for either team to chalk up another W, good quarterback play is essential to both team’s chances. While Carr played an efficient and error-free game completing 22-of-30 attempts for 239 yards and a touchdown, it was the presence of running back Josh Jacobs that pushed the Raiders to victory. While the Saints won, Drew Brees didn’t look his sharpest but did just enough to help his team win throwing for 160 yards and two touchdowns while completing 18-of-30 attempts. 

Let’s dive in and take a look at what both quarterbacks must do to win and why Raiders vs. Saints will be a close affair:

Saints QB: Drew Brees

Raiders vs. Saints Drew Brees Derek Carr
Drew Brees looks to move his team to 2-0 and spoil the Las Vegas Raiders first-ever home game at Allegiant Stadium. Photo: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Brees left a lot to be desired after Week 1. Couple his vanilla start with the loss of his number one receiving target in Michael Thomas due to an ankle injury, and it’s been a rough start for the legend. Brees was most impactful keeping things reigned in as he completed seven of his 10 passes at or behind the line of scrimmage with two of those going for touchdowns. Down the field, Brees took seven attempts beyond 10 yards and connected on two of those, per Next Gen Stats.

The preferred target once Thomas left the game became tight end Jared Cook. The former Raider caught five passes for 80 yards and Alvin Kamara was neutralized as a rushing threat but also reeled in five passes that went for 50 yards. If Cook’s performance is any indication, the Raiders secondary should expect to see a heavy dosage of the veteran tight end. 

Now that Brees will have a full week of preparation knowing he’s without Thomas, that will allow him more time to develop chemistry with Emmanuel Sanders. Despite only having three catches for 17 yards, Sanders was able to find the end zone for his first touchdown of the year. Week 2 will provide an excellent opportunity for him and Brees to get in sync as they face one of the youngest secondaries in the NFL. 

Brees vs. Raiders Youthful Secondary 

Raiders vs. Saints Johnathan Abram
Johnathan Abram is one of Las Vegas’ top young defensive backs who will be tested often by Brees and the Saints weapons on offense.

Rookie cornerback Damon Arnette gave up a 75-yard touchdown to Robby Anderson as the veteran wideout made Arnette look like, well, a rookie. The load for Arnette and Trayvon Mullen will be less since they won’t be losing any sleep over Michael Thomas. That said, Drew Brees is an experienced QB that will likely target these youngsters with frequency. 

Following Brees’ lone game of 2019 where he threw for less than 200 yards (not counting his week 2 injury), he threw for 349 yards and five touchdown passes. If you are on the “Brees is washed up train” let’s pump the brakes a little and see how things play out. While Brees has limitations he didn’t have even three years ago due to age, remember he threw for 27 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions in 11 games in 2019. 

Raiders QB: Derek Carr

Raiders vs. Saints Derek Carr
Derek Carr and the Raiders look for a signature Monday night win at home for the first time In Las Vegas at the new Allegiant Stadium.

As for Derek Carr, one of the many complaints amongst Raider Nation is a lack of throws downfield. Early on in 2020, he took a deep shot to rookie Henry Ruggs III that fell incomplete but the duo later connected on a near touchdown that set up one of three Josh Jacobs rushing touchdowns. In all, Carr only threw four passes beyond 10 yards but, in reality, it didn’t matter all that much as the offense was extremely effective moving the ball downfield and scoring points. 

In addition, his new rookie receiving threat Ruggs III is a monster with yards after the catch as is Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. Toss in rookie Bryan Edwards and Carr has a full compliment of tools to get the job done on offense.

Carr was able to showcase what we’ve seen in years past where he doesn’t fixate on one singular target but spreads the ball around. In total, Carr completed passes to nine different targets with five of those having more than one reception. Ruggs III led with 55 yards but it was Waller who was the favorite target with six catches. 

Saints D-Line vs Raiders O-Line: A Battle in the Trenches

The Saints defense was able to slow down Tom Brady last week as they picked him off twice, returning one for a touchdown while also sacking him three times. The front seven of the Saints will look to feast on a banged-up Raiders offensive line. Trent Brown has not been officially ruled out but his health and availability remain a question. Making matters worse for the Raiders, backup lineman Sam Young also suffered an injury forcing the team to play musical chairs along the line. 

Given the unfortunate situation, the Raiders offensive line still played superbly as they were rated 95.0 per PFF – the second-highest in the league. Derek Carr was undoubtedly a beneficiary of this as he was the least pressured quarterback in the NFL during Week 1. 

Raiders vs Saints Prediction

I think this game will be very similar to when these teams matched up to start their 2016 campaigns. I see this playing out as a shootout that will likely be decided by who has the ball last. Even though the Raiders put up 35 points as they beat the Saints in 2016, Carr only threw one touchdown pass. This time around we see the Raiders passing game open up more as teams will likely stack the box following the breakout game from Jacobs. As for Drew Brees, he embarrassed the Raiders secondary last time around with over 400 yards and four touchdown passes. I think that trend will continue as he takes advantage of the Raiders talented but inexperienced secondary.

QB Stat Line and Game Prediction for Raiders vs. Saints:

Derek Carr: 26-36, 298 yards, 3 touchdowns

Drew Brees: 29-40, 365 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception

Raiders win, 31-28.