The Raiders square off against the Panthers in Carolina in Week 1. Derek Carr leads Las Vegas against Christian McCaffrey and the new-look Panthers. For the 2020 NFL season, Matt Savoca will be providing his weekly NFL Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown column, going through every single game and offensive and defensive matchup every week of the season. For your viewing convenience, we have broken up the matchups breakdown into several single columns, each one covering a single game. You can find links to every game right here. We have 16 games on tap for Week 1 NFL DFS and NFL Fantasy Football, so let’s dive in. The entire matchups article will be available in podcast form every Friday afternoon on the Awesemo Podcast Network. Lets get into Raiders – Panthers.
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Raiders (24) at Panthers (23) – Sunday 9/13/2020, 1:00 p.m.
Las Vegas Raiders Fantasy Football Matchups and NFL DFS Breakdown
Both the Raiders and Panthers enter the 2020 season riding a wave of optimism after disappointing 2019 campaigns. The Raiders are a completely different squad than the one Jon Gruden took over three seasons ago (besides the quarterback). The multi-year transformation was rounded out by first- and third-round wide receiver selections in the 2020 NFL draft. Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards should be immediately inserted as contributing starters, with Hunter Renfrow continuing to man the slot, 2019 breakout star Darren Waller in a flex tight end position and new acquisition Jason Witten playing the traditional inline tight end role.
With additional weapons Zay Jones, Nelson Agholor and Foster Moreau, the target distribution may vary week to week for this crew. But this is, without a doubt, the most talent Derek Carr has played with during his entire career. Josh Jacobs should remain the entrenched early-down running back, but specialist Jalen Richard (about three targets per game each last season) should also see work out of the backfield, somewhat limiting Jacobs receiving upside.
Attempting to stop the revamped Raiders are the equally re-tooled Panthers, who spent all seven draft picks and a significant amount of capital in free agency on the defensive side of the ball. First-round defensive tackle Derrick Brown should make his presence felt in the interior early on, but it’s the linebacking corp, sans retired All-Pro Luke Kuechly, that has the most to prove early-on. The young Carolina linebackers and secondary may struggle with the speed of Waller (fasted-timed ball carrier in the NFL among tight ends) and Ruggs (fastest 40-yard dash of any rookie receiver). Carr (2.5 deep passes per game, No. 25 in the NFL) should have many more chances than in previous years to take the top off of the defense beginning this week against Carolina.
Carolina Panthers Fantasy Football Matchups and NFL DFS Breakdown
For Carolina, there’s a new quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater), a new coach (Baylor’s Matt Rhule) and a new offensive coordinator (LSU’s Joe Brady). However, there aren’t high expectations for the team this season, with 5.5 expected wins per Vegas (No. 30), indicated by offering their new coach a lengthy seven-year contract. Behind the scenes, this may be way less of a tank in 2020 than many believe. Brady is fresh off a stint as the passing game coordinator of an LSU offense that set the NCAA completely aflame in 2019. Prior to last season, Brady was on Sean Peyton’s staff in New Orleans, where he built a strong rapport with the backup quarterback, Bridgewater. Bridgewater was hand-picked by the Panthers staff to lead an offense that’s locked and loaded with young skill position talent.
What is there left to say, about the brilliance of Christian McCaffrey? From a fantasy football perspective, we may very well be in the midst of the next LaDainian Tomlinson — he’s the unquestioned RB1 overall and in the prime of his career. More than 25 touches are never out of the question, and it may be alarming to hear this, but if you incorporate the innovation of Brady and the short-area accuracy of Bridgewater (No. 2 overall in PlayerProfiler’s Accuracy Rating) to McCaffrey’s otherworldly workload, McCaffrey’s ceiling is actually higher this season than the previous two. In the passing game (outside of McCaffrey), D.J. Moore already commanded nine targets a game in the Panthers’ mess of an offense last year and figures to see at least that much opportunity to begin the year.
Curtis Samuel, who suffered through an astounding 40 uncatchable passes (37% of targets, via PlayerProfiler), should see that number drastically improve with Bridgewater under center. And with the addition of former Jet Robby Anderson, Samuel should run a more sophisticated route tree than in 2019 (he ran a deep go route on 26% of routes last season, via Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception), including significantly more work in the slot or underneath. The Raiders added depth in the front seven during free agency, signing Nick Kwiatkoski, Damarious Randall and Maliek Collins to sure up the linebackers, secondary and defensive line, respectively. They’ll need to prove they’re playing as a cohesive unit to stop the Panthers, who are sure to have more than a few tricks up their sleeve on opening day.
Prediction: Panthers 28, Raiders 27
Alternative Scenario: With a bevy of new pieces on both offenses yet to gel, the defenses mostly prevail. Raiders 21, Panthers 13
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