Updated September 19, 2020 - 3:22 pm
The Raiders will limp a bit into their Monday night game against the Saints at Allegiant Stadium, with the availability of right tackle Trent Brown, wide receiver Henry Ruggs, linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, offensive tackle Sam Young and offensive guard Richie Incognito in question.
In addition to the obvious need to put pressure on quarterback Drew Brees, the Raiders need to win these three vital matchups to overcome the spate of injuries.
Jacobs vs. Saints defensive line
The Saints haven’t surrendered 100 yards rushing to a running back in 41 straight games. It has become a source of pride for a defense that puts a priority on taking the run game away from opponents.
It will be a test of wills against the Raiders, and in particular Jacobs. Jon Gruden’s offense is predicated on a big, physical run game that sets up the pass.
Regardless of the Saints’ streak, Gruden will feed Jacobs the ball in his quest to create a credible run game and loosen up things for Derek Carr and the passing game. The Raiders’ offense functions best when play-action plays are utilized.
Jacobs just missed rushing for 100 yards last week against the Panthers. Between the toughness with which he runs and Gruden’s insistence on establishing the run, Jacobs will be in position to break the Saints’ streak.
Littleton vs. Kamara
Last week linebacker Cory Littleton played a big role in the Raiders neutralizing Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, using his speed to help defend McCaffrey in the pass game and track him down in the run game.
It will be more of the same against Alvin Kamara, who like McCaffrey is a skilled dual threat.
Expect Littleton to shade Kamara in some defensive packages, using his length and speed to disrupt him. Littleton has the ability to play sideline-to-sideline out of the middle of the Raiders’ linebacking setup, but he can also line up out wide in one-on-one coverage.
That was the kind of versatility the Raiders envisioned when they targeted and signed Littleton in free agency, and it is matchups like this that they had in mind when they signed him.
Carr vs. Saints secondary
Derek Carr had an efficient game in the opener against the Panthers, which served as a nice prelude to what he will face against New Orleans.
The Saints are loaded in the defensive backfield, particularly at safety with Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams.
It is imperative that Carr locates the Saints’ safeties at all times. They can blitz, cover and lend a hand in run support. The cagey way they are utilized can create a false sense of security.
Carr will use his eyes to create confusion, trying to manipulate the Saints’ defensive backs into guessing wrong about where he is going with the ball. The key will be to be diversify his reads and not get stuck in any tendencies.