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Oakland Raiders vs. New Orleans Saints Preview and Prediction


The Black and Gold opens the franchise's 50th year of its NFL existence by hosting the Silver and Black. Both teams look to improve on their 7-9 records in 2015. The Raiders seek their first winning season since playing in Super Bowl XXXVII after winning the AFC in 2002. The Saints are determined to qualify for the playoffs after a two-year absence.

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The Saints lead the overall series 6-5-1. For games in New Orleans, the Saints hold a 3-2-1 advantage. The Saints have won the three most recent games against the Raiders and four of the last five.

Oakland at New Orleans

Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 11 at 1 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Even

Three Things to Watch

1. Mack Plowing Through Saints' Offensive Line?

Khalil Mack is the principle threat to disrupting Drew Brees. He had 15 sacks last season and was named an All-Pro to different positions. His sack production accounted for nearly half of the team's total (38) last season. He also was responsible for two forced fumbles and finished second on Raiders in tackles.

Needless to say, the Saints' underwhelming offensive line must find a way to contain Mack. The re-signing of Jahri Evans, released by the Saints in February then added and dropped by the Seahawks after the preseason, hints at the weakness of the offensive line. If the line cannot give Brees time to find open receivers in their pass-happy offense, the Saints will struggle to beat the Raiders or anyone else in the league.

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2. Locating an Elusive Rushing Attack for New Orleans

The threat of the Saints' rushing offense had much in common with the Loch Ness Monster and Sasquatch in 2015. Some brief glimpses and hopeful rumors of all three occurred. However, little to no substantial evidence of their existence ever emerged into public view.

The Saints gained more than 100 yards on the ground in only six games. In three of those six contests, they exceeded the century mark by only three or four yards. However, when they did manage to gain rushing yards in the triple digits, they won four of those six games.

The Saints scored 16 rushing touchdowns last season. Khiry Robinson was responsible for a quarter of those. He has since signed with the Jets in the offseason. Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower need to contribute more after Robinson's departure.

3. Raiders' Air Attack Exploiting Saints' Secondary

Oakland's leading receivers, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, averaged 66.9 and 57.6 yards per game respectively last season. They and their teammates piled up fewer than 300 passing yards in seven games. They lost five of those. Can Cooper become a more potent target in his second professional season? Will Crabtree prove himself worthy of the contract extension and not rest on his past accomplishments with that other team in the Bay Area?

In 2015, New Orleans' defense allowed opponents more than 300 passing yards in 10 contests. Not surprisingly, the Saints lost six of those 10 games. They only held their foes to fewer than 200 yards through the air in three games. This weakness contributed to finishing last in the league in scoring defense at 29.8 points per game. Starting the season with three defensive backs on injured reserve further hampers the secondary.

Final Analysis

Despite this being a non-conference game, it still matters greatly. Both teams are competing in the same division with the participants in the Super Bowl from last season. Neither the Raiders nor the Saints can afford to drop a winnable game to start the year.

NFL Power Rankings: Saints

This contest looks like a nail-biter on paper. Viewers should expect for the outcome to be in doubt until the final minute. Overtime is highly probable. With these teams so close in terms of potential, give a slight nod to the home team.

Prediction: Saints 37, Raiders 31

Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.