There’s a lot that’s not known going into the Raiders’ season opener Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams.
Will there be any residual psychological fallout from the recent trade of the team’s best player, Khalil Mack? Can rookie tackle Kolton Miller protect Derek Carr’s blind side? Will Oakland be able to mount any kind of pressure on Rams quarterback Jared Goff, especially with Mack gone?
But one thing is certain: The Rams defense is an elite unit that will be tough to crack.
Defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh are two of the NFL’s best. So is the cornerback tandem of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. The Rams defense – ranked 19th overall last season and 13th against the pass – should be much better with the additions of Suh, Talib and Peters.
The Rams offense is explosive with Goff, running back Todd Gurley and some fine wide receivers, but will Carr and the Raiders be able to score often against the Los Angeles defenders?
Oddsmakers don’t believe so. They’ve made the Rams 4½-point favorites.
Carr knows it will be a challenge. He has the highest respect for Donald, Suh, Talib and Peters, and has told them so after games and Pro Bowls.
“They’re all great players,” Carr told reporters this week. “They have a great team, great defense. Great challenge they present us. Then (defensive coordinator) coach (Wade) Phillips calling it. I’ve gone against him a number of times. He does his stuff, man, and he’s really good at it. It’s going to be a good challenge for us. I can sit here and talk good things about all those guys. They know how I feel about them. They’re great players."
Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper – who’ll be trying to rebound from an off year in 2017 – told the media this week that to beat the Rams, Oakland is going to need its offense to be as explosive as the Rams’. Last season, the Rams averaged a league-high 29.9 points per game.
Said Cooper: “We might have to go out and score severy possession. You never know.”
Monday night’s kickoff is set for 7:20 at O.co Coliseum.