Las Vegas Raiders @ Carolina Panthers
Featuring seven lead changes, this shootout was one of the best games on the Sunday slate. Las Vegas celebrated a 34-30 win in an empty Bank of America Stadium after a late Josh Jacobs touchdown and a clutch defensive stand on fourth down and inches. Teddy Bridgewater had a solid debut for Carolina and Derek Carr looked poised and patient throughout, and both team’s running backs racked up over 100 total yards and multiple scores.
Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr: 22/30, 239 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 0 Sacks
The 29-year-old quarterback got rolling early for the Raiders, connecting with rookie WR Henry Ruggs III for 44 yards to set up a first-quarter touchdown. Derek Carr hooked up with nine different receivers and leaned on last year’s breakout TE Darren Waller after Ruggs left the game with an injury. Carr came through during crunch time for Las Vegas, going 4-5 for 46 yards on the Raiders’ 75-yard game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter.
Josh Jacobs: 25 carries, 93 yards, 3 TD | 6 targets, 4 receptions, 46 yards
Devontae Booker: 4 carries, 29 yards, 1 fumble | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 23 yards
The Alabama product was a workhorse for Jon Gruden last night. Josh Jacobs averaged less than four yards per carry, but steadily moved the ball and helped set up play-action opportunities for the Raiders. He proved to be the go-to man in the red zone, scoring all three of his touchdowns from inside of ten yards. Jacobs even increased his passing game usage from last season, hauling in four of six targets for 46 yards, a big development for his fantasy upside. Devontae Booker provided relief for Jacobs and should have some value as a handcuff in case Jacobs gets hurt. If Gruden continues to feed Jacobs the way he did this week he should provide a high floor and have no problem living up to his high expectations.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Henry Ruggs III: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 55 yards | 2 carries, 11 yards
Darren Waller: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 45 yards
Nelson Agholor: 1 target, 1 reception, 23 yards, 1 TD
Hunter Renfrow: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 21 yards
Jalen Richard: 1 target, 1 reception, 15 yards
Bryan Edwards: 1 target, 1 reception, 9 yards
Jason Witten: 1 target, 1 reception, 2 yards
Carr leaned heavily on his running backs and tight end while spreading the love to his receivers, especially after Henry Ruggs III was injured. Ruggs ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and showed his blazing speed with his 44-yard reception in the first quarter. The offensive line was excellent today, not allowing a single sack. If Carr is provided with ample time to allow Ruggs to get down the field he will be a serious deep ball threat for the rest of the season. Through one game Waller is exactly who we thought he was. He led the team in targets and demanded attention from Carolina’s secondary, which created opportunities for his teammates.
Teddy Bridgewater: 22/34, 270 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 1 Sack | 4 carries, 26 yards
The veteran out of Louisville looked sharp in his Carolina debut. Teddy Bridgewater was comfortable in the pocket all day long, finishing the afternoon with a passer rating of 98.9. Bridgewater’s best drive came in the third quarter, where he led his team down the field on a 90-yard touchdown drive. On that drive he was 4-6 for 52 yards, converting twice on third and long. Bridgewater’s biggest play was a 75-yard bomb to WR Robby Anderson that gave Carolina the lead with just over eight minutes to play. I do not think anybody is sold on Bridgewater as an every-week fantasy starter, but he could prove to be a reliable streaming option this season.
Christian McCaffery: 23 carries, 96 yards, 2 TD | 4 targets, 3 catches, 38 yards
Alex Arma: 2 carries, 1 yard
The consensus number one overall pick did not disappoint on opening day. McCaffery was the offensive catalyst for Carolina, active in both the run and pass games. This was a modest receiving day for McCaffery, but his multi-touchdown performance buoyed his underwhelming pass-catching afternoon for fantasy owners. Needless to say, CMC should be in your lineup every week and will continue to be an elite producer for your team. FB Alex Arma was handed the ball on fourth and inches with the game on the line but was stuffed by Clelin Ferrell and the Raiders defensive line.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Robby Anderson: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 115 yards, 1 TD
D.J. Moore: 9 targets, 4 receptions, 54 yards
Curtis Samuel: 8 targets, 5 receptions, 38 yards | 1 carry, 5 yards
Ian Thomas: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 16 yards
Seth Roberts: 2 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards
Chris Manhertz: 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards
Without the 75-yard touchdown to Robby Anderson, Bridgewater’s day would have looked a lot different. D.J. Moore only came up with four receptions despite being targeted nine times, and Bridgewater’s lack of arm strength makes it difficult for Curtis Samuel to use his speed to stretch the field. Carolina has quietly put together a strong receiving core with the addition of Anderson, and this could emerge to be a lower-tiered version of the LA Rams group of Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods in 2018. Anderson and Samuel will likely be in boom or bust territory for most of the season, while Moore should establish chemistry with Bridgewater and end up becoming a reliable option in PPR leagues.
-Josh Kurzer (@jkurzer52 on Twitter)